The Pursuit of Security
MR. AND Mrs. B—— and their three teen-age children lived in Africa. For 20 years they had developed their beautiful farm and had invested their earnings in a comfortable home, crops, livestock and farm machinery. This became their little fortress, their refuge in time of trouble and sorrow, their source of refreshment and rest after each hard day’s work. They felt secure.
Overnight, things changed. For some time political forces had been gaining strength in the country. Men bent on bringing about a change by force were committing acts of terrorism and had laid land mines in the rough unpaved roads of the farming areas. As Mr. B—— returned in his Land Rover from a weekly trip into town, he detonated one of these and was killed instantly.
Mrs. B—— and her family no longer felt secure. With the increasing threats of violence in the neighborhood, anxieties in caring for the farm and with no man about the house, she felt forced to abandon the farm that at one time had meant security. The family left for another country in the hope of finding a more secure way of life.
In this same African country, the scene changed tremendously in a few years. Farm homesteads surrounded by rich tropical vegetation and bearing a “welcome” sign were fenced in with high steel netting surmounted by barbed wire. Sandbags were placed around the walls of homes, and windows were protected with steel mesh.
Town life changed too as more and more people installed burglar alarms, mounted heavy gates with locks and chains at the entrances of their property, and kept guard dogs to repel unwanted intruders. Shop windows were treated with special tape to prevent them from shattering. Guards were posted to search shoppers as they entered supermarkets. Vacationers hired policemen to protect their homes during their periods of absence.
In many areas, a once peaceful ride through the African countryside became a tense drive from one town to the next. Travelers were advised to check with the police before leaving, and many traveled in convoy protected by armored vehicles. Martial law and curfews became something that people came to view as part of daily living.
Apart from these security measures, many who were in a position to do so made additional arrangements for their own security by investing in gold, silver, jewelry and works of art or by putting their money in foreign bank accounts. They did this so that, if things did not turn out for the better, they would still have some assets.
Such developments are not unique to that particular country. Possibly in your community you have seen some of the same security arrangements and the increased attention given by many people to the safety of their own homes and families. The question is, Do these efforts really bring about the peace of mind and security that we all desire?
Is Military Strength the Answer?
The same concern for security is reflected in the actions of governments. Many are taking unprecedented steps to safeguard their borders and to protect their diplomats. The queen of England’s visit to southern Africa and the pope’s visit to Ireland involved the mobilization of hundreds of men solely for security purposes. Movement of ships, aircraft or troops to places that are considered to be of strategic importance is interpreted by some countries as a threat to their national security and often is met by counter military developments.
Most governments share the general belief that their national security depends on military preparedness. Illustrating this, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) recently reported that the world’s expenditure on armaments is “not far off $1 million a minute” and that 75 percent of this is spent by the Third World. (The Courier, April 1979, p. 19) But does this enormous military spending bring a feeling of true security to persons living in those countries where they see famine and waterborne diseases taking thousands as their daily toll?
Again we ask, Does military strength really mean security? True, a person can push such thoughts to the back of his mind. But can he really feel secure when he seriously contemplates the fact that governments around the world have enough in the way of explosive devices to kill all of us several times over? To illustrate: Could you rest peacefully at night with a machine gun under your bed while knowing that your neighbor has one like it pointing at your house and that he is itching for the opportunity to use it when he feels there would be no danger to himself?
Desire for Security Common to All
It is only natural that all of us should wish to feel secure. Even in the animal world there is a built-in desire for security. Birds build their nests in the most disguised or difficult-to-approach places. Squirrels store nuts for use during the colder part of the year. Cats about to give birth investigate every cupboard in the house to search for a protected nook in which to nourish their young.
The question that faces all of us today is, Where can we look for security? Animals base their sense of security instinctively on material things. But what about man? Does our security lie in material things, making us no better than animals? Does it depend on our employment or, perhaps, on accumulated wealth in the form of gold, silver or bank accounts? Can armaments make our way of life secure? Or, is security to be found under a particular form of government that may appear to be more stable than others?