The liquid world.

Science, technology, and life.
Aug. 10 2006 6:22 PM

The Liquid World

How to survive in an age of death.

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We're living in a liquid world. All the solid lines—states, borders, battlefronts—are melting. British Home Secretary John Reid made that point in a speech yesterday. Then he reassured Britons that their government, through tougher immigration control, was protecting them from terrorists, "many of whom come from far beyond our shores and have no real connection with our nation."

Nice try. According to reports, all 20 or so alleged conspirators arrested in the new plot are British citizens. Sealing your borders won't protect you.

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So, what do we do? As Reid put it,

What happens when the threat to our nation, and hence to all of us as individuals, comes not from a fascist state but from what might be called fascist individuals? Individuals who are unconstrained by any of the international conventions, laws agreements or standards, and have therefore, unconstrained intent? Individuals who can network courtesy of new technology and access modern chemical, biological and other means of mass destruction, and who have therefore unconstrained capability?

The answer is, some of us die. And the rest of us grieve, but we go on, doing our best to fight the bad guys and heal the world. The grieving and fighting and healing never end the dying. "We are probably in the most sustained period of severe threat since the end of World War II," Reid observed. "While I am confident that the Security Services and Police will deliver 100% effort and 100% dedication, they can never guarantee 100% success."

That's the bottom line: We die. In a liquid world, you can't seal off evil. All you can do is fight liquid with liquid. You have to absorb the tragedy, flowing around and through it. You need the strength of a river, not a rock. You need resilience. You can't be untouchable, but you can be undefeated.

Reid ended his speech with a quote from Charles Darwin: "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." It isn't the individual who has to adapt and survive. It's the species.