I was talking to a family friend this past weekend who retired from his company after 30 years. Thirty years with the same company – something that you do not hear about too often in these days of downsizing, transient workforces, and job transfers. Finding people who spent 10 years at the same place is becoming a challenge (5 years if you happen to reside in the D.C. area).
As I talked to the friend, I thought about the election last week where voter loyalty and party identity are the exceptions, not the norm. Independent voters – who identify with neither the donkey or the elephant – appear to be growing in numbers and have shown that they will vote against candidates regardless of party. The 2006, 2008, and 2010 trail of losing incumbents serves to demonstrate that loyalty in politics is not what it used to be. Indeed, many predict that Congress may continue to experience a pendulum of power swapping between Republicans and Democrats through several more cycles (though redistricting efforts could make this theory irrelevant).
Even our allegiances to sports teams is not what it once was with attendance at games and television ratings down and owners moving teams to find more passionate fans. I mean, what does it say when a team in the World Series declared bankruptcy in the months before the playoffs?
So what do these examples have to do with homeland security? Nothing and everything.
Nothing in that there is no clear homeland security threat to be seen in them, though I am certain someone out there might point out that economic espionage may be more prevalent for employees who have no investment in a company or that transitional governments are more prone to security risks. I will defer to others to make those arguments.
Everything in that they show a troubling trend where “loyalty” and “affiliation” are becoming less prominent in our society, resulting in less allegiances, more alienation, and a greater need to be a part of some group. Such a trend could lend itself to the development of homegrown terrorism, as the Council of Foreign Relations recently noted in a report.
So how exactly does the U.S. government reverse the growing trend towards “me” and “alone,” which may contribute to homegrown terrorism? Some guidance can be found in the President’s National Security Strategy released in May. The report found that the empowerment of communities was critical to counter radicalization:
Our best defenses against this threat are well informed and equipped families, local communities, and institutions. The Federal Government will invest in intelligence to understand this threat and expand community engagement and development programs to empower local communities.
I wonder, however, if instead of intelligence we need a comprehensive sociological and cultural analysis of our changing societal norms.