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Alarms on Excursions On:2007-06-28 17:35:01

As regular listeners will know I am a rather frequent flier to the UK (and, of course, all points West) and that as a consequence of this I am well acquainted with pain; and with suffering; and with the results of the all encompassing fear of the unknown, and the unexpected, and the unpleasant, and the unfamiliar that accompanies these journeyings; and further that I’m often happy (if that’s quite the right word) to share these feelings with you---and anyway, come to think of it, I’m sure my regular listeners regularly suffer similar feelings when I do this, so they’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Anyway my unvoiced conclusion from all this suffering (a conclusion I’ve not expressed in many an essay) is that we are now living in a society---in a whole world---based, not as in the past on power, or faith, or the ownership of land, or the goodness of greed, or the exploitation of the masses---but on fear (of course all those other things are still there, but each is now based on, and subservient to, the ruling ring of fear). And it’s just not fear itself but the overt expression (preferably as public as possible) of institutionalised fear (and of course it’s close kissing cousin overt public distress). As they would write on all the walls if weren't too frightened: FEAR RULES! OK?

Apart from the obvious list of things to fear institutionally, like bottles of water on aeroplanes, and terrorists, and pandemic bird flu, and global warming, and open borders and the like; there are more subtle things---99%s of household germs; sending children out for unsupervised play; and inoculating the poor little buggers, or indeed not inoculating them either; and inorganic food (as opposed to organic food). The list is endless, but I assume your patience isn’t so...

Some of these fears are of course justified, and indeed of some of them we need to be a damn-sight more frightened than we now are if we know what’s good for us, but that leaves many, possibly a majority, that are totally unreasonable and foolish and foible-ous.

However...
However the human dimensions of this over-riding institutional fear are a mere side issue, a pin-prick, the bite of a flea (even if we do now tend to fear that the flea has rabies or bird flu or whatever).

No!... No!
The real cause for concern here; the reason for this essay; the reason I toss, awake all night, sweatily wrestling with words and with sentences and even with punctuation, is that our fear, our institutionalised fear, is spreading---spreading like a plague of bird flu or terrorism or unsupervised child’s play or... or... or whatever!
It is infecting, veritably infesting ...architectural features.
Yes our fear has now spread to frighten doors and windows and whole buildings---even (though I can hardly bring myself to say it) to areas, and not just those belonging to institutions!!

As with everything---from democracy and Beatlemania to Automated Teller Machines and mobile phones---we in Britain are yonks ahead of you here in America and so it has fallen out that, during the last couple of trips I’ve made to old frightened Blighty, I have been seeing (and in extreme cases photographing) sad, pitiable signs, signs often printed or painted in red, on doors and windows and whole buildings---even (though I can hardly bring myself to say it) on areas: An Alarmed Areasigns all over the place in England saying ‘THIS AREA’ (or this door or this building or whatever) ‘IS ALARMED’!
And on seeing them I couldn’t help but think ‘Forget about alarmed, the poor thing’s obviously bloody terrified’.

Now during this same period, over there in England, there have been increasing reports of earthquakes (which heretofore were a very rare occurrence) and it now seems obvious to me that English earthquakes are still a very rare occurrence, and that what people are reporting are all the alarmed building (etc.) shaking in their boot--b-basements.

So, as an act of charity, last time I was there I started going up to the poor alarmed things in a comforting manner and patting them and saying “There, there old chap! It’s OK, you don’t need to be so alarmed” or rather I did till it suddenly occurred to me that another thing that we are yonks ahead of you with is surveillance and that I was certainly being recorded by all those CC cameras---and now I’m fearful that the institutional fearmongers who review the damned things won’t understand and will think I’m an outbreak of bird flu or something and it’ll cause a panic...

Cheerio-Oh! Dear! Oh! Dear! Oh! Dear!
from
Richard Howland-Bolton






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