Saturday 17 September 2011

What price security? What price life itself?

Vinoth Ramachandra, who works in Sri Lanka for the parent organisation of the Christian group I was part of at university, has written a reflection on the US response to the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Centre 10 years ago.  Most of it agreed with my own view of that response (the internet's good at helping you find material that demonstrates what a right-thinking person you are...), but the ideas in this paragraph were new to me:
It is incumbent on governments to provide security for their citizens. But when “national security” overrides all moral considerations, one is forced to ask whether such a society is actually worth defending. If my “security” is obtained at the cost of harming, degrading or endangering the lives of innocent others, then I should be willing to forego that security. Security obsessions are inexhaustible and insatiable; and once we go down that path, whether as individuals wanting to live in “secure environments” (e.g. gated condominiums) or governments pursing every potential “security threat’, it is difficult to change direction. Groups and persons targeted as “threats” are turned into objects and excluded from the moral universe. They can be the targets of “pre-emptive” eliminations, unilaterally undertaken.
I'm familiar with the idea of foregoing conventional chocolate because of the cost it imposes on others, but I've never thought of foregoing security for that same reason.  I wonder what else in my day to day life "is obtained at the cost of harming, degrading or endangering the lives of others"?  And, in this interconnected world where I am so priveleged (and rather like the life this gives me1), do I really want to know??

1 After all, without this privelege, my CFS would have killed me years ago.  Few families in this world can support an adult who is not only completely non-productive, but who requires others to significantly reduce their own productivity to care for her.  Faced with the choice of abandoning me or us all starving together, I don't know what my family would have done.  On the BBC I've heard stories of families in contemporary India, China and the Congo who have faced similar choices.  Sometimes the sick person has chosen to starve themselves to death, other times the family abandon them at the hospital (even though this means they will never see each other again) in the hope that this will save their life.

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