"How many minutes to midnight, do you reckon it is?", asked a Green Left Weekly buyer at a street stall last week.
"That's a grim but fair enough question", I replied.
"Do you remember the 1980s Iron Maiden song, 'Two Minutes to Midnight'? We were all worried that the world was going to come to a sudden end in a nuclear holocaust. There was the nuclear arms race and we were marching in the streets for nuclear disarmament. Well, I think we are closer to midnight than we were then", she said.
I'd never have picked this woman, with her grandchild looking innocently up from a stroller, as the heavy metal type. But how would I know? My instinctive reaction to this sort of music has always been "duck and cover".
The conversation then covered global warming, the endless wars in the Middle East, the election victories of the right in Europe and the global food crisis.
"Look at what is happening in Burma today after the cyclone. Imagine that on a bigger scale and further down the road with the food crisis?", said the woman.
"And in the rich countries, right-wing politicians are telling people we can build a wall around our islands of privilege, lock out the problem and carry on shopping in peace. No wonder racism is raising its ugly head everywhere. No wonder the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan go on forever."
We discovered we had both been activists in the nuclear disarmament movement in the 1980s and both had daughters who were going to primary school at that time — and since then, they had both made us grandparents.
I recalled my eldest daughter's account of a bleak school
yard conversation, 20 years ago, which went roughly like this: "Everyone says we are all going to die and there's nothing we can do about it". Was that the message getting out to the broader population and reflected through the conversations of children? Had reasonable fear bred mass paralysis and fatalism?
My response then (as it remains today) was: We cannot let fear immobilise us, even if we are just "minutes away from midnight". If we are not part of the solution, then we are part of the problem. Heavy Metal Grandma nodded and she reached for the solidarity price for a Green Left Weekly.
We are "minutes from midnight". But if you are not for giving up the fight, and you want to be part of the solution, you can help Green Left Weekly grow. Give a subscription to a workmate, friend or relative and dig deep for a donation to our Fighting Fund at Greenleft, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account No 901992.
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NSW 2007, or donate online through Secure Pay at
Since the last issue, our supporters raised $2293 bringing the total raised for the GLW Fighting Fund this year to $76,636, which is 31% of our target of $250,000.