Friday, December 07, 2007

Protect and Survive


Back in the 1980s I enrolled on a course called “Protect and Survive”. One evening a week a retired Wing Commander would train us in leadership; not just any leadership, but how to lead our Cumbrian villages through a nuclear holocaust and out the other side into a changed, sure, but recognisable and sturdily surviving England.
Yes, equipped with only the Wingco’s wall charts and some brown paper and sticky tape, we were going to protect our villages against thermo-nuclear bombs. Fission-fusion bombs. With brown paper. Multi-megaton jobs. Paper. Brown. You heard right the first time. British, you see.
Our Wing Commander, he was about eighty, was out of his depth. Sure, most of our group were decent right wing citizens who believed, or affected to believe, the drivel the Wingco regaled us with. But two of us were sceptics and, in my case, a dirty rotten spy. I was a member of an anti-nuclear (weapons and reactors) group, and I used to report, in a light hearted fashion, on the Protect and Survive course. I also used to ask the Wingco probing questions, continually and repetitiously, like a backwoods John Humphrys . Maybe I should have anticipated the heart attack he had six weeks into the course (not fatal, I’m glad to say, and not actually in front of us). I’m sure it was nothing to do with the strain of explaining to me yet once more about the brown paper.
The new Wingco was younger and more savvy, and was keeping a special treat for the last session of our Protect and Survive course, before certificates were handed out to the successful. The treat was the denouncing of a traitor, a traitor even now in our midst. He read excerpts from my light hearted and abusive accounts in our trade journal, Cumbrian Owl. He spoke of honour and gentlemanliness. He implied I had none.
Injudiciously, I had included in my reports thumbnail sketches of my Protect and Survive, by now ex-, colleagues, including the lady amongst us. This was damnable. Especially the false eyelashes.
There was muttering. Remember I was in border reiver country. Death meant little up there. I was scared. Charm was my only hope. When the session had been wound up, I went and talked to the new Wingco for ten minutes, bygones be bygones and all that, making sure that I walked with him all the way to my car. Once on the road I drove like hell, waiting for lights to swing out of a side lonning and get on my tail. Not just paranoia. Two of the course members belonged to a rifle club and had made, more than once, strange enquiries about what would be done with the residents of Dovenby Hall Mental Hospital in the event of a nuclear attack; they were volunteering to “look after things”, they said. They said they were trained.
I didn’t want them to follow me home.
Recently it has been officially admitted that the whole thing was a cynical farce; that brown paper over the windows does not save you from the thermal radiation, nor a stout kitchen table from the blast of even a small nuclear weapon in the vicinity. It was idiot propaganda which fooled only a small, gullible and officious section of the rural population.
The “Protect and Survive” episode seems relevant to our attempts to halt global warming.
It is clear to all but the most simple minded that the British Government has neither the will, the understanding, nor the courage to take measures against global warming. It’s true Gordon Brown holds a set of strong, almost absolute convictions on twenty crucial matters of ethical and practical concern, but then again he simultaneously holds the equivalent set of strong, almost absolute convictions which are diametrically opposed to the first. Like he believes in reducing relative poverty, and simultaneously he believes in the superiority of “business”, especially American “business”, to all other forms of human aspiration and achievement.
So, with global warming, he believes, or articulates belief, in the absolute priority of the human species working towards a sustainable existence. And simultaneously he believes that we must construct more motorways, airports, power stations, he believes in the complete deregulation of “business”.
And his actions, as always, promote the second set of beliefs. So all the sustainable stuff is just “Protect and Survive”; propaganda produced by idiots for idiots.

4 comments:

Pedro Terán said...

Very enjoyable.

"before certificates were handed out to the successful"

!!

Jago said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jago said...

Certificates are serious things. I am a school governor, which means that we are non-teachers who act as "critical friends" to a school. We have to do training, and for training we get certificates, in such things as "managing the self-assessment form" - don't ask. One of our governors is a scary lady, and she has just been put in charge of collecting all our certificates so that when the school is inspected by the government, they can be on display to show what excellent governors we are. Three times I have "forgotten" to bring mine, and the scary lady gets scarier and scarier. How am I to tell her that my certificates went straight from envelope to recycling bin in one easy movement?

Pedro Terán said...

Malicious "forgotter"!