Beyond Survival


I was watching a piece the other day called Threads; a documentary-drama about what would/could happen if there was a nuclear holocaust. It is a BBC production, and it was set in 1984 (the political landscape was of the cold war highs of paranoia about nuclear oblivion. It was also (so I hear) the first time that a nuclear winter came into suggestion; namely, the side-effect of what would happen when the dust clears from a nuclear blast, rising to the atmosphere, and blocking rays of light and heat to penetrate the atmosphere.

Survival (as preservation)

I wouldn’t recommend watching Threads; when films these days say’ this film may contain scenes that may cause distress’; people don’t take it seriously, and neither should they; as its the same old, tired, and desensitised violence. But this, this gets really under your skin and makes you fear and chills one’s soul. Threads has the basic message that the things that make society strong are also the things that make it vulnerable to villany; economy, transport, energy, food. Such things are necessary and key to surviving as animal beings, who are appetitative and reproductive.

Culture, law, government, policing, education; these things, while not necessary for the bare survival of an animal; are the things that make us human. The short term effects of the nuclear blast told us of the failure of the handling of the NHS, the local government’s struggle to cope with control; reacting with the looting and disorder and begging for food and rations by means of increased powers alongside capital and corporal punishment. It becomes understanable in such a world of chaos that the governments (although such a word hardly describes what became of it; traffic wardens forced to act as jail guards) must react strongly to those situations where a real threat to order is percieved.

Percieved is the word here. We can percieve a threat, and react to it. In this drama, the threat percieved was the threat real. Can we say of our threats today are real? Conversely, in the beginning of the story, most of the people were ambivalent about the political situation, there was a real threat, but it was hardly percieved, as they got along happily unaware of the geopolitics of the day.

Preservation (of Humanity)

When the short term effects happen, of the infrastructual features of our everyday lives, falling apart, our survival is at risk. What is even more chilling (as hard as this may even be to imagine); is when our humanity itself falters. In a sense, the more disgusting implication of this film is that even though the governments failed, much of humanity was destroyed to the point that it could not repair itself. The future of their survival was not the true worry. For, eventually, after much of the human population was extinguished; many more died from the after-effects of the blast.

Since the priority was survival, things like crime, and even healthcare, were slowly pushed to the wayside; eventually, food rations were lessened in the hope that those who were able to actually rebuild humanity would actually survive, and those unnecessary who could not add to the effort would be left to die. Criminal behaviour slowly became indisinguishable from the survival instinct; as looting and murder became so commonplace not even to bat an eyelid.

Education became unimportant when survival was the priority, such that the children of the survivors were poorly educated to the point that english deformed as a language and only became something of the older pre-bomb generation. That, and the effects of radiation on pregnant women led to a general mental retardation, both social and genetic, of the children of these creatures.

Humanity came less and less of a real thing and more a distant ideal; as, in one scene, the child of a mother, leaves the latter to her death in quite an ambivalent manner; despite most of the film concerning this woman’s struggle to keep her unborne child alive in scenes past. The child, now socialised in this new, medieval society, simply leaves her dead without remorse, guilt or any feelign whatsoever.

I suppose the moral of the film is that most things are peripherery when survival comes into question; however, what a sad, and primitive state of affairs it is; to ignore or take little precedence in those other things that make us human, or that give us reason to live, when only the base survival instinct remains.


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