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Richards, B. (1984). Civil Defence and Psychic Defence. Free Associations, 1A(Pilot):85-97.

(1984). Free Associations, 1A(Pilot):85-97

Civil Defence and Psychic Defence

Barry Richards

Writing in 1938 of the British government's advice to the British people on how to protect their homes against air raids, the scientist and socialist J.B.S. Haldane remarked:

The official handbook does not distinguish sharply between an air raid and a picnic.1

Similarly, in 1980, when the British government published its advice to the British people on how to protect themselves against nuclear attack, it might have been said that the official handbook did not make sufficiently clear the differences between a nuclear war and a fortnight's camping holiday. The justly famous handbook. Protect and Survive,2 could not entirely suppress the macabre; for example, parents needing to know what to do with their children's corpses would find some advice in it. It is nonetheless full of cheerful pictures of such items as bobble hats, spare socks and toothbrushes, and it strongly suggests that a more comfortable life would return after about a fortnight. The associations with camping are probably not accidental, in that the imagery of camping is traditionally linked with states of high morale, which are always a primary aim of government in war.

Of course, this booklet has provided us with much material for sick humour, and it is often regarded as having given, in conjunction with Edward Thompson's riposte to it,3 a major stimulus to the growth of the disarmament movement in Britain. However, deserving though Protect and Survive may be of our most bitter laughter, there are a number of important questions and problems concerning civil defence which should not be evaded by simplistic rejections of the whole subject.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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