Tuesday, May 17, 2011

To protect and revive

Humans do a lot of weird things. One of the strangest, though, is the way we elevate a select number of our global tribe to near god-like status. What began this train of thought today is Queen Elizabeth’s II’s visit to Ireland. This is an historic event. Irish/British relations have been turbulent, to say the least, as you well know if you have watched the news or even movies over the last several decades. (The Irish should be happy they don’t have huge repositories of oil, or they would have been invaded en masse a long time ago, but that’s a topic for another post.)
However, the Queen is not just wandering the streets by herself, giving her trademark wave to the adoring crowds. No, she’s got an armour-plated car and 8000 bodyguards, fully a third of Ireland’s police force, to make sure she doesn’t take a pipe-bomb to the head. In fact, they’ve already found and disarmed one such explosive device.
To be fair, there are people cheering. But clearly not all of them.
Look at all the resources and manpower spent to make sure certain people aren’t killed by other people. The Queen of England is one example. Certainly the Pope springs to mind, what with his famous “Pope-mobile.” And I dare you - I just dare you - to make any sudden moves around an American president. You’d be at the bottom of a Secret Service dog-pile before you’d even feel your coccyx break.
How many assassination attempts are prevented by these overwhelming security efforts? Maybe a lot, maybe very few. It certainly isn’t the kind of statistic readily available to a stay-at-home Manitoba dad (if Wikileaks has any information about this, drop me a line, will you?). What I really wonder is how much of the necessity of providing protection for our cherished demi-gods is self-fulfilling prophecy? I am suggesting that maybe these people need ridiculous security because they have ridiculous security. A lot of effort goes into making sure they are safe and there is a certain percentage of humans that are perversely attracted to a challenge. If it must be hard or even impossible, it must be worth trying. For the minority of these folks who have a screw loose, it must be an irresistible tease to see someone standing behind a wall of black-suits with mirrorshades.
Bodyguards and security have been a part of being “important” since human history began. Probably the first tribal chief had a loyal thug at his side with the very best club the village could supply. But U.S. presidents used to walk around like normal people, maybe even popping in to their neighbourhood drinking hole for a quick drink. I know the Pope didn’t have a bulletproof bubble to live in during the time of the Crusades.
We may live in a more dangerous world than ever before. Certainly the media and special interest groups want us to think that way. I don’t buy it, though. If we stopped treating the precious few as though their lives were a billion times more important than normal, we might find that they didn’t require as much protecting as we think. Besides, the important part is preventing successful assassination, not just the attempt. Remember how much Reagan’s popularity soared after that gunman put a pill in him?
To be loved, clearly competent medical staff is more important than Secret Service. Imagine the Catholic conversions if the Pope were “miraculously healed” after being wounded. The spin doctors are really missing a beat here, I think.

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