Collateral damage of the Cold War

cold_war_collateral_damageIf you are old enough to have lived through The Cold War, you will remember, at least partially, the sheer terror it caused you to experience.

For sheer fright value, nothing else even came close. An invading army might shoot you, even from tanks or aircraft, but at least you might see them coming, and have some chance to flee, or hide. But thermonuclear annihilation, at any moment, night or day, with absolutely no warning whatsoever; well that was something else again. And the threat of this endured every minute of every day, for years.

Hollywood, as always, managed to cash in on all this, with movies like Damnation Alley, Doctor Strangelove, and Twilight’s Last Gleaming, providing the trembling entertainment consumer with even more ways to scare themselves silly.

Even if the blast didn’t instantly incinerate you, this lethal menace called radiation would ensure you died a slow and horrible death, and with nothing at all you could do about it. I still remember the state of mind this created in me. It is, to all purposes, indescribable.

People, being different from each other, dealt with this in different ways. For my part, I hurriedly researched where I might stand a slightly better chance of survival, than overcrowded, used-up England, and decided upon Canada, with its vast wildernesses that I assumed were teeming with fish and game. It was, in retrospect, a spectacularly poor choice, for a variety of reasons, but time was of the essence, and the reality of the decision would have to be dealt with when the need arose.

Thanks, Freddie Laker, for your spectacularly inexpensive Laker Airlines, that allowed even a down and out pauper like me to escape. The Empress Of Canada — a huge DC-10 — bore me over the ocean, over Greenland, and Labrador, to Toronto, where I immediately set about making myself scarce, and disappearing so thoroughly into the far west, that even I had no idea of where I was for almost two years.

The game, was almost non-existent, as were the fish. There was almost no vegetation to eat. In winter it was cold-beyond-cold, and in summer, the mosquitoes and black flies almost drove me to suicide.

And this is the type of extreme measures The Cold War could drive a man to. Scary! But there were others. Ones who did not go into Robinson Crusoe mode. What of them?

There were those like my present wife, who, although just as terrified as me, reacted to the terror completely differently. She was the bravest of the brave. She realized that nuclear war was beyond her ability to do anything about, and so decided to simply get on with her life, and hope for the best. Many were more or less like her. The down to earth, reality-based types, that today form the core of conservatism. Then, there were the others…

The others largely consisted of people so scared that they started behaving as if every moment could be their last, and this gave them license to indulge in behaviour that would have been unthinkable, before. No appetite was left unsated. No taboo too serious to break. Antisocial behaviour became the norm, along with as much drink, drugs, and sex as possible, in order to experience everything a human could, before the fast approaching end.

These people could probably have survived everything else they did, but the drugs was generally what did for them. With any notion of consequences cast to the winds, no drug, in any quantity, gave them any cause for caution. They did it all, as often as they could, and did it year after year, while they awaited almost certain death.

Really, what they did, was cave in so completely to fear, that they retreated into their own minds, to bask in drug-induced euphoria, which had only one drawback: it wasn’t a permanent state, and so more drugs were always the biggest concern. And more. And more.

None of this was their fault, really. They were made to live on a knife-edge, between life and death, with nothing to be done about it. Instant gratification, now, was their only goal.

But retreating into one’s own mind carries unexpected penalties. The mind is not reality. It is more like a laboratory, where anything can happen. And if whatever happens is too bad, well, just think other thoughts, and no harm is done.

The idea of Utopia was born, in the drug-addled brains of countless young people. And in the safe laboratory of the mind, there was absolutely nothing wrong with, or in the way of it. Only them stinkin’ capitalist pigs, man! Them fuckin’ fascists!

And so the mind became the new reality, for the young. Leading, of course, to the notion of there being many, many realities. And losing all sight of there actually only being the one. And this is why it is impossible to communicate with leftists, today. Because leftists are those alienated, terrified, shell-shocked Cold War casualties, along with their offspring, who spend all their days believing that what goes on inside their heads is reality, and having no connection at all with the actual reality that lives outside.

This is the nature of Collateral Damage. The unexpected results of something that never actually happened, but ruined countless lives, simply by the possibility of it happening.

Conservatives have often had the feeling that leftists were completely mad, upon discovering this incomprehensible inability to detect, or respond to reality, that leftists exhibit. How can one reason with someone who has no reality but a made-up, imaginary one, that exists only in the mind?

It’s a horrific realization, that this is so. Tragic to the power of ten. But when you consider it, how can it be otherwise? This is the ultimate casualty of fear. The life-stealer.

I rather pity leftists, now, along with feeling the residual irritation that accompanies the cowardly behaviour of all those remaining, stubbornly, inside the blastproof bomb shelters of their minds, long, long after the war is over. We need them to come out! The Western world can not survive, very much longer, while too few try to cover the needs of the many, who produce nothing, wreck what is, and yap only for change from some unspecified thing to another unspecified thing.

Leftists. Not essentially to blame for the mass retreat into their own minds, and forgetting all about reality. The damnable thing is: not only did they forget what they hid away from, or why, but that they completely forgot it might be rather important to ever come out again.


  1. RiverC says:

    This would explain the death of so many good music forms during this era – both Jazz and Rock dried up.

    Playing some of Charlie Parker’s tunes, you get the sense that even if these Jazz guys were strung out (and quite a few were!) they weren’t living in the mind – there was real confidence and joy there.

    Free Jazz was just a retreat into the mind. I have a similar notion about later kinds of rock (Grunge for instance) which began a movement, like what happened in Jazz, from music (take Eric Johnson’s ‘Cliffs of Dover’) to noise.

    Real music requires a fixed reality where others dwell who you are trying to serenade… this other music is just a drug musicians make for themselves to keep reality out.

    … I hope they keep their dang hands off of Bluegrass.

    1. 1349 says:

      This era gave birth to metal music which is quite traditionalist if compared to rock or jazz.

      I’d say real music requires a higher reality to sing praise to…

      1. RiverC says:

        Maybe you don’t know Jazz very well. Few people do anymore, but Rock and Jazz are both dead now, effectively, so that’s not surprising. Even metal and bluegrass and experimental music have a short lease; Christian musicians took over rock and Country is such a weird commercial product as to not be living music, but rather, a continuing market.

        Exhaustion destroyed Rock and Jazz and it will also kill Metal and Experimental. As for bluegrass, who knows. They don’t seem to know that it’s not 1890 anymore, so maybe they’re safe for some time.

        Metal, like experimental, is showing signs of age like Jazz and Rock were – the movement towards noise and away from song. ‘Praising a higher reality’ was what Coltrane was doing and guess what – nobody but he could really understand it.

        Everyone who ‘followed’ him simply aped his style but could not re-create his substance. This is the fate of all truly anti-populist musical forms; just like the fate of anti-elitist forms is descent into unremarkable mediocrity, anti-populist forms descend into inscrutable noise.

        Music is either a common ground or it is a graveyard.

        It’s just human nature on this one.

        1. “Graveyard” describes what I heard on the radio, yes. Graveyard of good taste.

          1. RiverC says:

            Noise seems to be the common end of all failed musical genres.

            … and not pretty noise either.

        2. 1349 says:

          Maybe you don’t know Jazz very well.

          You’re right. I do not. If there’s some kind of “traditionalist jazz”, let me know… =)

          Even metal and bluegrass and experimental music have a short lease

          But we were talking about the cold war era.
          It didn’t just kill music forms but also created some.

          ‘Praising a higher reality’ was what Coltrane was doing and guess what – nobody but he could really understand it.

          I must’ve expressed my thought vaguely…
          Traditionalist music is sung and played to this or that God (“higher reality”), not to human listeners; not in an attempt to be understood and liked by human listeners. At the same time it is not experimental or avantgarde but quite the contrary: rather canonical and orderly, and thus actually more accessible and understandable to potential human listeners (although, say, in pagan traditions there is practically no place for listeners) than free jazz, and, which is important, more or less reproducible by those listeners.
          A couple of examples of what i’m talking about.
          If you’re Orthodox christian, you could know these fellows:

          (I’ve only heard this album but the others are probably worth, too. If you won’t find it for sale or download i could send a couple of tracks to you.)
          For a central European pagan example, this could do:

          1. RiverC says:

            This is a false dichotomy. Even Byzantine chant is limited by respect for the listener; if you use a traditional form and stricture you can forget that you must respect your listeners. I don’t know if you play an instrument, but when you play for others, you realize that you won’t have an audience if you are not respectful of your audience. This doesn’t mean you simply pander to them… but for instance, try playing the piano at a party and playing too loud. You’ll soon find no-one in the room. If instead you learn to play softer, not only will you have the enjoyment of the music, but it can be shared – it can become a common ground. Respect for listeners is a form of self-restraint that makes the music better than it would be without it.

            The other way sounds to me like a reconstruction of tradition to justify earbud culture. One wonders what bards were doing all that time.

            1. RiverC says:

              Also, people get fooled by Byzantine because they hear it in Greek. According to the canons, it is supposed to be in the language of the laity – it is driven by a need to express prayer in a way that is both beautiful and comprehensible.

              The Russians messed up on this one with Slavonic… they were going to get the services into Modern Russian back at the turn of the century, but when the heretical Communist-controlled church took that up as one of their ‘things’, the Orthodox there became very stubborn about keeping things in Slavonic.

              The result is that people in fact often do not know what is being said when they are capable of doing so if the text were in their language. This is the Russians’ problem though, we Anglophones are refusing to repeat that mistake.

            2. 1349 says:

              If instead you learn to play softer, not only will you have the enjoyment of the music, but it can be shared – it can become a common ground.

              The best way for music to be a common ground is being reproducible. If you just abstractly “play the piano at a party”, the others, most probably, can only consume your playing. If you have a song that everyone can sing along with you, that a better “common ground”.

              I stand for functional music. In the people’s tradition of my country there’s hardly any music that is meant for listening only. Songs are there to be sung, not listened to – they are almost (or sometimes entirely) like prayers, which are to be said, of course, and not to be listened to. Most of the songs are dedicated to a certain phase of the year cycle or of a human life cycle. Instrumental pieces are mostly dances rather than just abstract “instrumentals”.

  2. Owl says:

    “Those communists are gonna nuke us and I’m scared. Who’s to blame? CAPITALISTS, for not being COMMUNIST ENOUGH!”

    I’m not sure the cold war broke them. Maybe they were already broken and the cold war just swept all of the herd animals over the cliff.

  3. Wild says:

    I see their children exhibiting similar behavior over terrorists. Seems like people would rather have a victim mentality than realize that even if they can’t remove the threat of death, they can change their reaction to it.

    Personally, I prefer a bit of danger lurking out there. Helps focus on what we have and why we should defend it.

    1. Ted Swanson says:

      Being a victim is the *perfect* alibi. It’s one thing to actually be a victim, but it’s quite another to anticipate being a victim. With that you’re defeated before you even battled. I think this essay is important because it explains why people freak out for no reason. It’s not so much that people *are* victims or cowards but they have been convinced they are or ought to be. I think this cognitive dissonance is what causes people to indulge in nitwittery and self-destructive behavior. Because some corner of the mind still knows that it isn’t a victim. This also explains why people who really have been victimized or traumatized don’t actually like to be treated like victims. It’s an insult to their ultimate triumph over victimization. It speaks to nature/nurture in that people are resilient if given a chance.

  4. 03-04 says:

    Fear is a mindkiller. Or it can be.

    When you are living in fear, you can become completely immersed to the point, where you don’t even realize that the world can be anything other than fear. And so you escape into happy fantasyland – which really isn’t an escape, but a product of the fear itself.

    Fear always attaches itself to the future. You fear the things that may be. But like the future, the things you fear are never really there. That’s the truly fearful thing about them.

    Because fear makes you worry a great deal about something unreal that could hypothetically become real, the mind pushes aside the real as if IT were the unreal. After all, the real could hypothetically be the unreal as well.


    The real is still the real, though, whether it confirms our hypothesis or not.

    Fear can be very real – the things you fear are never as real. In fact, the things you fear are distractions of the mind, to escape from what’s real, namely the fear itself. Every time you feel the fear, the mind feels like running away.

    Maybe the opposite of fear isn’t ‘feeling safe’, but discipline? Through discipline you learn to stay with the real, whether there is fear or not. And so fear becomes something much less important. Sure, it’s there from time to time. But what isn’t?

    1. Ted Swanson says:

      There’s something Pascal’s Wager-esque about your comment.

      1. 03-04 says:

        To turn your back on the fear, or to face it.

        If you turn your back on the fear, you place your bet:

        There is nothing real to fear.
        But maybe there is.

        But if you face the fear you place your bet:

        There is something real to fear.
        But maybe there isn’t.

  5. This same fear has been with us for a couple centuries now. It’s the fear that we’re not on a good path as a species. Nuclear war just sped up the timeline.

    1. crow says:

      Fear has only been a factor, for me, for sixty years.
      I can not speak for longer, nor know what the score was before that.
      The Cold War was the scariest thing I’ve experienced, in a life full of various scares.
      But fear causes different people to react differently.
      For me, I am kicked into high gear and furious activity, whereas for many, they are driven into complete inaction and lethargy.
      Fear makes me live, and want to live. It makes others die, or want to die.

      The biggest effect of fear, on me, was to make me set about murdering it, once and for all. A threat that big needs neutralizing.
      I can report success on that particular venture.

  6. Repair_Man_Jack says:

    Another reaction is that safety became another entitlement. It became the gubbermint’s job to make all the bad stuff and risk go away. The future will not allow that. The people will be forced, as Forrest would put it, to come out of the narcotic bomb shelter.

    1. RiverC says:

      That attitude itself may be a product of the Cold War… though Federal disaster relief started (I think) in the 1890′s, the Cold War seems to bring this attitude to a new focus. I guess we can also blame FDR’s handling of the semi-engineered Great Depression too.

  7. crow says:

    The essay may have been a major fail…
    The actual point was really about certain people making a lifestyle of living exclusively in their minds, rather than in the physical world.
    I first began to notice this, particularly in Americans, as they wandered about, looking at things, and judging what they saw, rather than being in the picture, and interacting with it.
    As if all of life was passive entertainment, like a movie.

    Experience of living has been replaced, by such people, with a theoretical existence, rather than one that is lived, first-hand. These are the people I so often refer to as leftists. Their theoretical perspective is so at odds with reality that it causes them to behave in any number of unreasonable, and frankly crazy, ways.

    1. 03-04 says:

      Perhaps you just ended up with something different than you originally intended.

      Something different, mind you: Not necessarily a fail.

      For me, the essay was about different strategies of coping with a fear so monumental, that there is nothing one can do about it. A fear you can’t just remove. You can’t dodge the fear by not getting into dangerous or otherwise ‘fear-inducing’ situations. Life itself is the dangerous, fearful situation.

      When humanity is faced with the immanent threat of nuclear war (which would quite possibly mean extinction), and there is nothing one as an individual can do, neither push the button nor prevent its being pushed, how does one go about living life? Fear is everywhere. Can’t escape it.

      Do you try to accept it? Or do you try to forget it? Living with it is fact.

      You chose to cope with it by, in fact, putting yourself in a situation that was really quite dangerous. I would suppose dealing with fear and overcoming it was an important part of surviving in the wilderness for two years?

      Others chose to ignore the fear by isolating themselves from reality. They chose to forget the fear instead of living with it. Experiencing it.

      I admit that I have for large periods of my life been, what you would probably consider a ‘leftist’. Someone paying too much attention to abstract thought (‘theories’) and not enough to the actual reality going on around me. A prisoner of my own mind, so to speak.

      Even though I was only briefly leaning to the left, politically (silly youth), my ‘leftist’ understanding of the world followed me around for many years. Like a shadow. I pretty much ‘experienced’ reality as theory. As a never ending slideshow of theoretical examples, so to speak. I took notice, and I adjusted my theory accordingly. Always paying attention to the theory, and not so much to the real.

      Now, from the outside this must have looked like me trying to escape reality, by retreating into my own mind. But it was really quite the opposite. It was me trying to get through to reality. Breaking down the barriers of thinking, and seeking to escape the mind. I was seeking to ‘think properly’ of the world.

      I wasn’t really looking for an abstract theory about ‘how reality works’, though I certainly believed so several times. I was seeking reality itself ‘in theory’. But I only realized that when I finally found it. And that was when I realized how I was living ‘in actuality’.

      I was trapped in the mind because I desperately sought to escape it.

      Why did I do that? Because I feared that reality itself was only in my mind. That reality was trapped in the mind. That the mind was the real, and that the ‘real’ was fake.

      This I think is a real great fear of our time, even though few recognize it: ‘What if all the things I think mean something isn’t real? What if it’s all in my mind?’

      And I think you are right: It’s basically a post-Cold War kind of fear.

      We can either try to escape the fear. Or we can confront it. One of the ways to confront it (as I hope to do) is to truly and honestly ‘think leftism through’ – and to find out exactly why it doesn’t work. What it is that makes leftism fail time and time again. Namely reality.

      Leftism is always something very different ‘in theory’ and ‘in actuality’. And the great threat of leftism is, that the leftist can’t really tell the difference.

      No, your post was in no way a fail. You just thought doing something different than you did was the actual point :)

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