Battling our insecurities

Has it occurred to you how preoccupied we have become with security?

A lot of us worry about financial security because of a sinking stock market and revelations of widespread corporate fraud. The fraud was supposed to be policed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, securities in this case meaning stocks and bonds.

President Bush has Congress working on homeland security – that is security against terrorism. For that purpose, he wants to create a big, new cabinet department. Homeland security joins national security, which is mainly what the armed forces do. It is also what National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice advises the president about.

The computer age has given us anxiety about cybersecurity, the fear of invasion of our information systems. President Franklin Roosevelt stretched the meaning of security to cover a national pension system, called Social Security, which is meant to provide financial security to senior and disabled citizens.

With the baby-boom generation headed toward senior citizenship, there is now some worry about the financial security of the Social Security system.

Meanwhile, there is worry about job security, which can contribute to concern about emotional security.

But mostly security has to do with defending the country against enemies, foreign and domestic. The government cites national security to justify keeping secrets. Sen. Joseph McCarthy popularized a category of people called "security risks," and many lost government jobs because they were so labeled.

Then, finally, there is the security we seek from muggers and robbers.

In my lifetime, I have seen the proliferation of gated communities and armed security guards in apartment house lobbies.

Security has developed into a major industry. My local telephone directory Yellow Pages has five pages under the heading of security – everything from electric locking systems to uniformed officers and mobile patrols.

And so, why is it that with all our concentration and spending on security, personal and national, we still feel so insecure?

• Daniel Schorr is a senior news analyst at National Public Radio.

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