editorial mistake

Editorial: Why are we obsessed with security?

Joseph Evans reacts to our latest articles.

Education involves making mistakes. We learn as much, perhaps more, from what we get wrong than from what we get right. The painful experience of failing teaches us much more than the comfortable acquisition of knowledge, or at least, the lesson is more deeply ingrained.

And what goes for individuals goes for our society too. 

Nations go forward as much through their falls as through their advances. A country’s development is a massive experience of trial and error. Think of the Victorians and the Industrial Revolution in the United Kingdom. Think of the growth of the United States. How much they got wrong in order to get things right. Each new step forward opened up new problems but an indomitable spirit took them forward; mistakes were corrected and so progress made.

So why are we, as a society today, so averse to taking risks?

One of the worst vices of our age, at least in the developed West (though the same seems to apply to equally rich Asian countries like Japan or Korea), is an excessive, almost paranoiac concern for security. We inhabit the age of insurance, the age of cameras on every corner, the age of excessive legislation.

What is the cause? Perhaps it’s our ageing demographic. Youth takes risks, age prefers caution. (Though Western youth seem more concerned with shopping and gaming than opening up new frontiers.)

Only Africa, for all its political chaos and social problems, seems to offer hope of growth and life now, as much as Europe tries to bombard it with contraceptives. Are we jealous in our decrepitude of Africa’s youth?

Has the European project run out of steam? Has the old continent run out of new ideas and youthful dreams? 

Or is it the loss of the sense of God? Once, in those giddy Enlightenment years, the denial of divinity was exciting and daring, as Europe, with an adolescent strut, walked free from the stuffy and dark house of paternalistic, superstitious faith. Then the forest we wandered in became even darker and more frightening. We lost our way and massacred each other more brutally than in any ‘war of religion’.

We thought the rejection of God would make man freer and more confident. It only has made him more shackled and insecure. 

Faith for the medievals was a launching pad for cultural and spiritual flight. Our atheism now ties us to the ground. If you can’t believe in God, it’s harder to believe in man.

So, now we clutch at the straws of science and statistics, hoping that data and ‘facts’ will give us the security we cannot find in ourselves or in a divinity. What ‘the science tells us’ is announced as a new oracle from the gods. But the problem is the gods can’t agree among themselves.

Last week’s excellent Adamah articles explore these issues in different ways.

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Fr Joseph Evans is a Catholic priest and member of the Opus Dei prelature. He has been a journalist and youth worker, and is currently a university chaplain in Oxford. He is co-founder and Editorial Director of Adamah, which he sees as bringing together some of his great passions: good writing, intelligent and honest discussion, and helping young people achieve their full potential.

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