It was that profound absurdist thinker Franz Kafka who put it most effectively: it is safer, he said, to be in chains than to be free.
Most 21st century activists think the same way. And since safety appears to be the main preoccupation of us all, there is not much dispute that the chains will win. Even Tories are left-wingers nowadays.
Coupled with belief that chains are the safest way of living is the illusion – or is it delusion? – that we can manufacture chains that are effective for every possible situation.
Take the “situation” in Ukraine. Evil is being perpetrated. Our concern is not primarily to battle it but to ascertain the safest way of reacting. This makes a certain kind of sense, doesn’t it?
But that’s just an extreme example. The health and safety industry is really in charge of everything we do. We have to wear helmets to ride bikes, seat belts to drive cars, obey speed limits of various kinds and follow numerous tortuous rules before forming any kind of group. Risk assessments, safeguarding, masks, speed cameras, speed humps, CCTV – you name it.
The intrusion of government into what should be private and personal activities grows regularly, and many of us are all for it, citing “the greater good”. But of course all this is really chains. Is imprisonment of everyone the greatest good?
No. Freedom Is vital if we to function in a human and loving way. Helen Keller said: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.”
Why do we want to be so safe? What are we afraid of? Well, death, I suppose: the horrific possibility that things may end for us at any minute. Better life imprisonment than that.
But of course Easter reminds us that this is rubbish: death is not the end. How could it be? It is the shaky secular society that we live in that generates fear, and the obsession with safety. If we stood back and looked backwards at our history, outwards at those we admire or inwards at the essence of life itself, we would realise that there are more important things than being safe. And more exciting prospects than extinction.