Ingeborg van Teeseling

The terror response – The danger in safety

Image: GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/Getty Images

Approx Reading Time-10After the horrors of Nice, collective fear asks for collective safety, but, we should be careful what we wish for, for safety also means control.

 

 

 

Amidst the horror of Nice, my ear suddenly caught a female American voice, complaining to French radio. She was blaming president Hollande for the carnage that had just been caused by a small criminal with a big ego hitching a ride on the ISIS-train.

All of this was Hollande’s fault because he had not put enough security in place, which had left the Bastille Day celebrations “vulnerable”, she claimed.

Let’s look at this statement for a moment, and see what its consequences are. If you want politicians to protect you at all times, they need a few things they haven’t got now (yet). First of all, an everlasting State of Emergency. This limits people’s movements, gives governments (even more) power to monitor their citizens’ phones and computers and will put police officers on every corner, in every shop, in front of every kindergarten. Secondly, those officers will need to be trained and armed and be given the power to shoot to kill whenever they think the time is right. No questions asked afterward: if innocent people die, they will be collateral damage, nothing more. Thirdly, we need to step outside of the rule of law and democracy, because these give people rights that might conflict with “safety”. And number four: criticism will no longer be allowed, especially not by migrant (American in France) women. Whoever says anything against the government will have to be detained indefinitely.

Not that all of this will stop a determined idiot with a truck, or whatever else nutcases with illusions of grandeur can come up with. What it will do, though, is turn the world into one big police state. A global North Korea, where the leader straps his own generals to a bomb and blows them up, and the citizens have nothing to eat. Anyone who thinks that this is a good idea? Anyone but Trump, I mean?

It is a relief to know that my government consists of a bunch of amateurs when it comes to matters of security. It means they haven’t had a lot of experience, because it hasn’t happened often. Which, of course, tells me that we are usually incredibly safe.

The problem at the moment is that we can’t get our heads around the idea that life is fragile and that we are always, inevitably, vulnerable. Newsflash: we are even going to die! All of us. And that can happen at any time, in any way. It used to be that we, as a species, were used to this idea. We could see death all around us and we knew that God decided whether we were temporarily safe or not. Now God is dead, we want “them” to protect us. Always, against anything. “Them” is the government, our parents, our bosses, the police, McDonald’s even when it comes to hot coffee. We are not responsible for our own lives, of course. “They” are, and when something happens – which it inevitably does, because we are all here temporarily – we blame “them”. So “them”, like God, needs to be preferably all-powerful and ever-vigilant. But like God, we also want “them” to be invisible when we don’t need “them”.

Up there on a cloud somewhere, watching and waiting for the right moment to throw a bolt of lightning down to kill our enemies. And in the meantime, we still think we are rational beings.

Personally, I am a big fan of blundering governments. Take the Martin Place Siege and the inquiry into what happened there. Those lawyers for the people who died must have a field day in there, surely? Let’s look at the evidence so far. We’ve heard from a sergeant from the Tactical Operations Unit, who did some reconnaissance in the beginning and came up with a plan of action. Only, his bosses “never even came back to him” to discuss it. We had a negotiating team that existed of a man who hadn’t slept in a few days, somebody else who had four other jobs on at the same time and a truck that had been destroyed by lightning in 2011 and never replaced. No computers, no phone lines, no access to Channel 7’s live stream or information that came from the hostages.


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Of course, there was the gunman who was free on bail, although he was charged with 43 serious sexual assaults and being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife. Then we had the snipers, who thought it “peculiar” when Tori Johnson was ordered to his knees, and still do not accept the café manager was “in immediate danger”, two minutes before he was killed. The soldiers who couldn’t see because of the flashes they set off themselves, and slipped on the glass of the door they themselves had shot to pieces.

I accept it must be horrendous to hear for the people who lost loved ones there. But for me, it is a relief to know that my government consists of a bunch of amateurs when it comes to matters of security. I like it when I hear that they don’t know what they are doing. It means they haven’t had a lot of experience, because it hasn’t happened often. Which, of course, tells me that we are usually incredibly safe. And it says that they are not well organised enough to get this whole police state thing together even if they wanted to. Again, that seems advantageous to me.

If I can, in all my arrogance, give a bit of advice here, something to remember in times of stress and fear: Accept that shit happens and be grateful if it passes you by for the moment. Feel for, and help, the people whose number has come up. And be very, very careful in calling for a strong man or an ever-present government that knows how to use a gun or a tank.

Be careful what you wish for.

 

Ingeborg van Teeseling

After migrating from Holland ten years ago and being warned by the Immigration Department against doing her job as a journalist, Ingeborg van Teeseling became a historian instead. She endeavours to explain Australia to migrants new and old at her website www.australia-explained.com.au, and runs www.lifebooks.com.au, telling people's life stories.

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