Magazine article New Internationalist

Insecure Lives

Magazine article New Internationalist

Insecure Lives

Article excerpt

THE belief that intensifying the mechanisms of surveillance at home and delivering engines of annihilation abroad will increase security is a cruel delusion. Such a narrow idea of 'security' is likely to produce an effect the reverse of that intended. Insecurity is written into the whole way of life throughout the industrialized world. It shapes the fate of all. Insecurity attends the very idea of a globalized world economy. It has become a matter of high principle that no-one on earth should be secure in their livelihood, social function or income. They say 'the world doesn't owe us a living'. We have to find our own place in the global economy. In pursuit of wealth, the world's people have been stirred in epic uprootings and migrations, from farm, field and village to town and city, from country to country and continent to continent. The migrant is the characteristic figure of our time, evicted from self-reliance, and impelled by insecurity to leave their home-place and wander in search of a private accommodation with global forces which they can barely comprehend. In the US alone, according to the 2001 census, more than 30 million people - over 11 per cent of the total population - were not born there.

In all countries transnational entities set up their operations one day only to flee the next in the face of rising costs, labour unrest or falling sales. Governments offer the labour of their people in an auction at rates frequently below subsistence. Even in the most privileged of places, people can arrive at work one fine morning to find their name removed from the office door, their desk cleared and, if they are lucky, perhaps a compensatory cheque. Whole industries fall into ruin: rust belts are abandoned; textile factories are turned into luxury flats; warehouses become studios and offices. Inner-cities decay, and people are moved on, a perpetual caravan of refugees, evictees, oustees of development. Even the advantaged discover we are all economic migrants, treading uncertain paths to unknown destinations.

Dissatisfaction guaranteed

Economic insecurity is something for which the vast deployment of an expanding security industry has no remedy. Nor does it seek one. Insecurity is an indispensable part of the ideology of wealth-creation. Only the goad of uncertainty, it is believed, will prevent people from lalling into a lazy contentment. Only insecurity will keep them on their toes, and forestall the appalling possibility that they might declare their needs satisfied. We depend on an economy which delivers ever more subtle variants of precariousness.

The truth is, basic needs are easily answerable. The resources to eliminate hunger, to provide safe drinking water, adequate nutrition, shelter and health are readily within reach. The hungry Adivasi in Chattisgarh, the uprooted peasant of Chiapas, the disemployed factory worker in Sño Paulo and the landless of Minas Gerais; the evicted slum dweller of Dhaka, the stricken indigene of Kalimantan, the refugee in Gaza, the indebted employee in Detroit and the addict in Glasgow: all of these people want the same thing. They want a simple, secure sufficiency, a moment of peace and safety in which to bring up their children.

But this they cannot have, for it interferes with the sacred mysteries of wealth-creation. …

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