Oh Happy Apocalypse! Our world has not, after all, turned into one rife with murder, cannibalism and theft. All those self-isolating fans and producers of post-apocalyptic fiction have looked through their windows and seen ... normality. A bit quiet, but the world turns as normal. Trips to the supermarkets have been a little strange – especially at first, when there was no pasta – but, all in all, it’s amazing how kind people are. It’s a disappointment. All those works which are going to have to be rewritten now; films remade. We are not all red in tooth and claw. We are kind and considerate – perhaps a little tetchy as the restrictions on our movement continue, but all in all, mankind, womankind, is Good.
For all those depressed writers. I have excellent news. The response we’re seeing to the Covid-19 crisis has very little to do with the world they’ve imagined. Simply put, for most people, most of the time, there’s very little danger or threat, and no need to compete with your neighbours to survive.
Crucially, there are no food shortages. So thank our supermarkets and their concerted action (in Britain) early on in the crisis. Had they not acted the way they did to ensure continuity of supply, we might well have seen signs of fighting in the streets. But they did. And there wasn’t.
And there’s been no physical destruction. There’s been no war or earthquake.
There are plenty of examples of the real thing, though not as widespread as our current pandemic. I’ve never been able to forget that, after the Philippines earthquake of 2013, it took only a matter of days before the whole structure of society seemed to have broken down, as everybody was forced into often violent struggle for survival, with no roads, power, or clean water. (There’s nothing “special” about the Philippines in that respect. The same happens everywhere.)
So take heart, dystopian, post-apocalyptic writers and film-makers. You are not redundant. For you, the future is bright.