On April 8th 1966 Time magazine published one of its most contentious editions in its history with the cover posing the stark quandary “Is God Dead?”. The intention was to question the relevance of monotheistic religion in a rapidly secularised world. The demise of religious belief in the West seemed to accelerate within a year of the magazine`s publication. In 1967 there was a discernible decline in traditional values and this coincided with a rising interest in alternative beliefs. Conservative notions that surrounded gender and sexuality were being challenged by a new generation that sought a different path through life than the previous generation.
This was a different generation. They sought more freedom and resisted any orthodoxy that they believed suppressed human desires. This was a “counterculture” which attempted to change the dominant culture of conservatism that was increasingly stultifying. The tail end of the sixties heralded a bright new era of burgeoning art but society as a whole was fragmenting. Eventually a society that loses its moral fulcrum entirely becomes a dangerous one. Ira Levin`s 1967 novel “Rosemary`s Baby” became a pertinent metaphor for a newly conceived society that becomes destructive.
Levin was inspired by the speculative fiction of John Wyndham. Wyndham`s vision has proven to be prophetic, he had a premonition of a future world on the brink of destruction owing to the threat of malevolent societal forces. These were manifested by the legendary “Kraken”. In 2021 we are facing unique challenges but instead of conceiving an alternative that is bright and hopeful we are dwelling upon the darkness. The spectre of the pandemic has brought untold damage.
The instability wrought by the virus has induced anxieties within the populace. Historical memories of racism have been exhumed when we once believed that these should have remained buried. The very notion that there are racial differences within humans is a shibboleth but it is a notion that has now gained popularity as we live in a society that has broken free of its moorings. The Kraken are a real threat to our existence because we lack the necessary unifying values. This is a hollow and moribund culture. Fifty-five years after that iconic magazine cover we really need to ask ourselves this question yet again and if the answer is “No” then perhaps we should face up to the consequences.