The Neurotic Northamerican Presidential Security

By Leonardo Boff / The Rag Blog / April 10, 2011

Many of us have known what the ideology of national security meant under the Latin American military dictatorships. The security of the State was the highest priority. In fact, more than the security of the State itself, it was about the security of capital, so that it could continue its businesses and its logic of accumulation.

Deep down, this ideology was premised on the supposition that every citizen is a subversive, actual or potential. Therefore, the citizen had to be watched and eventually jailed, interrogated, and, if he resisted, tortured, some times until death. This caused a rupture of the bonds of trust, without which society looses its meaning. Life went on under a heavy cloak of distrust and fear.

I say this because of the security apparatus that surrounded the visit to Brazil of the President of the United States, Barack Obama. There, one could plainly see that the ideology was not national, but presidential. There was no confidence in the ability of the Brazilian …. to guarantee the president’s security. He was accompanied by the entire security apparatus of the United States. There were immense helicopters, so huge that there were few places where they could land, armored limousines, over-dressed soldiers, with so many high-tech weapons that they looked more like killing machines than human beings. Sharp shooters were stationed on rooftops and other strategic locations, along with the intelligence personnel. Every corner that the «imperial court» would pass, and all the neighboring streets, houses and businesses, were monitored and searched. For security reasons, the public speech the president planned to give in the center of Rio de Janeiro, Cinelandia, was canceled. Those invited to hear his speech at the National Theater had to undergo a thorough search before passing.

What does such a scene reveal? That we live in a sick and inhumane world. Previously, we feared the forces of nature, before which we had little defense, and threatening demons, or vengeful gods. Today we are afraid of ourselves, of our weapons of mass destruction, and wars of overwhelming destruction, in which some of the super powers engage. We fear being assaulted in the street. We are afraid of going into the mountains where poor communities are located. We are even afraid that the street children could threaten us.

What is there that we do not fear?

The classics teach us that laws, the State, and public order exist primarily to liberate us from fear, and to enable us to coexist peacefully.

Formalizing these thoughts we can say, first, that fear is part of our existence. There are four fundamental fears: fear that we will be stripped of our individuality, and turned into dependents or mere numbers; fear that our relationships will be severed and we will be punished with solitude and isolation; the fear of changes that could affect our professions, health, and in the end, life itself; the fear of inevitable and definitive realities, such as death. The way we confront these existential fears marks our process of individuation. If we do so with courage, overcoming difficulties, we grow. If we flee, and try to avoid them, we end up debilitated, and even ashamed.

In spite of all our science, that creates the illusion of omnipotence, we have gone back to being afraid of the Earth and her forces. Who can control the collisions of the tectonic plates? Who can prevent an earthquake or stop a tsumani? We are nothing in the face of such uncontrollable energies, worsened by global warming.

Fear, then, is part of the human condition. It becomes a pathology and neurosis when we try to avoid it in a manner that transforms an entire social reality, and turns space into a sort of battleground, such as was mounted by the Northamerican security forces. A president visiting a country and her people should assume the risks that form part of life. Otherwise, the authorities of both sides had best gather on a ship on the high seas, safe from fear and from danger. The strategies of security only reveal the kind of world we live in: humans are afraid of other humans. We are captives of fear, and therefore, we are deprived of liberty, the happiness of living; and of welcoming a guest.

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