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What's This World Coming To?
By Mike Lushington
A short while back, several of my friends set out for a run in their kayaks. They put into the water at the Inch Arran Park and, in due course, found themselves approaching the West Wharf with the general intention of paddling up to the Dalhousie Marina before heading back.
In their plans they failed to consider the presence of a ship unloading its cargo at the wharf. Suddenly they were greeted with a loud, authoritative, disembodied voice booming across the water: "You are unauthorized vessels in a restricted zone. Please alter course and leave the area immediately." Apparently they were perceived as terrorists, about to launch some sort of devastating attack on this poor defenceless cargo ship.
After a moment of sheer shock and amazement, my friends complied with the order and turned back to the Inch Arran. One can only wonder what might have happened had they decided to ignore it. Would the disembodied voice repeat its command, together with some sort of threat? Would it have scrambled a flotilla of police and DND vessels to ward off the attack? Might it even have called in an air strike? More to the point, though, I want to ask: "What possible threat could a couple of sea kayaks present to a hundred or hundred and fifty meter long, double steel hulled cargo ship? Did anyone aboard that ship, including the voice of authority, seriously believe that they were going to ram the ship? If they actually did, how much damage could they possibly do? Alternatively, if they did not believe that they were under attack, what was the point of this ludicrous display of authority?
I don't know the answers to any of these questions. When I first heard of the incident, I couldn't decide whether it was ridiculous or hilarious. Then I decided that it was merely silly. finally, though, I realized that, more than any of the above, it was sad. Every time I hear another of George Bush's fulminations about how "The terrorists cannot win this war" I think that they already have. We are living increasingly in a world of fear, suspicion, and dread - and to counter the threat, we are restricting and paralysing ourselves.
In the light of the recent attacks in London, I think that it is time to compare the response of the British - to resume normal life as quickly and quietly as possible, with the attitude that "you cannot intimidate us from living our lives" - to the ongoing and increasing sense of paranoia that seems to have pervaded American society after 9/11. To return to the purely local perspective from which I started, isn't it about time that someone in authority had an attack of sanity for a moment and decided that the wharves in Dalhousie are not likely to come under attack any time soon, and that it is time to return them to local people for the harmless pleasures of fishing, water-watching, lunch-eating, and even kayaking?
Sadly, I wouldn't count on it though.