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Forget Security

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From national security to social security, and from economic security to water security and food security, the early 21st century concern with security reflects modes of interacting with the world that create and recreate the very harms that the various forms of security seek to correct. The demands of “economic security,” for instance (which, in typically uncritical fashion, excludes basic considerations from its concept), leads to practices such as fracking and rainforest clearance, not to mention more mundane, widespread contaminants, which in turn imperil “water security,” among others.

To some degree, the etymology of the word security illuminates why this is the case. Derived from the Latin se cura, which means free from care, being secure in many respects means being carefree. However, one must not overlook the fact that being carefree does not simply mean being free from worry. It also drifts into another meaning – that one doesn’t have to think about troubling things at all. That is, being carefree slides into being careless. These meanings are inextricable.

In addition to its more direct violence, managing the world and society in accordance with the interests of security not only discourages people in general from thinking too much about the issues we collectively face (allowing deeply ideological, racist structures to flourish). In organizing society around the principle of security (of carefreeness and carelessness) we neglect a duty of care to the world and to one another that reproduces the toxic, hostile world we all inhabit.

Rather than accepting the validity of this ideology of security (inseparable historically from ecocidal and genocidal levels of carelessness) we ought to cultivate a politics of attentiveness and carefulness. And maybe, by caring in concrete practice (as opposed to caring in mere theory), we can overcome the problems that we’re told we can correct by means of security.

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Elliot Sperber is a writer, attorney, and adjunct professor. He lives in New York City and can be reached at elliot.sperber@gmail.com and on twitter @elliot_sperber

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