Baron Evans of Weardale used to be the head of MI5 which means that, when he expresses a view on security matters, journalists and broadcasters go into sombre, stern nodding-dog mode. So Evans gets away with saying this stuff unchallenged:
“Inadequate security will breed vulnerability and fear and that in turn will tend to limit people’s ability to contribute to civil society, will tend to provoke vigilantism and will tend to diminish people’s ability to exercise the very civil liberties and human rights that we wish to sustain.”
My problem with this is that there is precisely zero evidence of 'vigilantism' in the UK. Nor is there any indication that - other than oddly in a little Pennine village - people are organising themselves in gangs to provide security or exact vengance.
Don't get me wrong here, I'm not suggesting that we don't need the security services or security for that matter. Merely that the sort of language used by Evans is designed merely to frighten, to operationalise the H L Mencken definition of politics:
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
...the world faced a build-up of trained terrorists not seen since al-Qaeda ran training camps in Afghanistan before 9/11.
...while there's still plenty of war, hunger, sickness, and poverty in the world, things are much better than what they were only a few decades ago—not to talk about centuries ago. We are still far from utopia, but the data is stubborn: We are getting there. Fast.
So what to do? Integrate different kinds of people with each other by removing barriers and improving connectivity. By reintegrating street networks we can create valuable urban space. Arguably, allowing people to meet and interact in public urban spaces won’t threaten the security of the country and won’t corrupt morals as old players may fear it will. Rather, it might bring tolerance and promote reconciliation and reduce crime rates. Additionally, it will help in building trust between the regime and people.
My article is a call for a new strategy in which ‘anti-territorial’ programmes that are designed to break down boundaries between communities by encouraging social mix through increasing people’s freedom to construct bridges to other communities and overcome their isolation. In this respect, a new borderless Cairo might foster economic integration and urban competitiveness. I think that is the first step in security sector reform, otherwise this open plan jail will collapse and the prisoners of Cairo will be released.
The last open question that I will leave for the future to answer is: how long will the division between rulers and ruled remain?
This is the antithesis of the position that Evans and the security experts adopt. They want to manage - limit even - interaction, to ban certain activities, to control speech and to determine the sorts of fun that are permissable. Such people are brothers to both the fussbuckets and to the religious absolutists, to people who believe absolutely how people should behave in public and who use arguments about health, wealth, safety and happiness to promote their authoritarian agenda.
Forgetting of course that the thing making us healthier, wealthier, happier and safer isn't government but liberty. It's free trade, free enterprise, free assembly and above all free speech not armed policemen and snooping spies that makes for a healthier, wealthier, happier and, yes Lord Evans, safer world.