One of the more basic definitions of a state is that it is a collection of individuals who give up certain responsibilities, and the rights that come with them, for the benefit of having a common representative body, a government, to carry out these responsibilities.
One such responsibility is that of the provision of one’s own security and that of one’s family. This is a basic right, and responsibility of each individual. Long before we had governments, the man without an armoury was the weakest and most vulnerable. But in the context of a state, one forfeits the means of securing himself i.e. his money, in the form of taxes, and right to bear arms, in favour of having the government take care of him.
However, the instinct to protect oneself is so primal and, when the dangers become disproportionate, brings itself to the fore. And, like in all places where need arises, there will always be other people keen to cash in on the requirement. Enter private security companies; the G4Ss and KKs of this world.
Kenya has had a bloody experience with terrorists. Ever since it became a friend of the West and its de-facto centre of African operations, it has never left the cross-wires of the unscrupulous thugs with guns who claim to fight for a cause but are in essence just in the business of measuring balls and causing a puerile nuisance.
And, after the government failed to assure its people of their security, people decided to go one step further and protect themselves, without paying any less in the form of tax. What people don’t realise is that they are paying for the illusion of security. A metal detector cannot stop a terrorist worth his salt. And a dysfunctional metal detector in the hand of a clueless security guard cannot even dissuade a common shoplifter. Our security guards are in essence receptionists equipped only with the power of admitting or turning out cooperative individuals.
These security companies surely have a role to play. And some of them are really good at what they do. These latter respond even to false alarms with the alacrity and severity that would be appropriate for high-level threats. But that doesn’t hide the fact that, in a functioning state, such companies shouldn’t even exist.
So we are stuck with checks at every entrance, and demands for faded identity cards at every educational institution. We suffer the incessant bother, and are not the safer for it. The sense of security is all psychological. It’s in the mind. You see a lot of security guards in uniform and somehow feel safer. But a deeper examination lays bare the inadequacies.
In the end that might dissuade small incidents from happening. But as long as the people on whom we have laid the task, and granted the means, of protecting the country are corrupt, incompetent and quick with excuses, no one in the country, save those with their own weapons and security training, can lay a reasonable claim to being safe. The task of protecting oneself has therefore reverted to the individual.
Feature image: nomad.sleepout.com
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