The Illusion of Order

The Illusion of Order

July 7, 2005

Today’s events in London have a lot of people crawling into their bunkers again. That’s a big mistake.

Over the past 40 years I have traveled 15 million miles, wandered around South America, Eastern Europe, Northern Africa, and made more than 100 trips to the Middle East. I have good friends in all those places. I have been searched by 16 year old soldiers with machine guns, I have been detained by officials with stars on their shoulders but no brains in their heads. I have been in air raids and happened into food riots. I have been stopped by tanks. I am still here.

The world has never been safe; it never will be.

There are 300 million of us; whoever is mad at us can’t get all of us.

The big risk is not the risk of dying; it is the risk of not living.

It is not possible to spend enough money to protect people from other people who want to hurt them. The result would be man-on-man defense, just like in basketball. When I was 18 years old I lived for a time in West Berlin. The East German guards on the other side of the fence walked in pairs so they could keep an eye on each other. they were not having fun.

We should not pretend we can deliver total security. People should take more responsibility themselves for being alert to danger.

The real price of delivering excessive imaginary protection is not the money we pay the TSA employees at the airports, it is our loss of identity, which is a form of auto-immune disorder.

Biological Immune systems do not work by having a list of bad guys to look for. They work by being able to recognize “me”. When a healthy immune system encounters a cell, it is able to determine whether the cell is “self”, in which case it allows it to pass, or is “other” in which case it attacks, kills, or repels the invader.

Auto-immune disorders, such as AIDS, are situations in which the immune system loses the ability to identify itself and makes mistakes of both kinds, killing itself as a result. In that senses they are exactly loss of identity.

The most damaging long-term effect of terrorism is that we have become so focused on obtaining order that we are losing our identity.

In the case of America, our identity is to take risks, try things, and welcome strangers. Fear has driven us into our bunkers, behind our TSA guards, and into racism.

The good news is that we can fix this problem ourselves by remembering who we are.

We need to quit whining and get back to work.


John Rutledge

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