Performative Nuance

It's not an IFAK and we should stop calling them that.

The US military(and many other organisations and people influenced by them) talk a lot about a thing called an IFAK, or individual first aid kit. It consists of trauma supplies, for people to use on you, or for you to use on yourself- Generally a couple of standard tourniquets, some chest seals, some gauze(normally haemostatic, sigh), and some gloves. Contents beyond that differ, but that’s most of it.

The thing is, the individual first aid kit isn’t individual. If you’re an individual in a situation like that, it probably doesn’t matter if you have a tourniquet on you- You’re gonna die when your leg gets blown off, because someone is going to shoot you while you’re lying on the floor trying to apply the tourniqet.

Which makes sense, because it’s designed to be used at least with a buddy, and probably with a fireteam.

The IFAK is designed to be used by people who are not you- The doctrine is, if someone gets a traumatic injury, you get them to cover and take one of their tourniquets from their body and use it on them.

That way, you have all your own trauma kit left on you, so that when you get injured, it’s still there and someone else can use it on you.

The IFAK means that the designated “medic” in the group doesn’t have to carry twice as many tourniquets as they’re responsible for(just a few spares), along with all the other kit that’s in an IFAK, and it means equipment is always present at the scene of the injury.

It’s a way of distributing the load across the team, making sure it’s always near to where the injury is.

The IFAK isn’t about the individual, it’s about making sure that the collective is resilient against one(or more) of it’s members taking a traumatic injury.

Not because it’ll immediately make the injured person able to function as part of that collective, but because people are a lot less afraid of getting shot if they know their buddy will drag them out and a helicopter is coming to pick them up and that following that there’s an entire system designed to look after them.

That’s why all military medicine exists: The state has no compassion, just a need for better soldiers.

The IFAK is just the part of the system that tricks soldiers into dying for the state that’s carried closest to the body.

Seen this way, it’s obvious why the US military call it an IFAK- It appeals to the soldiers sense of individualism, of self reliance. It’s presence becomes a talisman, a physical reminder with weight and presence, that if you’re shot there’s a good chance you’ll, if not be ok, then at least be alive.

This also makes it obvious why it’s spread so far as a meme into the Cop world, and the associated Gun/EDC/prepper/etc communities: It’s all about being an individual who can be rambo prepared, or occasionally about taking individual responsibility for carrying a firearm(in the more left/libertarian spaces).

The IFAK combines the mystique and eroticism of military culture(for non veterans) with the rugged individualism narrative of the prepared frontiersman, and the appeal of a massive haemorrhage as a clear problem with a simple solution, to create a powerful talisman which can be used to ward off the bad things(much like a concealed carry pistol is to an actually trained friendship group).

The IFAK is a mostly symbol of “care”, completely stripped of the context for which it was evolved, and turned into a talisman of either macho preparedness, or individualist responsibility.

As leftists and collectivist types, we don’t want to reproduce these connotations- If we’re thinking about individual first aid kits, it’s a sign we’re not organising, because we’re alone, or at least that we’re pretending we’re organising alone in the same way the US military does.

If we’re going to be carrying similar things(and carrying kit has it’s own value- we should be doing so), we should call it what it is: It’s a Distributed first aid kit. It’s a set of things we carry among ourselves, as a group, to care for one another. Maybe it’s including sweets for blood sugar, mental health meds, or naloxone.

When we’re aware that it’s a thing we carry collectively, it makes it easier to bulk buy and organise, it makes more sense that it’s (semi-)standardised rather than based on personal preferences, and it makes us think about things which aren’t trauma but still need immediate aid.

We’re not trying to make sure we, as individuals, are prepared for trauma, we’re trying to equip a group of people with skills and equipment to care for one another against the risks we’re likley to face collectivley.

Shifting the way with think about it in those terms means we relate to it differently, and build it differently, and organise differently.

So let’s call them DFAKs, shall we, and have a think about how to build them differently together?