Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Who puts safety above freedom deserves neither

A few weeks ago Lexington, the columnist who writes about the US in The Economist describes the process of getting through the security gates of the American embassy: “Having removed his shoes, coat, gloves, hat, jacket, wallet and keys, Lexington walked through the metal detector. It beeped. Your columnist had forgotten to remove his belt”. Thousands of travelers find themselves in the same situation when going through the metal detectors of any airport around the world. That’s part of what’s making air travel so hideous. Airplane food is just about the other.

The new low-cost airlines have done away with the food to hardly anybody’s chagrin. I wonder what would happened if they would also get rid of that crazy airport security which will probably prove itself useless any time soon.

A couple of years back, while trying to catch a plane to beautiful Menorca, I had removed every piece of garment and shoes except for my trousers, socks and a T-shirt to go through the metal detector, and the damn machine beeped. A female security guard shouted me to go back and remove something more. I peevishly asked if I should take it all of and, as she shouted back “Yes!!” I proceeded to take away my pants. Her hysterical screech reached high decibel levels, the other guards gather around and immediately a couple of “guardias civiles”, the dreaded Spanish state police, grabbed me by the elbows and took in my underwear to their station all across the airport lounge. Once there and after they have taken my particulars and beginning to write their report one of them chuckled under his nose, the other smiled back and they send me packing after advising me that I would be cited to court eventually.

The whole incident was brief enough that I had ample time to catch my plane. Actually I would not give a damn if I have to strip myself naked. Being a practicing nudist since my years in Ibiza I feel quite comfortable stark naked amongst other people. What I hate is the incoherence, the utter unwarranted suspicion and the scary looks of security personnel. I’m innocent until proven otherwise. So is everybody else. And I’m convinced that all security measures will be circumvented some day if a mad man puts his mind right to it.

The title of this entry is a common misquote of Benjamin Franklin, that balding fellow that greets you from the face of the 100-dollar bill.

The actual quote is “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”, which comes to mean pretty much the same.

So there.

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