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Stranger and stranger dangers

March 15th, 2006

Ever visit the Terrace in Plymouth, facing the sea just over the Hoe?
Beautiful waves and sound of the sea, especially when it is stormy. Mind
you, be careful if you go; there is an element of risk. Being washed away
to the Atlantic, that is.

Public anxieties and restrictions on behaviour are things of the day.
Adults face increasingly high morals and low expectations. I noticed
yesterday there is graffiti in a door that separates the Terrace and the
outdoor swimming pool. And to my amazement, over the expected dirty texts
(”Suck my dick boys”, “I will fuck you or suck you” and “Suck me”) is
written with black-felt pen: “Take care guys syphilis and HIV is being
transmitted through oral sex.”

Well indeed. Back in the days, you’d at least know graffiti to be
explicit. But now, it wants to educate about safe sex. We must feel really
uncertain about our behaviour.

At the university, personal security is no stranger either. When I entered
the University of Plymouth, the fresher package included a say from the
Devon Cornwall Police, and places like such. Did not
university studies use to be about free-thinking liberalism? Now they seem
more about regulating behaviour.

Thus goes rule one: It is a world of risky strangers, where no chance can
be tolerated. So lock your windows and doors when you’re out; and if
that’s not obvious enough, there are some “Shut it!” stickers to keep
reminding. We’re warned of bogus callers, “convincing liars”, who will
ring our door and pretend to be electricians, gas men - or even police
officers! We’re not to walk home alone late at night; or visit the ATM
alone “if it’s dark”. And there’s spiked drinks, stolen purses, sex with
strangers, “don’t flash your cash”, over-drinking, drugs, nicked laptops,
vanishing coursework, gone dissertation notes, even stolen items of
sentimental value!

But it does not end here. The risk hovers inside your house as well as
outside it. You should always lock our own bedroom even when going to the
kitchen or bathroom, we’re told. Sure; other students in the house are
strangers who pose a risk.  All in all, I wonder why the guides still
mention “trusted friends”. As things stand, should you really trust your
friends, or even police officers? Or should you rather “Trust no-one” as
conspiracy theories have taught us?

Clearly, students are seen incapable of figuring these things themselves,
and they need to be strongly patronised. But even if some crimes are
prevented by being “better safe than sorry”, we could do without the
fearful atmosphere.

Frank Furedi’s (2002) Culture of Fear is an enlightening book on this
subject. It is a critical romp through ever-expanding fears in the West,
and feminists, safety experts, and even environmentalists are not spared
when Furedi looks how panics are fuelled. Green activism as “the politics
of fear in action” did not send me smiling, but dare I say it gave some
scare stories new light.
Posted by Anti S

Entry Filed under: Society

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