Thanks to the Bush administration and the Supreme Court, there’s an ongoing debate about rights vs. security. The Supreme Court says that prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have the right to habeas corpus — they can go to court to challenge their detention by the U.S. The dissenters, in and out of the court, say that this decision hurts our national security, while others are glad that the right to habeas corpus has been protected.
I think protecting people’s rights is important (some people call this freedom). I also think economic and social justice is important, and that living sustainably (some would say green) goes along with this. I think economic and social justice gives people freedom as well — freedom to be the human beings we are meant to be. I know there are many others who agree with me.
Some people think violence is necessary in order to protect these rights and freedoms. Some of the same people think it’s necessary to violate the rights of some people in order to protect others. They place a high priority on security above all else.
Right or wrong aside, it’s unlikely that people who are strongly convinced of either of these points of view will change to the other. They see the whole world through this lens. These worldviews affect many different issues that people are concerned about, including the economy, military action, use of torture, protecting the environment, and more.
Jane Jacobs wrote in her book Systems of Survival about two systems at work in our society: the Guardian syndrome and the Commerce syndrome. The Guardian syndrome assumes that one does what it takes to protect society, even if that requires force or deception. The Commerce syndrome is concerned with honesty, efficiency, inventiveness, and collaboration. Jacobs said that problems occur when the values of one syndrome are applied to the other system.
This book bothered me when I read it, because I simply can’t believe that it’s morally OK for Guardians to use violence and deception — especially deception — whenever it seems necessary. Maybe I’m looking at this wrong. I’m looking at it as it applies to the Bush administration (lies, deception, unnecessary war, unlawful imprisonment, torture). If I think about a police officer, it makes more sense. There are certainly situations where I appreciate police using force to protect the public. Then again, we do have to make sure that it’s a reasonable use of force! And we have to be sure that police are respecting people’s rights. So, I just can’t see Guardians being given license to do ANYTHING in the name of protecting the public.
Isn’t there a better way? Or are we doomed to repeat the past?
Perhaps that’s a good question for my other blog.