Once again I find myself with a meme to answer. What will I do to prepare for the possibility of Blood Flu coming to the UK?
Well, I’m doing all the usual – stocking up on tins and dried food, bottled water, candles, wind-up torches and handset chargers, gas for the camp stove. I’ve even got our wood-burning fire up and running again, after a few false starts, and a store of logs in the back under a tarp. But there’s something harder to arrange that I can’t help feeling is going to be a whole lot more important, and that’s a little bit of community cohesion. My parents lived through a revolution, and had to escape it when they saw the tide turning against the free Iran they thought they’d been fighting for. If the community isn’t strong enough to overcome its fears, it will turn to ideologies of fear, and turn them on itself. If there’s one thing I learned from my parents, it’s that it won’t be enough to know what I’d do if a crisis came to the UK – I need to know what the people around me will be doing.
In China, despite horrific epidemics that have devastated whole provinces, students whose own families have been affected are calmly entering into effective, well-planned, self-organised quarantines. In the UK, on the other hand, people are turning on their neighbours at the first rumour of a nosebleed. Panic buying becomes looting, looting becomes rioting, rioting is put down brutally and sparks more rioting, and the hospital’s full of the injured before anybody even falls sick. There is altogether too much talk of closing borders and isolating areas and not enough coming together to plan and prepare. And we all know that it’s because nobody really thinks it’s going to come here – Blood Flu panic is just a handy excuse to disguise any underlying grievances as a legitimate public health concern.
So rather than simply list my own measures, I’m looking at putting together a community response group to ensure that, should my neighbourhood find itself cut off, there are supplies and plans to distribute food to all who need it, and ensure communications with one another and the outside world. I haven’t been involved in anything like this for years – I’ll let you know how it goes.