In the aftermath of the 9-11 (2001) terrorist attack in New York, the then US President George W. Bush declared the “war on terror”. Today, 15 years later, drawing the line, it seems that most battles of the “war on terror” were lost.
Our society is terrorised and our individual freedoms have been significantly curtailed. Even more important, our society is paying a high price for a new item added to the consumer price index basket, that of the security industry. Citizens are paying an enormous amount of money for this and nobody complains because all such costs are incorporated into the final price of goods or services purchased by citizens. Whether one buys milk or air tickets, a T-shirt or a hamburger at a fast food restaurant, the security cost is there, paid by the consumer, and it includes VAT so the state gets its cut. And everyone is happy.
How much of this security is really necessary? Nobody has ever bothered to look into this, since citizens pay and they are used to it.
But the security industry and its profits is not the issue. What comes first is the security of citizens which cannot be guaranteed anymore for any citizen living free and moving free.
Terrorism is a global threat and it concerns all of us. One day it’s Bataclan, another day it’s Zaventem or Attaturk airport, then a truck in Nice. Tomorrow?
Terrorism is thriving because we have put the emphasis on security services and related systems and we lost the power to simplify the problem and resolve it.
Terrorists changed targets, moving from the dignitaries and VIPs (who are now over-protected) to the public. Now terrorists target mass gatherings attended by ordinary citizens who live in terror. Citizens can no longer enjoy what they have earned with honest and hard work. They cannot go to a shopping mall on Saturday and enjoy happiness without having in the back of their mind a potential terrorist threat.
The target is no longer prime ministers or business tycoons. Now the target is the ordinary people, those who take the bus and the underground. Those who, after a long day of work, buy a box of beer and sit in front of their TV to watch soap operas and live in a huge 20 story building in the periphery together with thousands of other similar ordinary people. Imagine, their apartment building could be the next target.
What can be done about it? Deploy a platoon of private security officers to guard each popular apartment building? More security for the people? Security cameras in all buildings? Crazy and impossible, despite many would argue it is a golden opportunity for the industry. No, this is not the way.
We must motivate societies to cooperate with their governments and not with the secret services or the private security companies, which all citizens hate. But simply with the police stations they know. We must convince citizens to become open to the local police people they know and greet each other every day with a good morning and a smile. It will be the first level of restoring trust between citizens and their leaders. On a second level, the local authorities must persuade the leaders of local religious and cultural centres to cooperate and provide information, on a regular basis, about any anomalies they observe in their communities.
This is the only way to face any big, serious problem. To restore the citizen’s trust.