20.7.05

Security Blanket

In our post-9/11, post-7/7, post-Madrid (and Gaza and _____) world, security has become a flashpoint for discussion among red and blue staters. Sherri shares some thoughts about what privacy and security meant, and what they may mean today:

Usually security is obtained in exchange for freedom. A certain amount of freedom is given in exchange for a certain amount of security, usually. That's the basic idea behind laws, really.

Unfortunately, I don't know that the average US citizen has worked that idea through, that freedom is inherently risky. Someone in the show said (paraphrase) "You could probably catch most terrorists in a police state."

In the US we think we have rights to privacy. In the 19th century, we actually did -- a citizen was allowed to do most anything he or she liked with exceptions made for property and infringement on the lives of others (usually property owners) via laws. There were various "moral codes" in place in some communities, but if you didn't like them, you could move elsewhere and make your own rules. However, you were also responsible to secure yourself. You had to make your own decisions about what was safe, what was acceptible risk, and what was dangerous. No one was around to protect you.

Money likes security. As money became more and more important in the US, security became more important. We began trading in the "rights of the individual" for the security of the group. Now, ye old Average Joe is surprised to learn that his "right to privacy" isn't really a right, that there are all sorts of legal infringements on it, and his freedom to do what ever he likes within his private domain is subject to the permission of the agency providing security for all. If that agency decides, on whatever information, that Average Joe is potentially a danger -- pphhhpt! -- no privacy.
I'd go on to add that we've always given up "rights" for security: just look at feudal fiefdoms, or the Divine Right of Kings (bought at the expense of the peasantry).

What's changed now is that we're trying to export this fragile concept of democracy, something we've been experimenting with for only about 200 years. It's not part of the natural order, despite what the government claims. And increased globalisation has made democratic ideals difficult to uphold because our loyalty should be to the nation-state, not the company/product. Yet isn't that part of the problem? We'll fight for oil (or bananas) because we have the right to free trade, free export of American products and ideas and culture. What do we expect from our government in return? Safety.

Few think we should be giving up our privacy to ensure this, but hey - if we're gonna ship really bad Hollywood movies to the world, perhaps it's not a bad idea that we have a national identity card to keep us a little safer.

3 comments:

Aravis said...

Freedom may be risky, but it's worth the risk and better than the alternative.

"I'd go on to add that we've always given up "rights" for security: just look at feudal fiefdoms, or the Divine Right of Kings (bought at the expense of the peasantry)."

I would point out that both systems have effectively died out, killed by revolts.

While the right to privacy remains in the constitution despite legal loopholes and side-steps, I'll continue to claim this right and fight for its preservation.

Lazygal said...

There is no "right to privacy" in the Constitution (Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness thing comes from the Declaration, not the Constitution). Read it. This is one right that's an interpretation of what we think the Framers meant. And I'm happy to give up a little of that to ensure my Life.

Aravis said...

You're right; there is no "right to privacy." However it is implied throughout and is definitely the spirit behind many of the amendments, including I, III, IV, V, IX, and XIV sec. 1. Nowhere in the constitution can I find any mention of a desire for a police state or dictatorship in order to secure the citizenry.

For all of their faults- and they had them- I think the Founding Fathers had more intelligence and bravery than anything I've seen in my lifetime.