Unless we are all safe . . .

Posted on November 20, 2009
Filed Under Commentary, Economic & Political Philosophy | Leave a Comment

Unless we are all safe, none of us is safe.

Many situations demonstrate the truth of this idea.

In societies where 90% of the wealth is held by 10% of the people, the 10% dare not leave their barricaded homes without bodyguards. The poor and desperate will kidnap and, or, kill them for ransom or their watches.

The rich are not safe.

If we release violent criminals back into society without treatment, education or support, they will offend again. If we keep prisoners in inhumane conditions, we temper their alienation and make them more dangerous.

They are not safe. Citizens and prison staff are not safe.

If we repress normal sexual human development and behaviour, we create perverts and predators. History shows that, whenever there is an excess of young, unmarried men who are not having sex, there is soon some kind of war. The Roman Catholic Church has just announced that its research shows that there is not more sexual abuse of boys than girls within its celibate clergy.

Some Islamic groups allow men to have as many wives as they can afford to support. There are also extremely strict prohibitions against sex outside marriage. As a result, in some of the poorer Islamic societies, there are a great number of young men who are not having regular sex. The same is true for young women but historical statistics do not indicate that they are responsible for more wars. There may well be an undiscovered link.

We are not safe from war, revolution or terrorism.

If we treat illness and addictions as crimes to be punished, we drive up the price of drugs, create a superwealthy, competitive and vicious criminal class, corrupt our governments, courts and police and cultivate a class of low-level criminals with no other way to feed their habit.

The addiction industry recruits our young. We all pay the price.

We are not safe.

If we do not educate everyone to their greatest potential, we subject them to a lower quality of life and lessen their ability to contribute to the general good. Our society is less productive and competitive. Our standard of living declines.

We need as many of us as possible to be part of the solution, not part of the problem, to be safe.

A few weeks ago, in a state prison in Florida, a guard was alone with a sizeable group of prisoners. It is part of an approach toward treating prisoners more humanely and improving rehabillitation.

One disturbed prisoner suddenly attacked the guard and held him in a killing choke hold. Four other prisoners immediately rushed to the aid of the guard. The pried the attacker loose and one called for help on the guard’s radio.

They all cited the fact that the guard was a good guy and did not deserve the attack.

The guard was safer than he knew.

At the same time, young men in Florida often kill almost casually. They kill people who were not resisting robbery or rival gang members without apparent hesitation. I think they do not expect to live more than a few years anyway. I think they feel no one respects them except out of fear. I think they do not value others because they do not feel valued.

It is unlikely any society can ever solve all the challenges to making everyone safe. Even if we can provide proper food, shelter, education, health care, treatment for behavioural problems, protection from abuse, employment, security and hope, there will always be people who are damaged or broken.

Still, history also shows, over and over, that the more of us are safe, the more of us are safe.

I believe that the best route to our safety, security and contentment is to devote tremendous effort, programs and resources to make sure everyone is safe, secure and content or at least see reason to hope to be in the days ahead.

There is no lack of evidence that the humane, all for one, approach works. You and I all know people in services and education who perform miracles. We see many programs that work and could work even better.

Let us not turn back or away from the social progress we have made so far. Let us continue to build on the progress we have made.

Unless we are all safe, none of us is safe.



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