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Michael's stance on nuclear weapons

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Mar. 1st, 1973 | 08:28 am

Michael was very anti-nuclear arms: really quite passionate about it. It must have been early in 1973, when I was 15, that we had a talk at school about nuclear weapons. I chatted about it at home, and Michael immediately said: 'We have to disarm.'

He and my father had quite a debate about it. I thought I agreed with my father's argument.

Michael did not say anything, but the next time he visited he had the book of poems. He told me he wanted to read me one, sat me down, and read this poem by Peter Porter.

'Your Attention Please'

Your Attention Please
The Polar DEW has just warned that
A nuclear rocket strike of
At least one thousand megatons
Has been launched by the enemy
Directly at our major cities.
This announcement will take
Two and a quarter minutes to make,
You therefore have a further
Eight and a quarter minutes
To comply with the shelter
Requirements published in the Civil
Defence Code - section Atomic Attack.
A specially shortened Mass
Will be broadcast at the end
Of this announcement -
Protestant and Jewish services
Will begin simultaneously -
Select your wavelength immediately
According to instructions
In the Defence Code. Do not
Take well-loved pets (including birds)
Into your shelter - they will consume
Fresh air. Leave the old and bed-
ridden, you can do nothing for them.
Remember to press the sealing
Switch when everyone is in
The shelter. Set the radiation
Aerial, turn on the Geiger barometer.
Turn off your Television now.
Turn off your radio immediately
The Services end. At the same time
Secure explosion plugs in the ears
Of each member of your family. Take
Down your plasma flasks. Give your children
The pills marked one and two
In the C.D green container, then put
Them to bed. Do not break
The inside airlock seals until
The radiation All Clear shows
(Watch for the cuckoo in your
perspex panel), or your District
Touring Doctor rings your bell.
If before this, your air becomes
Exhausted or if any of your family
In critically injured, administer
The capsules marked 'Valley Forge'
(Red Pocket in No. 1 Survival Kit)
For painless death. (Catholics
Will have been instructed by their priests
What to do in this eventuality).
This announcement is ending. Our President
Has already given orders for
Massive retaliation - it will be
Decisive. Some of us may die.
Remember, statistically
It is not likely to be you.
All flags are flying fully dressed
On Government buildings - the sun is shining.
Death is the least we have to fear.
We are all in the hands of God,
Whatever happens happens by His Will.
Now go quickly to your shelters.

He didn't read it as himself; he really WAS that announcer. It was terrifying. I was crying by halfway through, and at the end he just looked at me.

I remember saying something like, 'But what if that happens and we are not all together?' He then said something like: 'That's why we must disarm.'

I was freaked by it. He knew he had badly frightened me with that poem; that was his intention. He gave me a hug and said something like: 'I've upset and frightened you.'

I said he had.

He then said: 'Think on Little Sister, think on.' That was typical of him. Michael had very powerful ways of putting his view across. He would never back down on the message. I'm still affected by that poem today. At the time I was terrified. The thought of nuclear war after that haunted my dreams.

Yet his message had the opposite effect. Ironically that poem made me MORE pro the nuclear deterrent.

I remember having another lively discussion with him about it in the late 1980s. He respected the views of others, and usually managed an intelligent and show-stopping counter-argument. On this occasion, with remarkable prescience, he said something like: 'But what about if some crackpot gets hold of one?' I could not argue with that!


Contributed by A.S., the daughter of one of Michael's close friends.

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