Devastation fascination – disasters I secretly pine for

The UK is probably only days away from crashing out of the EU.

God, what a disaster it will be! The ports will become gridlocked. Supplies will disappear from store shelves. Flights in and out of the country suspended. There are worries that food will become so scarce that there are plans to call out the army to distribute meals at gunpoint from the back of military trucks.

It would be catastrophic. Horrific. Cataclysmic.

God, I hope it happens.

Well, part of me does. It’s the same bit of me that watches figure skating, rooting not for triple axles, but in the hopes that someone will fall in the middle of their routine.

I call it devastation fascination.

It’s when there’s a threatened calamity of some kind, that you sort of hope actually happens so you can see how it plays out. I’ve suffered from this condition for my entire life.

When I was a child, I remember hearing about killer African bees. These had been introduced to South America in a controlled environment by scientists – but those crafty bees soon escaped and it wasn’t long before we were being warned that they were breeding and slowly moving northwards towards the USA.

In 10 or 20 years, we were told, killer African bees would be all over the southern USA, causing havoc with their swarming ways and their deadly super stingers. Hollywood even made a couple of movies about the threat – The Swarm (1978) and The Bees (1978).

The threat from killer bees was clearly overstated – the promised invasion never really materialised. Disappointing. I was looking forward to TV news footage of Texas cowboys hopelessly shooting their six-shooters at swarms of bees, of soldiers with flamethrowers, sloppily torching giant hives on the sides of buildings, setting alight whole sections of the southwest.

I don’t think devastation fascination comes from a place of cruelty. It’s not human suffering that I’m pining for – it’s really just a good story with a little bit of carnage for everyone, but an extra dose for those that deserve it most.

That’s where Brexit comes in.

I live here in the UK. I don’t really want the country to fall apart, but if it’s going to happen, I want hard Brexit to fall hardest on the people who deserve it the most.

Here’s my vision:

An army truck pulls up to our neighbourhood. Everyone quietly queues up for their weekly rations:

    • one tin of mutton
    • three stalks of raw rhubarb
    • a small pot of Bovril
    • a quart of Ribena, which is poured directly into a bucket or bottle which you must bring

Next to me in the queue is Theresa May, who was ousted as Prime Minister right after the brown sauce riots (HP sauce is made in the Netherlands and was one of the first items to disappear from store shelves.) It seems that Mrs May has forgotten her bucket. She sees that I have a spare and meekly asks if she might borrow it.

I start shouting to the assembled crowd: “What say you lot, should I give my spare Ribena bucket to Mrs May? Maybe we should have a referendum on it and let the people decide!” The hungry and haggard citizens mostly ignore my imprecations. They just want rhubarb stalks to gnaw on – they don’t want any trouble. But I am undeterred by their lack of response. I lean in towards Mrs May, and my voice gets all low and sinister as I whisper in her ear: “Oh, that’s right Theresa, you don’t believe in letting the people decide. No bucket for you. Enjoy a week without Ribena you horrid beast.”

That’s how this works. It’s not me who falls off the ice skates. The African bees only sting the mad scientists and beekeepers who brought them over to begin with. Brexit ruins everything, but it is extra-specially ruinous for the Brexiters.

Once you see potential calamities as a delivery system for karmic justice, you can root for all kinds of tremendous catastrophes to take place.

For example, climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing the entire planet, but I’m kind of looking forward to Florida being underwater. The rapture, when it comes, will be like the ultimate reality show, and I’m more than a little curious about who gets voted into heaven and who gets consigned to that other place. Machines becoming self-aware and enslaving mankind? I have a strong notion that they’ll run things quite a bit better. Bring on our robot overlords!

It’s not just me who feels this way. A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post about how I believed that British people were secretly rooting for Donald Trump to win his unlikely bid for the presidency. His victory would take the heat off them in any hypothetical contest for “world’s most idiotic government.” There was a part of me that wanted Trump to win too. After all, he was a walking hot mess – a con man, an idiot, a known liar and an immoral scumbag who thrived on conflict. He was the reality-show candidate who promised years of magnificently unnecessary drama. Well-run governments are boring. Donald Trump as President of the United States of America – could you imagine it? What great fun!

It turns out though, I underestimated the grandness of the catastrophe that is the Donald Trump presidency. He’s not just a disaster, he’s actually the secret ingredient that makes all other disasters worse. Thanks to Trump, there are more gun massacres, climate change is accelerating, Brexit is more likely to happen, fewer people are getting vaccinated and loads of people are suffering from lack of health insurance. Vladimir Putin is empowered. As are white supremacists. The list of horrific events goes on and on.

The thing is, the only one getting a comeuppance in this devastation fascination scenario is me. And you. And the rest of the planet.

I should have stuck with just rooting for the killer bees.



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