Safety Audit

First, a wee preamble that is only relevant in the most tangential way. In my spare time (what spare time?) I volunteer as tenant rep for my building, which includes serving on a Tenant Council, being aware of issues in the building and the surrounding community and working with others in the neighborhood to improve same. Etc. One of our latest initiatives is to arrange safety audits of buildings and it made me think about safety and what makes us feel safe.

After 9/11, there have been a lot of initiatives designed to increase safety and although some work, in the past several years, we've seen how it can be argued that those initiatives in many ways have made the world less safe. And more particular today's ponderings, much of this have made us feel less safe. For instance, the coloured threat levels and am I mistaken or did CNN used to display them on screen every day? Do they still do that? What possible purpose does that serve except a) scare the crap out of us and b) as a publicity tool for a government needing justification for some pretty draconian measures?

And then there are guns. Like the Back-Up. Which doesn't make me feel safe. Having a loaded gun around the house just seems to me to invite accidents or escalate any potential burglary into deadly. And yes, I know I'm poking at some pretty sacred cows here, first with my critique of certain US initiatives following 9/11 and now messing about with the right to bear arms, but just compare the murder rates in the US and Canada or other countries that have gun control and tell me it doesn't work.

Maybe what I'm wondering about is not so much equipment and policies geared to enhance safety, but what within ourselves makes someone feel generally safe or generally afraid?

If someone has had a largely normal life, generally free of unsafe, traumatic situations – because that changes things dramatically and I will not begin to presume to speak about the impact of such a past - what makes one person feel anxious and threatened and another trust the world to mostly treat them kindly? Is it upbringing? A positive or negative outlook on life? How does your attitude towards the world impact how the world treats you? And when you feel unsafe, what helps you?

For me, I think upbringing has a lot to do with it - my parents always treated my sister and I as real people, consulting us when decisions needed to be made. Which didn't mean we got to decide, but our opinions were sought out and considered valuable. It gave me a sense of control in a childhood that was often about loss of control and I think it has a lot to do with who I became. Add to that being taught that people are generally nice and seeing that if you treat people as if they are generally nice, most people will be. And when it comes to feeling safe, it's knowing that "my people" are out there, that the people I love share my life and every now and again, on bad days, the touch - a hand on the shoulder, a hug - of someone I trust can make me relax into the peace of knowing I am not alone when facing the world.

But is there such a thing as being safe or is it all an illusion? Maybe it's because my primary experience of not feeling safe is related to a chronic illness over which I have no control that even in those brief moments of being embraced by someone I love, I know that ultimately, I must face it myself, that deep down when the rubber hits the road, I will wrestle with the issue alone. I am the only one who can persuade myself to not be afraid. Still, the illusion helps, so I try not to shine too bright a light on that particular feeling.

We can't bubblewrap ourselves, can't safeguard against all the possible dangers out there, can't control the actions of others or actions of nature, like earthquakes, volcano eruptions or tsunamis. We can do our best to be aware that we live in situations of calculated risk and safeguard against some of the risk factors, but safeguards can become prisons, can't they? There's a fine line between protecting yourself and interning yourself in a prison out of fear.

What makes you feel safe?