I'm pretty sure most readers are in the first category, certainly the sailors. And my generation, the cubs and scouts and CCF generation, can certainly make a fire, dig a latrine at the correct distance and construct a bivvy. And we can shoot, and snare, and fish and have enough elementary medical knowledge to recognise most basic problems. There even used to be a useful chapter in Reed's Nautical Almanac, the yottie's bible, on childbirth procedures, though this and similar useful stuff, like a tear-out Lloyds Standard Form, have gone in favour of marina adverts. Many of you will be leaders in one form or another, and in an emergency will automatically rise to responsibility.
Not so the group on the train yesterday, parents (many mums) and kids (by no means all white) on their way to a campsite for the first time. Hopeless. Utterly hopeless. These were not the benefits underclass, but the respectable lower-incomed, or what we used to call the working class. A bit rough at the edges, but sound enough. I gathered they were off to a camp site where the tents were pre-erected, and served by a shower and ablutions block and even a TV room and a site shop. The questions the kids were asking, and the adults inability to answer them, left me wriggling in impatience to interrupt. Of course I didn't.
What was clear is that in an emergency, this lot would have been useless. The State has knocked all the resilience and self-reliance out of these people. The entity featuring largely in their conversation was 'They', meaning the State, the emergency services, the site's managers, someone else, anyone else. Every contingency was answered with the expectation that 'They' would sort it out, deal with it, have made provision for it.
There were two points that struck me. First, a hundred years after we recognised that working-class city kids needed opportunities to see the country, it still isn't happening. Being attacked by cows on the campsite whilst asleep was a recurring theme of their fears.
Second, when the chips are down, we will rely on our abilities of self-organisation at community and neighbourhood level; self-reliance will be the key, not waiting hopelessly for State aid. Local and intermediate institutions must be strengthened. The family and not the State must take precedence. We must learn to live without micro-management from Whitehall. We must re-empower the working class. If we do so, we stand half a chance of successfully facing whatever will be thrown at us in the coming years.