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The Security Provided By Communities

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The idea of security may not be something we, as citizens around the world, worry about every day.  Personal security may be one thing, but there’s the much broader, more community-dependent foundation to which I’m referring. In the United States, this security is represented in the most obvious sense by the judicial system, but no matter where you are in the world, it exists down to the level which we interact with on a daily basis. I’m talking about the security you get from having a landlord, the comfort from knowing that your closest neighbors can react with you in the case of an emergency, and the idea that by identifying with and contributing to a certain community you become provided for and protected.

This is a topic that has been explored and ruminated on in philosophy, anthropology, and political diatribe, and whose analysis reaches back to the debated origin of the tribe (the concept that societies evolved, functioned, and intermingled on the most basic level because of kinship). In looking at past societies, anthropologist Elman Service developed one theory that outlines a hierarchy of classification that exists in all human cultures. Service’s system defines four categories:

  1. Band: “Gatherer-hunter bands, which are generally egalitarian.”
  2. Tribe: “Tribal societies in which there are at least some instances of social rank and prestige.”
  3. Chiefdom: “Stratified tribal societies led by chieftains.”
  4. State: “Civilizations, with complex social hierarchies and organized, institutional governments.”

Considering the idea of societal organization, how might security play a role? Even looking at tribes (including non-human) that are based exclusively on kinship it is apparent that associating with your kin, those who have some intrinsic commonality, makes sense. As a tribe member, you gain the security of being part of a bigger group, which lends itself well to securing food and shelter and protection from other tribes.  Of course, at some point tribes must intermix (for marriage, power, etc.) and this is one of  the first theories of how the first societies started to become more complex melting pots of kin-based tribes self-defined by society created ideologies like nationality, religion, and common language.

Today, security is much more than the a buffer for the overlap culture and colonialism, it’s an international strategy necessitated by every nation to provide the best protection and resources for all its tribe-members. In modern international relations, this can manifest in different ways including espionage, military force, politics, and economic embargoes.

Overall, as society has evolved, so has the way we approach security on a grand scale. Security is a vestige of community existing today that traces back to the initial founding of society. It is something oft overlooked when we think about our communities, but perhaps should be one of the more important reasons to be a part and take pride in your community. As long as we can consider ourselves a part of at least one community, there is security in place that we depend on.

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