How safe can we be?

Heated debates about whether a Muslim cultural center with a mosque should be built in the proximity of Ground Zero are about many things-- about freedom, memory of atrocity, prejudice and American identity; about rallying constituencies in the search for political power, and more. But none of these issues would be debated with nearly as much intensity if the underlying issue were not security.

September 11, 2001, did not create an insecure world, but it became for us an indicator, a symptom of the insecure world in which we live. Human beings have always lived with insecurity, but today's world has its own peculiar forms of it. Some time ago, German sociologist Ulrich Beck suggested that we live in a "risk society." Unlike in previous eras, he says, when the majority of our risks came from natural sources, today the majority of our risks are "manufactured." We humans create them.


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