Sunday, May 07, 2006

Story from the Gate of a Shopping Mall

I went to a famous shopping mall in Jakarta last weekend. Soon after I approached the gate, a security officer raised his hand, showed his palm, and asked me to open the door and the trunk for him to inspect the car.

I am always puzzled with the routine here: he was pushing his Garret metal detector half way in to the car underneath my chair and did the same in the trunk. Beep-beep. And that was it.

Of course, if you ask him, he would say that he was looking for a bomb. But the stupidest man on earth would know that he could not find a bomb in the car by only pushing in the stick into the car, beep-beep-ing it, open the trunk, and close it again. What if the bomb was planted inside the backseat of the car? Or what if the bomb was wired around my body?

Besides, I am not sure he knows what to do if he finds a car full of bombs. Will he shout? Will he ask for help? Will he call the police? Or will he be stunned there staring at the car?

There is a bigger issue actually at stake here. Long time ago, contractarian theorists, like Thomas Hobbes, let us know that to ensure your freedom you have to make concessions to the authority. You have to give some of your freedom to be exchanged with common goods, for example security.

What these people supposed to do at gate of the mall is exactly this: providing security. They receive legitimacy from us giving our freedom in exchange for this common good.

If they don’t do it properly, they are invading our privacy, instead. Our cars are private properties and they cannot just break in unless we have agreed to let them do so. We agree, following Hobbes, because we believe that they will take care of our security.

I am starting to think that if they can’t and don’t take care of our security properly, why would we want to have our privacy be invaded?

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