Thursday, July 14, 2005

Preparedness = Fear

Babble on.

The title of this post seems to be a valid equation for many writing in to the CBC to express their disapproval of Anne McLellan's recent comments about the relative unpreparedness of the Canadian public for a terror attack. In case you missed those comments:

Canadians who use mass transit systems need to prepare themselves mentally for the possibility of terrorist attacks, the federal public safety minister says.

Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan says only so much can be done to protect the millions of people who use mass transit in Canada. "I do not believe that Canadians are as psychologically prepared for a terrorist attack as I think probably we all should be," Anne McLellan told the World Conference on Disaster Management in Toronto on Monday.

"I think we have for perhaps too long thought that these were things that happened somewhere else.

"One never wants to unnecessarily scare or panic any individual. However, I think we need to start talking about the fact that we all need to be prepared for all possibilities."

I'm not a big fan of Landslide Annie, and I found Haligonian Carl Burns' take on his Deputy PM's admonition quite incisive:

Anne McLellan is the perfect Liberal; completely two-faced. For years the Liberals have been saying that no organization would attack Canada because we're so sympathetic, etc, etc, and now their second-in-command is now wagging her finger at our complacency.

Anne should now ask her Prime Minister to become serious about strengthening our armed services rather than another social program or more GST rebate cheques.

What Ms. McLellan is attempting currently is to float her "I-told-you-so" rhetoric so that when the time comes and one of our cultural icons is attacked or destroyed, Anne will be able to take a step back and wag her finger in that all-knowing-but-do-nothing stance that Liberals are famous for. The security of the country is her responsibility as Deputy-Prime Minister. It's also her duty to tell Canadians the truth about our ability to secure our borders and safeguard its citizens.

Although the Liberal hypocrisy on this issue makes my blood boil, being on both sides of the issue means that they're half right: Canadians aren't prepared. And from the look of some of the letter-writers, many Canadians are misunderstanding that message, and resenting it. Here's a sampling:

Come on Canada, let us get prepared for terrorism! Start watching your neighbours activities, call the authorities when you feel threatened or if you just feel uncomfortable with them.

Start putting together a terrorism response kit. Medical supplies,personal protective equipment and a personal action plan would top the list of items in a response kit. Look into the purchase of body armor, semi automatic hand guns, automatic rifles and surface to air missiles so you can do your duty and be the first line of defense against a terrorist attack! [remainder snipped for sarcastic redundancy]

Robert Perks | Calgary


How good it is to see that the reaction of other Canadians is the same as mine! They have given Anne McLellan's comment that we are not mentally prepared for a terrorist attack the scorn that it deserves.

What would she have us do? Stay at home with the covers over our heads? report any "suspicious" activities of our neighbours to the police? In other words, turn ourselves into a police state populated by paranoid citizens? If that happens, the terrorists will have won without firing a shot!

Bob O'Neill | Halifax


I have no desire whatsoever to become "psychologically prepared" for an eventual terrorist attack on Canadian targets.

I have two thoughts on this approach of self-destructive thinking. The first is that I have absolutely no desire to emulate our American cousins to the south, and become so paranoid I regard everything as a threat. The second thought is that if we don't participate in activities (i.e. bombing, killing innocent people) that militants perceive as threatening, we might not be regarded as a target, merits some thought.

I refuse to play Ms McLellan's game of feeling terrorized, and I refuse to play into the American's game of bullying everyone else into feeling terrorized. We Canadians have done nothing wrong in this war of control over lucrative petroleum deposits. I refuse to feel scared or bullied.

Rather, I encourage Ms. McLellan to buck up, stand separate from the American influence, and accept that we will differ on interpretations.

Russell Collier | Smithers, B.C.


McLellan is an irresponsible fear-monger who is spreading terrorism by telling Canadians to get psychologically ready for an attack.

How do you DO that, anyway? Yes, Live In Fear, just like the Americans. Great idea.

I have lost all respect for her and really wish she'd quit, her mouth is her worst asset.

Gunther Rall | Victoria, BC

Where to begin? With the gratuitous smears on American security efforts? With the misguided assumption that because we're not in Iraq that we're not a target?

I'll leave those alone, because I want to focus on the one monstrous misconception at the heart of each of the letters that accuse McLellan of encouraging paranoia: that somehow preparedness equals fear.

I sell insurance for a living. I encourage people to buy policies in case something bad happens, to be prepared. Am I a fear-monger?

Firefighters encourage families to have an evacuation plan in the event of a fire, to teach their kids the phrase 'Stop, Drop, and Roll' in case their clothes ever catch flame. In other words, they teach us to be prepared. Are they fear-mongers too?

Young Drivers of Canada puts the motto "Your licence to survive" right under their name. They encourage new learners to 'drive defensively' and to be aware of potential threats on the road. In other words, they teach kids to be prepared. Are they irresponsible fear-mongers as well?

Nobody is advocating exposing yourself to horrific images until you're numb enough to wade through body parts with a serene demeanour. Nobody is advocating learning how to use throwing stars and hand grenades in expectation of the day when the world goes Mad Max on us. Nobody is advocating spying on your neighbours and turning yourself into a paranoid conspiracy freak.

Get this through your thick skull: nobody wants you to be scared, other than the bastards who blow up buses in rush hour.

But ask people who come up against frightening and horrific situations as part of their job how they combat their own fear. Ask soldiers, firemen, policemen, trauma doctors and nurses: it's the training. When you're scared, the training - the preparedness - is what rises to the top of your mind and gets you through the situation.

If you're looking for information on how to prepare for an emergency situation without 'living in fear', I'd suggest you check out Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada's site. It contains some good information, and if - God forbid - something awful happens, you'll be glad you took a few minutes to think about it beforehand.

If proposing that reasonable precaution makes me paranoid in the eyes of the moonbats, I don't really mind. When they start freaking out in an emergency, I'll get to slap them quiet, and that's good enough for me.

Babble off.

Update: From the Christian Science Monitor, where you should go now to read the entire article:

As planning for terrorism becomes a part of daily life in the Western World, a growing number of disaster experts are calling for a dramatic reassessment in the way the nation plans for emergencies.

The problem, they argue, is that the current top-down approach views the public as a problem to be managed rather than an asset to be utilized. Officials don't take into account people's natural willingness to help or address their most basic needs - like concern about the safety of their spouses and kids.

This upstart group of sociologists, physicians, and terrorism experts contends that the use of ordinary citizens during a large-scale emergency could save hundreds if not thousands of lives. And they are determined to ensure the public is properly prepared before the next catastrophic event.

"It's critical that we readjust our thinking. If you look at the 9/11 commission report they talked about first responders versus what they called 'civilians,' as if all of the civilians did was just stand at the sidelines," says Kathleen Tierney, the director of the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder. "That is so radically at variance with what actually happened that day."
While police, fire, and rescue workers need equipment and training, this group of experts contends that it would be equally, if not more, important to organize local communities, schools, and businesses. They believe the public should be trained in what to do in an emergency response but, more important, that emergency managers base those plans on what people say they will need, and how they will react in the case of, say, a dirty bomb, or a smallpox attack.

If we tried to implement such a program in Canada, I wonder how the moonbats would react. Would they scrunch their eyes shut, put their hands over their ears, and yell 'LALALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!'? Or would they shake their fists into the cameras covering their protests outside some government office, and spout vacuous slogans: "We will not live in fear! This is not America, and we won't learn how to provide basic first aid in the event of a disaster!" (My bet is on vacuous slogans. They've gotten good at those after years of picket-lines and anti-nuke marches.)

How to get through to these people that stoicism isn't the same as burying your head in the sand? That evacuation drills from office buildings aren't the first step in the destruction of all civil liberties? That prudent preparation by ordinary citizens for extraordinary events isn't akin to living in a culture of fear?

There are definitely some heads out there that need a good hard shake.


At 5:10 p.m., Blogger Don said...

What is the boy scout motto: Be prepared!
The 4-H motto:
Learn to do by doing
one other sage advice:
Never bring a knife to a gunfight.

The people who scream about fear mongering are the same ones who demand compensation for every slight ever given to them who never ever take responsibility for their actions. They make me sick.

At 5:41 p.m., Blogger Ghost of a flea said...

I for one am a firm advocate for learning how to use throwing stars and hand grenades in expectation of the day when the world goes Mad Max on us.

At 6:07 p.m., Blogger Temujin said...

I am going to do some investigating here in Smithers. I don't know Russell Collier, but he needs to be clued in, big time.

Great post, man. Glad to see you back to blogging on a regular basis.

At 11:00 p.m., Blogger Jason Monteith said...

With posts like this Damian, one suspects you may be just the man to give those heads a good shaking.

Great post!


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