Friday, May 2, 2008

Minor Emergencies

We got our copy of Preparing for Major Emergencies through the letterbox the other day. It would be easy to knock it as a communications exercise, so I will. There is simply no point to this so called handbook. We are treated to lightweight advice about a mish-mash of topics - from foot & mouth disease to flooding - with no obvious rationale for the selection.

The web site more or less replicates the booklet, with audio files for the visually impaired. But the reality is that in the event of a real emergency (say a serious leakage in a UK nuclear power plant) nobody is going to go looking for their handbook. We'll switch on the radio or television or computer to find out what's happening. Which really does beg the question: why did the Government go to the cost of distributing this booklet (half of it in Irish which doubles the expense)?

The depressing thought is that it simply an exercise in politicians making themselves seem important and indispensable. Focusing on scary things that frighten us sure gets our attention. Unfortunately we can expect a lot more of this sort of thing. As societies and individuals become more important they just don't need the clientelism that characterises political interactions in poorer countries. So politicians have to dream up even more fantastic reasons to get our attention and our taxes.

Still, it could be worse: they say Karl Rove dreamt up the invasion of Iraq as a midterm election strategy for George Bush back in 2003. Now that's what I call scary.

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