The psychology of safety

Everything is not what it seems, in other words, reality appears more violent and discouraging than ever, despite the efforts of various organisations to prove to us “The successful development of the millennium goals”. However, in the aftermath of what has been a devastating year for our planet, I refrain from openly criticising security, mostly because I doubt this is the case for mass atrocities anymore. In fact, why do we perpetually blame security, when we see the constant improvement of cyber systems, the encouragement of strict airport controls, the  media response which led to informing masses of people previously unaware of global affairs and their functioning? Safety has become in fact an ambiguous concept, something so ordinary has become hard to grasp for millions of people, struggling for their survival, but it nevertheless has to be evaluated on levels that go beyond our understandings and security measures.

Are we really safe? 
Because innate human psychology would suggest that most of the time we feel immune to anything really, tragedies might occur, but we would never suspect that it might affect us. Not until we started losing relatives, acquaintances were brutalised and the prospects of a terrorist attack experienced a shift from one region to the whole globe. There is one problem in this equation. This has been happening for centuries. We just started being more exposed to it. But really, traditionally westernised cultures have been intertwined in the geopolitics of the Middle East since the beginning of humanitarian interventions, conflicts in areas without media coverage have been spreading for years without any substantial comments… and sexism  and homophobia have been subjects to crime provocations since forever. We can’t expect as rational human beings that we can live peacefully when there is so much grief in this world, and grief ultimately leads to drastic decision and actions. Furthermore, we can’t expect as rational human beings that the territorial disputes we intervened in, the political systems we damaged, would be left without an immediate action from the other side and a rebellion that would threaten us to the point that we stop. What is staggering is that this point came a long time ago, and it escalated. We now find ourselves in the harsh reality of the 21st century- that is that we can never feel completely safe.

Did we produce uncertainty ourselves?
How do cultural intrusion and safety work? As a prominent opposer of humanitarian interventions, I have always believed that intervening into a country, questioning how it conducts its policies and trying to impose values of a place culturally, historically and politically inherently different, you are doing nothing, but causing more confusion. It is a fact that Iraq and Afghanistan are worse off after what ruthless presidencies did, and I am not speaking about their own governments. It is a human instinct as well to protect and preserve, thus making safety unstable for a place that made us unstable ourselves. The balance of power. The fact that with the start of cultural confusion, safety experienced a downfall in America is understood not by many, again, because we blame security first. We never question what is beyond those motives. We just assume that we can do anything we want and in return, “security measures can be increased”.

Narrating fear
As I arrived on the Ataturk airport 2 weeks ago, exactly 7 days before I could have possibly not returned back home to my loved ones, I was escorted by a police officer. These were the norms. What followed was 3 passport checks, questioning of my visit, additional control on the gate to London and guards with guns I haven’t previously heard of. Honestly, I did not feel safe, and I doubt that an increase in security measures could project stability in me. I almost feel like the general public underestimates threats. During my second semester of university I had the overwhelming opportunity to attend a lecture held by one of my biggest academic idols- Peter Neumann. What I admire about him is his rationality- he speaks about terrorist organisations not with fear, but with logic. That is what our approach to terrorism should be- instead of jumping to conclusions, we should be logical, look beyond the perspective of their will to impose fear and politicise, rather than securitise them. This being said, fear may never disappear, but blaming security could. The harsh reality is that we can never know anything for certain. Another aspect- security has nothing to do with the nature of terrorist organisations and such a powerful non-state actor that ISIS is, because to me they are more than simply terrorists. Their ideology is not rooted in islam, they did not simply seek to avenge, they are dangerous because we do not know their clear motives apart from creating a state in a violent and ruthless way, we do not know how they operate, how they think. And this is the biggest problem- we do not know what their psychology is rooted in.

What the psychology of safety is
So, what is the psychology of safety? It lies in ambiguity. Somewhere between countless interventions and misinterpreted threats, safety got lost. We perpetually blame the lack of security, but as a matter of fact, without the security we have today, things would have been worse, because we made problems for ourselves in the first place, and this is the most dangerous aspect of life. You can’t fix something if it is already broken, you can put it back, but it would lose its initial value. Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan. I am finishing this article, ironically, a day after Wikileaks published yet again, and while I myself work with a cyber security and defence organisation, I might receive harsh criticism therefore, as I am not attributing our lack of safety to the lack of security. However, I will conclude with this. If certain administrations did not, in the first place, cause so much havoc, there would have been no need for them to be uncovered or criticised with the help of drastic security break-ins. Is it legal in my opinion? No. But is it life threatening- I don’t think so. What is life threatening is only that we can’t seem to comprehend what lies beyond security.

The psychology of safety is flawed.

Joanna Koleva

One thought on “The psychology of safety

  1. Interesting to read about your personal experience at the airport. Many law enforcement agency’s now play on the “politics of fear” to keep us “safe”. By having more CCTV cameras and visable police officers, people are meant to feel safe as it can deter threat actors. It’s an interesting area of psychology study


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