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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Fear: The Freedom Blocker

Most of the world now has an eye on the Islamic State after their exploits in Paris. In true terrorist fashion, they are trying to reshape civil society by preying on fear. Security and freedom are two ends of the same stick. When you pick up that stick, you need to decide where you want to hold it. Elevated security means controls on personal behavior and heightened surveillance. These things reduce privacy and freedom of action.

I applaud those people who went back into the streets of Paris and resumed their lives the very next day. It took a certain force of will to do it. Fear is a powerful agent. When you live in a war zone, your sense of reality -- your expectations -- are fundamentally altered. You learn to suppress fear in order to avoid going completely insane. It would be wrong to compare people living in a war zone with people who live in a place in which daily life is relatively safe.

Israelis may provide the best example of a civil society that faces elevated risk. We can learn from the Israelis who have to board buses to get to work or their home only hours after one such bus was blown up by a terrorist. Israeli citizens practice vigilance, but they don’t succumb to fear.

The fact is, you cannot keep terrorists out forever. That doesn’t mean we should drop our guard completely, but we need to think carefully about where we want to hold that stick. The United States is a country that values it’s freedom above all. Because we are newer than many countries, we have enjoyed the freedom that comes from immaturity. We are catching up fast! Regulations and laws continue to chip away at our freedom in the name of safety and security.

We need to be cognisant of where to draw the line. A certain amount of fear may need to be acceptable. Risks are part of freedom and we need to recognize that the choices we make have consequences. Many writers have explored the tyranny of a state left with the total responsibility for safety and security. It’s usually a very ugly picture. If “we, the people” want the freedom, we need to take up the risks as well. I don’t want to get blown up or shot, but I also don’t want to live in a police state. How about you?

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