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THE COMMON SECURITY WARNING BELL

When exploring alternative ways of thinking about security – alternative, that is, to the standard references to military matters, fences, chains, sanctioned state violence, etc. - folk will talk about “human” security. Mikhail Gorbachev caught it well: “The overriding goal must be human security: providing food, water and a clean environment and caring for people’s health. To achieve it, we need to develop strategies, make preparations, plan and create reserves.” Yet human security as a concept has its limitations. For one thing it does not take account of our setting within the wider realm of reality, our impact on that wider realm, and our absolute dependence on it. Perhaps “common” security takes us a little further. That term does at least allow us to recognise that our safety depends on the safety of others, including non-human nature. We are far less likely to feel and be safe in Flat 1A in the block if the folk in Flat 6B are in a pickle. The global version of this is too obvious to underline. We are almost beginning to realise that catastrophic floods in Pakistan will not leave people in the rich north and west unaffected and that for this challenge the old, sectional and militarised recipes are utterly useless.


According to most commentators Ukraine is now likely to repel the Russian invasion, hanging Putin’s jacket on a shaky nail and uncovering the evidence of yet more atrocities. If their assessment is correct, then, alongside satisfaction that a horrifying episode for the people of Ukraine is coming to some sort of an end, the common security warning bell should be ringing in our heads. In her “Blood Rites” Barbara Ehrenreich puts it this way: “War has another way of spreading, too, and that is through time. Ineluctably, the insults inflicted in one war call forth new wars of retaliation, which may be waged within months of the original conflict or generations later.” There is no tidy End-game. We need to get that perspective, to be fully aware that the global challenges facing us all require genuine peace-building, and that the presence of weapons of mass destruction in the mix calls for wisdom and restraint.

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