Socialist Worker

Preparing for Emergencies? - ‘Stay inside and trust Tony’

by Pat Stack
Issue No. 1915

THE FAMOUS “war on terrorism” took a majestic step forward in the last couple of weeks with the production and distribution of Preparing for Emergencies, What You Need to Know.

It’s a dashing booklet full of circles and arrows which will allow us all to breeze through the worst of attacks unhindered and unharmed.

With advice that seems to have come straight from Timothy Leary, the acid guru of the 1960s, we are all urged to “Go in, stay in, tune in”. There—bet you’re feeling safer already.

I suppose that, given most of the government’s efforts to “fight terror” involve either killing innocent Iraqis or harassing the Muslim population, we should be thankful that this initiative can’t actually harm anyone.

However, a large number of trees have been sacrificed so that the government can look like it’s doing something while maintaining a high level of hysteria. Apart from that, I can think of no reason why it was produced.

My copy went straight in the bin unread, and having now read it I feel that my first instinct was right.

I remember that when I was a child the government in Ireland put out a booklet about surviving a nuclear attack.

Not quite sure why Ireland was expecting to be nuked, or by whom, but bits of it have stayed with me to this day.

Apparently the way to survive was to clean all dust away and live in the cupboard under the stairs with tins of baked beans and the like.

It sounded quite exciting to a ten year old. But it was obviously about as effective for survival as trying to open one of those cans of beans with a banana skin.

This one’s nowhere near as exciting though. Instead it has useful advice. If someone’s broken a bone don’t move it. If they’re unconscious ring 999 or, if you can, give the kiss of life. If someone’s bleeding, amazingly, you should try and stop the blood flow. If they are burnt, water, you will be surprised to hear, is useful.

If there is a bomb discovered in your building then (and I don’t suppose this would have occurred to most people) you should leave said building by the safest exit! If you are outside and an “incident occurs” you should try and head for a safe building.

Oh, and if you are unluckily trapped in debris, get as near as you can to a wall and tap on a pipe. That should be simple enough!

Then, of course, getting the terrorist before the attack would be even better. So did you know that terrorists need places to live, a plan, money and equipment?

There, that narrows it down nicely. Penniless vagrant meths drinkers can quickly be counted out, and that just leaves…the rest of us.

Incidentally, anyone returning goods for large amounts of money is very suspicious—no, I have no idea why—but think carefully before you take anything back to the shops, or you could find yourself in Paddington Green police station.

We are also urged to be vigilant for suspicious behaviour, vehicles and packages. On such grounds I could call the cops out to my estate seven nights a week.

Of course they don’t really mean anyone with money, a roof, etc. What is left unsaid, but shouts out at you nonetheless, is that suspicious equals Arab, Asian, Muslim.

So we create lots of paranoia, strengthen prejudice, and contribute absolutely zilch to our chances of avoiding or indeed surviving terrorist attack.

Up to now the “war on terrorism” has produced its fair share of tragedy. It’s good to see some farce thrown in for good measure.


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Sat 21 Aug 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1915
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