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Posted by Its the end of the world as we know it on July 26, 2004 at 21:30:42:
In Reply to: Sure didnt you get yer iodine tablets posted by Protect and Survive on July 26, 2004 at 21:11:37:
When the Protect and Survive leaflet was released in 1980 its contents shocked many people and added to the general air of nuclear paranoia that peaked in the mid 80s. The fact that the government were actually preparing leaflets for distribution in the event of nuclear war made it obvious that they saw it as a real possibility. This inevitably influenced British culture of the time, including films, music and comedy.
Protect and Survive was a major influence for Raymond Briggs' superb cartoon book and film "When the Wind Blows" (1986) the title for which was taken from the introduction to the leaflet.
"If any member of the family should die whilst in the shelter from contamination,
Put them outside, but remember to tag them first for identification purposes.
Mine is the last voice that you will ever hear, do not be alarmed."
The elements of black-humour in Protect and Survive are not hard to find and these supplied many 80s alternative comedians with the material for some of their cold-war political humour. The Young Ones episode "Bomb" written by Ben Elton includes the casts following responses to a nuclear Bomb appearing in the kitchen:
NEIL: Seriously, we ought to do something about this bomb! I'm going upstairs to get the incredibly helpful and informative "Protect and Survive" manual! Nobody better touch this while I'm gone!
RICK: What are you doing?
[Neil is reading his survival manual while painting himself white with a paintbrush]
NEIL: Oh, painting myself white to deflect the blast!
RICK: That's great, isn't it, Racial discrimination, even in death! What are these? [indicates a few lunchbags on the table]
NEIL: Oh, sandbags!
[The table now has a drape over it saying, 'KEEP OUT, FALLOUT'. Mike enters carrying food in both hands]
MIKE: Neil, where's the table?
NEIL: Oh, good. You got the provisions.
NEIL: No, not on the roof man!, put it in the food zone! Anyway, it's got to be tinned if it's going to survive ten years of fallout!
Reading Protect and Survive as a teenager in the 80s filled me with a feeling of cold dread, and I wonder what could have been going through the minds of the people who created it? It's hard to believe that less than twenty years ago this seemed like an all to realistic picture of our imminent future:
The overall effect of this booklet is very disturbing. Did the government believe a nuclear war was survivable when they produced these booklets and plans? Did that make nuclear war more likely by upsetting the MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) balance between East and West?
Here are some more disquieting highlights:
"Even the safest room in your home is not safe enough" - ah, I see, so, er....what am I supposed to do then?
Where am I supposed to get a box of dry sand for my survival kit from (my local DIY store has had a bit of a run on sand and boxes since the end-of the world was announced), and supposing I do get hold of the specified materials how on Earth do I use them to wash plates?
There is nothing in the book about how to defend your shelter from the rampaging hordes without sand-boxes, in fact you are told "If there is time, help neighbours in need...", oh yes, a very British a apocalypse was being planned for us.
We are constantly told to "Keep the radio tuned for Government advice and instructions."
"DO NOT GO OUTSIDE until the radio tells you it is safe to do so." - what if my radio never tells me anything ever again?
"You should receive radio instructions on what to do next." - if you don't then civilisation has collapsed, government is no more, you are now on your own, good luck!
Finally we are given a little reassurance: "When you hear the ALL-CLEAR this means there is no longer an immediate danger from air attack and fall-out and you may resume normal activities." - if you consider stepping over piles of rubble and bodies whilst searching for uncontaminated tinned food normal!
It's the end of the world as we know it, and Adrian Hall feels fine
Well, it's finally happened. The planet has been destroyed, civilisation is at an end and chaos rules. Those Rambo wannabes living in caves in the Utah backwoods don't look so silly now, do they? You're doomed to die horribly whilst that rather odd-looking physicist next door exhibits a self-satisfied grin from inside the biohazard suit he bought after one too many X-files conventions.
The post-September 11th paranoia has given us an interesting insight into those terrifying days when the Cold War was threatening to heat up - to about 30 million degrees. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Oxford University had procedures in place to deal with the threat from those da.mn Ruskies involving nuclear shelters to be populated by the best and brightest.
However, since those heady days of paranoia and fear, no such policy exists, but fear not. You too can survive the apocalypse and live it large in a world without...well, anyone else! A few simple precautions ensure that you'll be able to stand there and laugh at that bustard tutor after their sorry remains are reduced to ashes.
Firstly, you need to know what to prepare for, and in this respect, that slightly eccentric fellow at 'Captain Dave's Survival Supplies' is extremely knowledgable. Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Captain Dave claims to be the 'Oldest Survivalist Specialist'. Apparently, no longer is it enough paint our windows white and hide under a table with a tin of potatoes, a sandbag and radio. Captain Dave cheerfully warns that in addition to the normal emergencies of the natural world, disease, and civil unrest, we are liable to face general economic and social collapse, plagues, a nuclear war, or severe climatological change, not to mention the possibility of a UFO taking out the White House, or chemical or biological attacks by those mean old terrorists.
Among the items offered by this man are gas masks. Recommended is the 'Israeli Civil Defence Mask', which offers comfort and a "convenient carrying bag": a snip at £60. Chemical and biological protection suits are offered at £17.95, along with water filters, first aid kits and MREs (Meals Ready to Eat, apparently). If you have a little more to spend, the government's decommissioned nuclear bunker at Mistley in Essex is soon to be sold for an estimated £375,000. Just think, when the bomb drops and people are melting like butter outside, you could be safely tucked away 100 feet below ground enjoying a cheese toasty. It's the end of the world as we know it and you'll feel, well...smug.
Perhaps the best source of information about the coming Armageddon rests with those most likely to bring it about. The MoD offered a wealth of information on preparing for the end of the world during the 1960s and '70s. 'Protect and survive' leaflets were widely distributed offering helpful advice on building a shelter out of a front door and some sand. We were told nothing of how to protect ourselves from the rampaging hoards outside. In fact, if we had time, we were advised to help 'neighbours in need'. This was to be a very British apocalypse after all. Several public information broadcasts were produced, including a Charlie Says programme in which the eponymous cat, ordinarily giving kids advice about strangers, crossing the road and playing with matches, offered helpful advice about dealing with the corpses you come across whilst wandering the post-apocalyptic countryside (you label the body and cover it as tightly as possible with blankets or paper). Presumably while this little boy and his cat were wandering the countryside labelling the dead people, his parents would be deciding which tinned vegetables are best served with said cat. Alas, this particular episode was deemed too shocking for children and never shown.
The question never addressed by the 'survivalists' is whether one would want to survive at all. If the worst does come, however, I'll die happily in the knowledge that I won't be forced to live in a world where only the likes of Captain Dave and his weirdo friends have survived. If, however, you resent human interaction and contact, then you too can learn to stop worrying about the bomb, and start to love it.