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home : features : features May 26, 2016

4/22/2012 6:00:00 AM
Book Review: Book raises awareness of vital issues

Clark Isaacs
KDM contributor

Thinking in an Emergency, by Elaine Scarry; 978-0-393-34058-7; 176 Pages; $14.95; Published April 2012; Published by W.W. Norton & Company

How to react in a critical situation is what Elaine Scarry's new book, "Thinking in an Emergency," concerns. There are "four models of emergency thinking" to illustrate the ability to carry out life-saving procedures.

Starting with CPR, and the background of the techniques that can save lives is what the first part of the book covers. How to do CPR brings some revelations showing that anyone can perform some simple life-saving techniques. However, strong recommendations are for retraining cycles every six months to keep these skills fresh as there continues to be updates in the performance of CPR.

In addition, those rhythms to keep oxygen flowing to the brain are best by teamwork. Scarry outlines the history and usage in a straightforward manner to inspire everyone to be a lifesaver.

Mutual aid contracts for communities are very interesting. We in the United States rely upon the government to provide aid in disasters. New Orleans with the FEMA fiasco is an example of people waiting for someone to help them.

There are communities in Canada, that designates roles with very specific parts to its neighbors to play in rendering aid. The finiteness of specifics to the bringing of a ladder falls upon some individuals. They conduct drills in preparation for disasters. Do we conduct such drills? No, we rely upon the federal or state governments to bring the aid.

Third, is the Swiss shelter system, which ensures all Swiss citizens access to underground shelters in the event of nuclear war. While the United States was building a larger nuclear arsenal and expending funds for war, the Swiss were putting their money into the shelter systems.

Today, they have 110 percent capacity for their citizens and no nuclear weapons.

Fourth, in Scarry's model of emergency thinking, is the United States Constitution, which establishes a prohibition on initiating armed conflict without a formal declaration of war by both houses of Congress, and the additional prohibition of an executive military force that acts independently of the population's authorization and consent. During the past 60 years, have we followed these precepts? Elaine Scarry thinks not!

Elaine Scarry is a professor of aesthetics and the general theory of value at Harvard University. She has received the Truman Capote Award for her writing.

In 2005, "Foreign Policy and Prospect" magazine placed her among the world's 100 leading public intellectuals.

"Thinking in an Emergency" is the inaugural book in Norton's new Global Ethics series with Amnesty International.

This series is for our nation's leaders, and the public at large to voice their opinions when it comes to engaging in activities which might lead to war without due deliberation.

Philosophically, this is a very intense book with many references to some of the most outstanding thinkers of past generations. Education is the foundation upon which our nation rests, and this book raises awareness of some vital issues.

This is a 5-star book, which is highly recommended.

Clark Isaacs is an accomplished book critic who published in local newspapers and national book review lists. He is a member of the faculty of Mohave Community College in Kingman. Visit Clark Isaacs at

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