Alert But Not Alarmed

Communique from Suburbia

Spoiler Alert: If you’ve not read Shaun Tan’s Tales from Suburbia, then we recommend you do so before reading the following piece.

Shaun Tan’s short story ‘Alert but not Alarmed’ (found in his series of short stories Tales from Suburbia) elegantly identifies the capacity for the working class to subvert the function of the state in even the bleakest of conditions.

The somewhat dystopic narrative reflects upon a time where the housing of ICBMs (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles) in suburban backyards is so ubiquitous that no one really thinks about them.  The story outlines the seemingly logical rationale, which over time, led to the creeping militarisation of suburbia. A growing, foreign threat is the pretext for the proliferation of missiles requiring the citizenry to be drawn upon to store and maintain them.

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