Manufactured insecurity

Benns' Belief

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By Roderick Benns

Roderick Benns is the publisher of The Advocate. An award-winning author and journalist who grew up in Lindsay, he has written several books including Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World.

"Recognizing that when we give others security, we create more security for ourselves should be a prevailing attitude, not seen as an exotic thought of the left," writes Advocate publisher Roderick Benns.

At one point in my childhood, we had a limousine with a soundproof interior window between the front and back seats.

That was at the height of our relative opulence. My dad had inherited a decent sum of money but unfortunately had the financial acumen of a mushroom – and more than a few other vices. For instance, we owned 57 vehicles over a seven-year period. (I wish that were a typo.)

Between multiple moves and losing money on each car trade-in (we never had more than two vehicles at a time) the money quickly vanished.
Mine was an unusual childhood in that regard, but insecurity was its dominant feature.

Insecurity is the prevailing reality for too many people, all of us living our own stories, all narrated in different ways. (I choose Morgan Freeman – I called it first.)

The trouble is, we’ve built a world that emphasizes insecurity and amplifies fear. Pay your rent or mortgage, or else. Work harder and longer, just to get by. Can’t find a place to live at rates set by the ‘free’ market? You must be doing something wrong, to be so insecure. These are the most negative consequences of unmitigated capitalism.

Astra Taylor, in her new book The Age of Insecurity, calls this “manufactured insecurity.”

While there were social policy gains in Canada after the Second World War, such as unemployment insurance and wage and benefits advances made by stronger labour unions, it didn’t last long. Corporations and acquiescent politicians soon quashed this momentum.

Now, a third of us are trapped in the gig economy, working multiple jobs without benefits, as insecure as citizens can possibly be.

And yet there are ways to relieve the worst outcomes of our economic system.

It should start with a moral framework to help us reorganize our society. Working from the premise of what people need, rather than what the system demands, would be a good first start. Recognizing that when we give others security, we create more security for ourselves should be a prevailing attitude, not seen as an exotic thought of the left.

We know what it takes. Figure out the framework to put people first. This will surely involve stronger unions, a basic income guarantee, fairly priced housing, and a public healthcare system that isn’t shortchanged by a lack of money and imagination.

Yes, the money is there for this. As Taylor writes, when just 10 billionaire men possess six times more wealth than the poorest three billion people on earth, we have a shocking inequality problem. Insecurity has been manufactured by us. How we feel about that – and what we’re prepared to do about it – should be the defining challenge of our time.


  1. Joan Abernethy says:

    Who decides what people need? And who controls the distribution of wealth when we manage to take it away from the billionaires currently holding most of it?

    Don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of the fantasy Girl Who series precisely because she hacks into and redistributes power abusive wealth and metes out justice while she’s at it. But people want such different things. I’m not sure a fair world is possible. Possibly one where want is greatly reduced but not a fair one.

  2. Wallace says:

    Keep voting Liberal. Our country, as well as every country in the west, is changing. Not because of some unplanned, random events. But because of well thought out, long term plans. And when some of us point this out, the usual virtue signallers start screaming about xenophobia and racism. This is part of the problem. If we aren’t allowed to point out factual circumstances, then we can’t solve problems. We are the point where all we do is work, just to get by. Long gone are the days of mom staying at home to raise the kids while dad went to work. (the banks and big business hated it when there was only 1 bread winner in the house, therefore ,only 1 pay check to spend) Now , couples can’t even imagine having kids. It’s too expensive. This is all part of the long term plan. People here can’t afford kids , therefore, immigration from 3rd world countries must remain sky high. Interesting that Russia, China,North Korea, every country in Africa is not , and never will, allow mass immigration in to their countries , yet they push the west to increase their numbers. Weird huh ? The new version of liberal politicians have failed us and will continue to do so. The west is doomed as long as these fools get elected. . Our big concerns seem to be pronouns, DEI nonsense, and espousing the evils of our fore fathers. All this comes from liberals. Keep voting liberal if you want more of the same.

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