In seeking security for those we care for – access to food and clean water, the safety of our children, or a defense against a collapsing civil order – we would do well to consider the qualities of order and stability that security requires.
Safety depends on the conditions we put in place around us, and therefore upon our ability to provide for necessities and to create a dependable environment. This will not be possible without active trustworthy relationships with our neighbors.
With deteriorating social and economic conditions we will be exposed to the failure of institutions and systems we have depended on for basic needs. Our neighborhoods may feel less safe. Police protection may become less dependable. We are likely to see some of our fellow citizens become disoriented and lose their balance.
We may be required to organize our communities effectively to meet needs and resolve practical problems.
It may also be wise to think carefully and rationally about the potential for sociopathic violence. But, let’s be clear: The possibility for violence is only one among a wide range of security concerns. In the coming weeks I will touch on some of these, including ways we can both prepare for and limit violence.
As we experience increasing social and economic disorder, I expect it will become increasingly clear that we must assume responsibility for our own necessities.
Food security will be a major problem if we do not learn how to produce and preserve food. Hunger is not fun and hungry people are often not very nice.
The greatest test for some may be the sudden recognition that we do not really know how to be self-sufficient. Our well-being will depend on how we respond to these challenges. And so, as we find our way forward in a new reality it will become apparent that the requirements of security are in fact the requirements of stable communities.
That said, let’s be realistic about the relative nature of security.
President Dwight Eisenhower, a five star general, reminded us of the limits: “If you want total security,” he said, “go to prison. There you’re fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking… is freedom.”
Like President Eisenhower, Helen Keller also had a way of putting things in perspective. Being both deaf and blind gave her insights into life that the rest of us would do well to think about.
“Security is mostly a superstition,” she said. “It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”
Fear can interfere with our ability to address problems and to keep our heads clear in difficult circumstances. However, security concerns certainly do need to be addressed to keep our families safe and our communities productive.
I suggest that a sequence of responsibilities applies to local communities: Freedom depends on security, which depends on stability, which in turn depends upon honesty, trust, dependability, and forbearance.
There is one other essential component as well, which I call “constructive action.” By this I mean the active condition in which dependable working relationships develop. We have already discussed the critical importance of trust and dependability at length. These depend on constructive action, guided by principle and a sense of purpose.
Principle and purpose cannot exist frozen in time. I believe stability is only possible when we are in motion.
Constructive action supported by a shared sense of purpose will be the only way to navigate through dark times. For family and community, a stable foundation is our first priority. Constructive action allows us dynamic flexibility in responding to what the world throws at us.
All of this will depend on our readiness to work closely with people we have differences with. We cannot be tentative about it. Building trustworthy communities will not be easy. Our future depends on it.
Dear readers: In the coming weeks I will consider several issues related to security for families and communities. I look forward to your comments and constructive feedback; this project would be impossible without you.