In another time that took up over half of my working life, I was in the business of security. Selling security. Not in the sense of door-to-door ‘Crim-Safe’ products or home panic alarms but in providing people with the belief that they were safe.
And for the most part, they were. People tucked themselves into bed at night ‘safe’ in the belief that they would wake unharmed from the night’s unknowns. They were secure. Apparently. That concept is a fragile one at best and only succeeds on our belief that we are secure. For, to think otherwise, would affect us in ways that are difficult to comprehend in a developed world. For the people of war-torn nations though, security is a distant pipe dream.
Humans crave security. Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs has put pay to this over many years of research. Just above our own physiological needs (the need to sate hunger and thirst) comes the need to ‘feel’ safe. Safety, ergo security, is a concept. We are safe and secure for as long as we are not. We exist in a society that preaches the need for security and the desire for each and every one of to ‘be’ safe, but often, as I have indicated, the reality is the inverse and, just as often, if the feeling is a true perception, it is fleeting at best.
Security can take many forms. Physical, emotional, job and financial security are just some that immediately spring to mind. The first two, physical and emotional, often stem from our primitive physiological needs, but often too, they are dependent on our financial and job security. Without a job and/or suitable finances, our emotional state is soon affected and hence our physical state also takes a battering.
Governments, of both major persuasions, for years, have been marketing and spinning their focus on security. The war on drugs, the provision of welfare, the need for well resourced civil and national defences are always vote-winners because at the heart of these policies is security. And yet, it is still a concept.
But, why? Why can security only ever be conceived as a construct, a cleverly orchestrated social construct? Because it is innate in all of us. And we are suckers for a good story.
This article does not and will not ever propose that developed societies restrict civil or national defence expenditure to jeopardise the protection of its citizens. Nor will it suggest that it is the responsibility of government to provide a set of circumstances that obviates the need for an individual to look after themselves. Far from it. This post is designed to evoke thinking that we are responsible for our own safety. Our own security. And this is why it is a concept and never a reality. If we provide for ourselves and we create an environment that is self-supportive of our interests this then creates an environment for government to suggest that they have done their job and ultimately, because of government (and not us) we, in turn, feel secure.
But there is a twist to this. Sayings are sayings for a very good reason. They have been around for a long time because they hold true to so many circumstances. The saying ‘there is strength in numbers’ is a truism because again, it is through the group that we feel safe and not through the individual. Again, an opportunity for organisations to say, ‘join us for the security of numbers’. ‘Unity is Strength’. This is why unions and business groups (they are just unions under another name) trawl for members. More members mean more security for the group and more security for the individual. A win-win situation. Again, a concept, because unless it is what the group wants, the individual is sometimes left out in the cold… The individual, even amongst a group is still insecure.
So even though we may be providing for ourselves and hence our potential security, individuality, whilst admirable, does not necessarily provide security. As a recent article by Jennifer Andersen on mental health issues in the Arts points out, when suggesting that artists strike to highlight the poor wages and conditions in the industry, it shows that such action would be, difficult to realise in a deregulated, fragmented sector where everyone is an independent contractor who cannot afford to turn down work. An independent deregulated, fragmented sector – a sector without security. A sector where the only reality is insecurity. She goes on to warn that the current federal government would do well to consider this before it replicates such conditions in other workplaces. Unless of course, it wants to promulgate an insecure reality…
When Andersen’s notion is coupled with the current suggestion by John Battelle that millennials are only interested in NewCos (New Companies – little or no security) versus BigCos (Big Companies – at least the implication of security), the paradigm of security, shifts furthermore into the ether of an eternal abyss. Perhaps millennials feel this way because the world economies (of developed nations) have largely seen 20-25 years of uninterrupted economic growth and that everything will always be OK. Everything will always be safe… and secure. Maybe that is why millennials have taken this tact. Or maybe, as in response to Battelle’s article, Kim Tanaka suggests that this has always been the view of the younger generation, there is indeed no such thing as security.
After all, it is only a concept.