Keep calm and build a bunker

Photo of the "bunker" found next to York University in Toronto last month.
Photo of the “bunker” found next to York University in Toronto last month. Photo illustration courtesy of CTV News.

Toronto police held a press conference on Tuesday about a mysterious bunker found near York University last month. Has a stranger press conference ever been held in the T-dot?

Most reports are calling it a “chamber of secrets” or a “chamber of mysteries” (due to copyright issues). The bunker is outfitted with moisture-resistant lights, a sump pump, and a generator, as well as food and beverage containers.

The mystery? Nobody knows who built it, or why.

Twitter users have some great speculations. Some suggestions include a party tunnel, a place to hide from the shame of the Maple Leafs, or the lair of an alien race.

My guess is that it’s a refuge to survive the end of the world.

It’s not such a crazy idea. In a society obsessed with apocalyptic tales involving nuclear disaster, pandemics, zombies or just the T-rex of winter, paranoia has become a common bedside partner.

I’ve thought about building a bunker a time or two. I’m a bit of a hypochondriac, and when the Ebola epidemic hit West Africa, I considered investing in a bubble suit. Let’s look at that sentence. Hit West Africa – thousands of kilometres from Canada. Yet I contemplated avoiding airports, buses, and anybody with a cough and a high fever.

Dan Gardner, author of Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear, explained the paradox of today’s generation: “we are the healthiest, wealthiest, and longest-lived people in history. And we are increasingly afraid.”

German scholar Ulrich Beck coined the term “risk society” in 1986 to describe societies with an increased tendency towards fear – especially due to modern technology.

In short, Beck believed that people fear more than ever BECAUSE there is a higher risk of catastrophe – cyber terrorism, nuclear accidents, the next World War – all brought on by new technology.

I consider myself a rational person, but sometimes primal panic and fear of death hits me hard.

I’m not alone.

A 2012 Ipsos-Reid poll found that one out of seven people, or 14 per cent of the world’s population, believe that the end of the world will happen during their lifetime.

Media has found it profitable to exploit people’s fear of the end of the world. National Geographic started running the series ‘Doomsday Preppers’ in 2012, recording everyday Americans preparing for the end of the world. On a good day they get over a million viewers in the U.S.

Back to the bunker in Toronto – in a telling display of perhaps the greatest fear of our time, the first report from CTV said that police are “confident that the bunker wasn’t intended for illegal or terrorist activities.”

Nobody has come forward to claim their handiwork or the tools left behind. Whoever dug the bunker is being called a “suspect” – but what would they be guilty of, except trespassing and building an unauthorized structure?

They’d be guilty of causing fear – and in today’s heightened risk culture, that’s a crime in itself.

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