H.L. Menken, an American journalist and cultural critic, once wrote that “the average man does not want to be free; he wants to be safe.” This expression is blatantly outdated and completely inapplicable in our modern day as these dangerous forms of thinking can lead to the institution of a totalitarian government and the stripping of a citizen’s most basic rights in the name of ‘security’. Throughout history there have been numerous cases which have provided examples and end results of nations who had followed beliefs and ideologies as Menken’s.
As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” Piece by piece a citizen’s individual freedoms are chipped away and replaced by false promises and agreements, creating the false sense of security which deceives the individual to fall victim to government manipulation. Freedom and restrictions are interconnected, and as individual freedoms are strained, one’s ability to recognize the morality of the restrictions placed become clouded. Danger becomes exaggerated through various forms of media, and the restraints established create a population of people too oblivious to recognize what is even happening. This sense of danger is then amplified, further encouraging the population into submission. Even the smallest of steps can lead to a nation falling into this slippery slope of totalitarianism and the development of a population, governed by fear and false security, that has become solely dependent on its government.
A government’s purpose has changed throughout history and undergone numerous developments in every culture, and, in our modern era, has been increasingly relevant. Through the turn of the 20th century, World War I and World War II have both had incredible impact on the ideologies of what a ‘proper’ or ‘ideal’ government should do and how it should operate. Many notable totalitarian regimes have been in place since then, and it has become more clear now than ever that the most just, successful, democratic, and well-received governments exist to serve the people — not to control them. When sacrificing civil liberties and freedoms for personal and national securities, it is often disregarded that the government’s capacity to protect equally represents the government’s capacity to control.
The battle between security and freedom still exists today, and it is becoming more and more relevant as well. Apple Inc. reached headlines in its disputes with the United States federal government when it objected to the government’s orders for them to provide the FBI with the technology and software to decrypt and unlock an iPhone. CEO Tim Cook responded in an online statement: “The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand. This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake.” Like many others, the multi-billion-dollar company has realized the potential threat that submission to these requests may inflict on the future of technology and digital content encryption. Apple nobly realized that the request made would establish an example which had the ability to allow the government to force technology companies to undermine the security of their products. By realizing the grave consequences of the situation, Apple is a prime and modern example of an independent entity which fought for its freedoms undeterred, recognizing the dangers of the relinquishment of liberties.
Security is a tempting promise which has lulled many nations to ruin through the centuries and continues to make its impact in our everyday lives. Even the smallest sacrifices of liberty and freedom can blur the fine line between protection and control. As author Anita Krizzan puts it: “a golden cage…is still a cage.”