Sunday, January 06, 2013

Security mania makes us feel less secure

Oliver Burkeman had an article in yesterday's Guardian Review section arguing that the modern obsession with security has had the paradoxical effect of making us feel less secure.

This is not a new argument: Frank Furedi has been making it since he published the first edition of Culture of Fear in 1997.

But Burkeman has a useful passage in which he points us to three recent books touching upon this phenomenon:
Three very different books published last year might help us rethink our troubled relationship to insecurity. 
In Against Security, the New York University sociologist Harvey Molotch focuses on "airports, subways, and other sites of ambiguous danger," arguing that in the long run, treating strangers with more kindness and less suspicion, rather than assuming the worst of every traveller, would actually increase security. 
Nassim Taleb, in his exasperating but compelling book Antifragile, praises "things that gain from disorder" – people, policies and institutions designed to thrive on volatility, instead of shattering in the encounter with it. (That the misanthropic Taleb seems to demonstrate increasing fragility when being interviewed by journalists is curious, but hardly undermines his point.) 
And in Daring Greatly, Brené Brown, a professor of social work who specialises in the psychology of vulnerability, considers the many ways in which "the courage to be vulnerable" is a precondition for fulfilling relationships, good parenting, conflict resolution and creative expression.

1 comment:

mattburrows said...

I agree. To me, security should be broadly proportionate to the risk of an attack rather than to its most horrifically spectacular extent. It seems that Governments like to give the impression they can or should provide total protection to their citizens. The Blair Governments were especially keen to impress this on people. As Liberals we should argue that Citizens should take *some* responsibility for their own security. Airport and railway staff etc. are the first line of defence, so I hope they receive security training.