In seeking security for those we care for at a time of crisis 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 includes access to adequate food and healthcare, a roof over our heads, safe functional sanitation, and absence of conflict, among other things. None of these will be possible without proactive, 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. Some individuals might lose their balance and become disoriented.
It is quite possible that we will find it necessary to organize our communities effectively to meet needs and resolve problems.
In a time of social degradation it would, in my view, 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 personal encounters with violence.
As we experience increasing 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. By the way, March and April are crucial months for planning gardens and preparing the soil in the northern hemisphere.
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. All these depend on personal commitment and generosity of spirit.
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 are built.
Trust and dependability among neighbors can only be functional in the presence of constructive action guided by principle and a shared sense of purpose.
Principle and purpose cannot be constrained. 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.
Stability is the necessary foundation for security. And, constructive action allows us dynamic flexibility in responding to what the world throws at us.
All of this will also depend on our readiness to work closely with people we have differences with.
We cannot be tentative about this. Building trustworthy communities will not be easy. Our future depends on it.
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