We could define security as the temporary respite from fear. Its both the absence of fear and the very thing that ensures that absence. A house gives us security from the elements. Friendship gives us security from loneliness. And money gives us security from starvation, homelessness, helplessness and the indignity of having nothing.
Its easy to see why money is so prized, now that money, more than anything else, ensures our physical security. Property, of course, still has considerable benefits but, as a liquid asset, money has few equals. At the same time, money is a promise which has only as much value as the experts agree it deserves. As an idea, its intrinsic value is nil, but its practical value is limitless in our transglobal economy.
Security is an idea that takes many forms but which still serves the same purpose. The goal of an human endeavor is some measure of security. Its what every company wants: security from the vagaries of the free market. For some, its the quest for absolute power, or at least enough power to protect oneself from the unrestrained power of others. Its a form of checks and balances that, in a modern democracy, should ensure against the dictatorship of the few at the expense of the many. Democracy or not, the accumulation of power in the hands of the few is still to be expected.
One mans quest for security may well place another mans security at risk. Its natural competition, but that competition keeps security from being certain. Rather, it must be guarded against all those who wish to share it. The quest for security ensures sufficient imbalance that it must always be sought.
The drive for security is typically an individual quest more than it is a communal one. Then again, security for the nation state is understood to provide security for all of its inhabitants, just in the way that security for a nomadic tribe was security for all those who identified with that tribe. Tribes are much bigger now, but the principle remains: pay into the system and the system will protect you from outsiders. More often than not, however, its like paying one bully to protect against all the other bullies.
Without fear, there would be no nation state to promise security. Without fear, there would be no need for reassuring promises at all.
The problem with promises is that theyre often hard to keep. And when promises are broken, its easy to fear more broken promises. Its therefore inevitable that a state that makes promises it cant keep, celebrating unattainable ideals like equality and liberty, eventually loses the trust of its inhabitants. Without trust, the community cannot hold. It disintegrates until everything is possible and no one ever feels safe. It then becomes essential to make new promises; and when those promises feel hollow, yet more promises are made.
The promise of security is a promise that cant be kept, which makes it more of an illusion than anything. Its impossible to be secure us from harm since harm can befall us at any time and any place. We might attempt to reduce the likelihood of harm, but the risk remains. This is why increased security never makes us feel safer but actually makes us feel more vulnerable; the more we do to protect ourselves, the more we suspect were not doing enough.
Not only does the state take advantage of our lingering fears but so do companies who promise us ways to address them, for a price. Theres always a price to pay, even for a promise that cant be kept. And yet we pay what were asked to pay because a promise that cant be kept is still better than no promise at all.
To repeat, there is nothing that will ever make us entirely secure. Not only is it impossible to live a life absolutely risk free, we wouldnt believe it even if it were. We would suspect danger even where there was no danger, our suspicions aroused by the very possibility of danger.
While the Church That Is No Church can think of nothing wrong with security itself, it does find fault with the companies and the state agencies that take advantage of our insatiable longing for a secure existence. They all take advantage by growing richer and more powerful at our expense.
That state promises safety from our enemies. All we have to do in return is pay our taxes, obey all laws and occasionally send our sons off to fight its wars. And yet, the state warns us that our enemies are closing in and it must restrict all activity to more effectively keep us safe. The state exacts more demands and we meet those demands, all for the promise of what cannot be kept. The state pleads that it is insufficiently powerful to keep us secure, requiring even more unfettered authority to assure public safety. And yet the more powerful the state becomes, the more trouble it has ensuring safety, the world growing steadily more dangerous until only absolute state control seems capable of assuring safety; and even then the promise of safety remains only a promise.
Corporations promise us the means to provide for our own security. Some corporations work closely with the state to provide the state with the tools to wage the neverending fight for a safer world. They sell the state war planes, aircraft carriers, guns, tanks and artillery, and the government buys them with tax money. The rest of the funds are used to people its military, police its neighborhoods and create a system of benefits that keep recipients perpetually grateful. Its in this way that the government gets stronger, corporations get richer, while most inhabitants get poorer and weaker. Of course, corporations also provide the means to insure personal safety, at a price of course; and that means home security systems, car alarms, and even handguns. But what use are an individuals personal security against the security of a state backed by the most powerful corporations?
Safety is not safety, not when were more vulnerable for it. And the more we surrender to the state and the corporations that benefit most from the state, the more trouble well have securing ourselves. Even the right to bear arms is only the flimsiest of promises that were as empowered as weve ever been. But the truth is we no longer have the power to secure our own safety; and it can be taken away at a moments notice. The state promises that nothing will be taken without probable cause, but even probable cause has no value when it conflicts with the demands of the state. State power trumps individual freedom; and that means that state security also takes precedence over any individual concerns.
Of course, communal security always took precedence over individual security, the better to preserve the species. The difference now is that the community leadership promise security in exchange for being a good consumer and a good citizen; and that takes money, which leaves less to feel secure. The goal is not in the best interest of everyone but, rather, merely the promise that the best interests will be preserved. What ultimately gets preserved is the interest of the state which doesnt keep everyone equally safe. The most powerful people are given priority as it is they who manage the state in the interest of the whole, but who only manage to secure themselves at the expense of everyone else.
As such, self-interest precludes the possibility of security, and as long as theres a profit to be gained by keeping people afraid and increasingly desperate to secure themselves. Remind people of the dangers and they will be all the more willing to pay handsomely for some respite from fear.
Although the Church That Is No Church would love to offer you the security you seek, we refuse to make promises we cant keep. What we will give you is this: the assurance that you will never feel safe enough, never wealthy enough and never powerful enough. You will always feel wanting in the very thing you desire most. This is the truth that the Church That Is No Church will always give gratis. Besides, the truth has no market value and, even if wed attempted to sell it, it would attract no buyers. Then again, only when the truth is free will anyone agree to listen.
And what is the truth? The truth is that security is only an idea, a promise that there will one day be nothing to fear. Although its in our nature to fear. And we shall continue to fear, demanding greater security from the state and the complicit corporations, whittling away at what little security and freedom we have all in the hope of greater security. Security, however, is only an ideal, and its not worth the power concessions.
While we at the Church That Is No Church are not imploring you to disavow all thought of security, we are, however, asking you to keep your eyes open and remember that youre as secure as you choose to feel. Dangers will persist but are you secure all the same or are you willing to surrender all that you have for an empty promise that all will be made perfectly safe?
The business of security concerns us at The Church That Is No Church because while religion may provide assurance to someone of a more spiritual temperament, security is the refuge of all materialists. It is what the physical self requires to be at ease and, in turn, to develop the spiritual self. In short, security is the means by which a materialist may exceed the limitations of a wholly materialist outlook in favor of something that transcends the world as its offered to us in the hope of attaining a world as we desire it to be.
A materialist idealized security, but it is merely the promise of today. The promise of tomorrow offers better rewards and fewer restrictions. But isnt the promise of tomorrow even more illusory than the promise of security? Yes, we concede that it is. But while the promise of security can never be achieved, tomorrow, on the other hand, will most certainly come and we might as well prepare ourselves for it.
What then is the solution to achieving security when security isnt possible? The answer is self-security. To rely on others to provide it is to render ourselves helpless and perpetually insecure, relying on the powerful to keep us safe when its in their interest to undermine our security to keep us wanting more. State and corporation are in the business of satisfying our wants, the better to slake our thirst for more, convincing us that were parched and empty-bellied when weve, in fact, never been more sated.
Today we believes ourselves insufficiently secure, but once we remind ourselves that we have all the security we need to be fully and independently human, and that tomorrow we will not require greater concessions to the powerful few, then self-security may well be ours. And as self-secure individuals, we may begin to empower ourselves rather than those who claim to have our best interests in mind but who, naturally, have only their own best interests in mind. In a world of self-interested individuals, how can leaving our security entirely in the hands of others ever ensure our personal safety?
By focusing less on our insecurity and more on our strengths, self-security will be easier to achieve and preserve. Our strengths are what define us and make us human. Our weaknesses, however, condemn us to the irrationality, fear and blind self-interest of other animals, much to our detriment, and to the benefit of those prepared to take advantage of blind self-interest to control and manipulate. The powerful remind us of our weakness not to empower us but to provide merely the illusion of empowerment, while cautioning us that the threats to our security have never been greater. The fear of weakness never diminishes but, rather, keeps pace with our increased expectations of security.
Were warned that were weak and who to we empower but those who want to keep us weak and insecure? And so it goes, the self-defeating drive for security steadily chipping away at our ability to defend ourselves and preserve our values.
Security will never be given to us. We must demand it of ourselves. And once we realize we have all the security we need, we can turn it to strength and to the security that comes of freedom not fear. Security should not be defined by what others want us to fear but, rather, by the strength we already have and by the possibilities we hold dear. Self-security is just as much a promise as the security we pay for, but at least we rely our ourselves to keep that promise; and if we attempt to keep that promise, theres no reason why we cant.