“We’re doomed, I tell ye! All doomed!” So Pte. Fraser would keep telling us and watching the news we could be forgiven for thinking he was right. Prophesies of doom are of course nothing new. Nostradamus for example published Les Prophéties in 1555 with over 900 predictions in riddles and written in Mediaeval French the translation of which, let alone the meaning, is open to various interpretations. Of course if one makes vague predictions of war, famine and pestilence then it is a fairly safe bet that there will be some instances over the following centuries to ‘prove’ one correct! Yet still today there are many people in cyberspace devoting their time and energy to interpreting his words and expecting us to take them seriously.
Apocalypse and armageddon are also seen as good box-office by Hollywood and this was probably first realised when a radio serialisation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds sparked panic when broadcast in 1938. Every year we seem to get a new block-buster telling us we are all going to die. An asteroid is on a collision course with earth, a solar flare is going to incinerate all life or aliens are going to invade but at the last minute the Americans will save the day with the obligatory atomic bombs! Oh and if we survive all this then what about the plague of zombies? Some people even took that seriously and an ammunition manufacturer in Nebraska sells “Z-Max” bullets which they claim will make death permanent.
Whilst what was once clearly seen as fiction when we went to the cinema on Saturday morning or watched the latest instalment of Quatermass on a small, grainy, flickering television screen, that distinction is blurred by modern media. One can see any number of whacky theories and spoof documentaries on the internet and some find their way onto television channels. Then there is the echo-chamber effect of social media whereby viewing history becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy as material similar to that we have previously viewed appears on our own computers. One example from my own experience – a couple of months ago I bought a pair of shoes from Amazon and now my Facebook timeline is full of adverts for, you guessed it – shoes!
Maybe the time has now come to take a step back and get on with our lives without whipping up fear and hysteria. In other words – “Don’t panic!”
Now I think I will go and make some predictions, write them in riddles on slips of paper, throw them up in the air and publish them on the web in the order in which they land so that in five hundred years time people will be saying how prescient I was. After all if I predict we will still be arguing about Brexit then I am certain to be proven right!
First published by the Barnsley Chronicle - Penistone Living October 2019