Thursday, May 22, 2008

Some Thoughts on SECURITY

I know. It's been a VERY long time since I posted a new blog. It's funny. Whenever I DO write a blog I can think of half a dozen other things I'd like to write about, but I need to wait a week or two and then - well, then I get busy and out of the writing "mood". You know how it goes I'm sure. Anyway, I'm back today with some thoughts on security. Some of these thoughts were triggered by a CBC interview on The Current (May 15) with Lester Brown of the Worldwatch Institute. If you have a chance, listen to the interview. It's at - just scroll down to "Feature Interview".

So I'm thinking about the issue of security. We often think of security as all about safety - we want our government to ensure our personal safety in the face of military threats, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, etc. In fact, we're SO committed to security that we're quite willing to give up some of our rights and freedoms (and the rights of freedoms of other people, especially the suspicious ones!) in order to feel "safe". I think the rationale goes something like this: we live in this great country where we have a very good life - we're nice people and we just want to continue to live in peace and prosperity - we don't want anyone to mess with our comforts.

That view is starting to fray a bit around the edges. Climate change, terrorism, the global food crisis, the dramatic rise in gas prices - these are things that the average middle class Canadian can no longer ignore. I'm an average middle class Canadian and I've also had the opportunity to travel a bit in low income countries - specifically Kenya, Bolivia and El Salvador. And I read a lot and listen a lot to the news. I even teach a course on Globalization. So, not that I'm an expert on all of this, but I can't help but notice...

When we think of security we think of personal and national safety - protecting ourselves from threats of all sorts. BUT, security in much of the world is of a more basic nature: having safe water and enough food to avoid malnutrition or outright starvation. When your life is spent simply trying to survive, personal and national safety issues seem to take a back seat.

Maybe it's just that I'm paying closer attention, but it also seems that the number and brutality of incidents of violence in these low income countries is escalating. I'm thinking that people can only be pushed so far before they push back. One could argue that these situations - take the unrest in Kenya after the presidential election in December, for instance - are very complex. On the other hand though, maybe it's quite simple. Maybe it's just a matter of people pushing back against the oppression and injustice which leave them hungry and helpless as their children get sick and die of diseases that CAN be cured or prevented. By the way, UNICEF reports that the number of such deaths of children under the age of 5 is currently just under 10 million per year (see That's about 26,000 child deaths EVERY DAY!

OK - I won't go on and on about that - even though I'm tempted! Just notice that SECURITY may look and feel a lot different in that context.

Perhaps you've heard the latest figure for military expenditure - that is the amount of money spent in one year on military budgets globally. It's now at $1.2 TRILLION. Please understand me: I'm not making any political statement here about particular militaries or campaigns. I just think we need to step back and look at the BIG picture. What if we redefined security to include access to sufficient food and safe water for the entire population of the planet? What if that were the number one priority of all of our governments... and their armies? Maybe then we wouldn't need such well armed military forces...

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