The Hidden Dangers of Safety
How safe are we in Aotearoa New Zealand? “Pretty safe,” you might answer. Maybe you’re concerned about rising crime rates. Perhaps you’re worried about the continued cost of living crisis. Increasing gang membership and activity—with an average of three gun crimes reported daily—isn’t a good sign, nor is the coming COVID wave and what it might mean for your back pocket.
Maybe a better question is, how safe should you feel?
For society to flourish, there needs to be a basic level of trust and safety.
An interesting phenomenon was observed during the 2020 COVID lockdowns. It had been noted before but was on full display then. A term coined in 2018 was used to describe it; safetyism, “a culture where people are unwilling to make trade-offs demanded by practical and moral concerns.” We have made safety our sacred value, the goal we pursue and desire above anything else.
We might argue it was only COVID lockdowns, the protective measures, and the vaccination programme that indicated this. But there are other examples. The Road to Zero is one.
Here is a campaign to reduce injuries and deaths on our country’s roads to zero. That is, no serious injuries or death at all on our roads. A noble-sounding goal in a year with currently 296 road deaths, but this sort of plan has a cost. What are we prepared to pay for zero death or injury on our roads? And really, how achievable is it?
Interestingly, it’s a policy plank shared with New York City, which also claims their road toll of around 200 is “unacceptable.” Now, this is not to say that safety isn’t important. For society to flourish, there needs to be a basic level of trust and safety. Take the spike in ram raids. We want to be kept safe from people who would harm us and take our stuff.
Let’s keep in mind the importance of civility in all of this. Polls say we are more divided now than we’ve ever been.
Let’s keep in mind the importance of civility in all of this. Polls say we are more divided now than we’ve ever been. And some commentators have noted the step from safetyism to “vindictive protectionism”, which is the punishment of those we see as obstructing our goal of safety.
Of course, we cannot predict what might happen in the future. Look around the world. There’s the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and how it might escalate. Economic and political turmoil in the UK (our 7th most significant trading partner). There’s also the indication that China might invade Taiwan this year.
In the days leading up to the terror attacks on September 11 2001, the headlines of papers around the world showed no indication that anyone knew what was going to happen. They included reporting about England’s soccer team beating Germany 5-1, the winner of Big Brother, and the scandal of Charles Ingram cheating to win £1 million.
The unexpected can happen, and risk is real. Let’s not allow that risk to distort who we are.
In the end, it’s inevitable that there are things out of our control. The unexpected can happen, and risk is real. Let’s not allow that risk to distort who we are.go back