July 26, 2005

Bags & Balderdash


I haven’t even finished mulling over the problem of what, these days, may constitute “suspicious behaviour”, when, without any breathing space, along comes yet another conundrum: the random bag search.

I live in a city with absurdly changeable weather, and being a total wuss about the cold, I tend to continue wearing my winter coat (a common looking removable garment, rather than any failure on my part to epilator during the winter months) long after all the other, much hardier inhabitants have exchanged their winter woolies for flimsy frocks, thongs, and Bonds singlets. I know this isn’t a major problem, in the scheme of things, but if walking to work wearing a big coat is now – officially – such deeply suspicious behaviour that it warrants being shot dead, then rethinking my wardrobe, not to mention my manner of walking to catch a train, takes on a whole new level of priority and challenge. (Memo to self: really, really, must learn how to drive.)

Comparatively, the random bag search is a minor blip on the political radar, as it’s surrounded by one of those lovely unarguable truths. It will be a deterrent, a preventative, we are told, and will thus keep us all much, much safer than we are at present. No one can argue against this logic, not ever, ever, ever, since no random bag search has ever, or will ever, uncover a suicide bomber as they casually saunter to catch a train, or a bus, or a tram. (Airports are a different kettle of fish, as are military check points, for example.)

No bomb will ever be found in any bag, backpack, or parcel being carried onto mass public transport. Yes, the potential bombers may have considered taking their homemade handy work to the local station, but, with random bag searches, they will have second thoughts.

“Gosh”, you can just imagine them thinking, “our plans may be foiled before we even get through the turnstile with our full-fare return ticket. Darn, we’re not going to try this; we’ll have to do something else.” The random bag search at public transport stops and stations will be declared a grand success and will be implemented on a permanent basis, before eventually becoming non-random.

Meanwhile, any self-respecting would-be bombers will catch a train back to the suburbs to re-consider their options, their targets, their means and magnitude of inflicting damage - somewhere other than on a train. Ah, the smorgasbord of locations!

The problem will be successfully shifted. The trains, the buses, the trams, which will be safe, so that’s OK then.

The problem will be deftly moved to every other location and building in the city.

Just a little bit annoying; just a little bit intrusive; just a little bit of liberty traded-off for the perception of security; just a little bit of spreading the problem around to the greatest and most random area possible. Then we await the next round of preventative security measures, rolled out in ever decreasing cirles.

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