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11 Sept 2017

NBlog September 11 - Security culture

Last night we watched a documentary on the History Channel about 9-11 - a mix of amateur and professional footage that took me back to a Belgian hotel room in 2001, watching incredulously as the nightmare unfolded on TV. Tonight there are more 9-11 documentaries, one of which concerns The War On Terror. As with The War On Drugs and The War On Poverty, we're never going to celebrate victory as such: as fast as we approach the target, it morphs and recedes from view. It's an endless journey.

The idea of waging war on something is a rallying cry, meant to sound inspirational and positive. In some (but not all) cultures it is ... and yet, in a literal sense, it's hard to imagine any sane, level-headed person truly relishing the thought of going to war. According to Margaret Atwood, "War is what happens when language fails", in other words when negotiations fail to the point that violent action is perceived as the best, or last remaining, option.

In truth, The War On Whatever involves more than just violent action: the negotiations don't stop, they just change. In public, they evolve into rhetoric and propaganda, fake news and extremism intended to elicit deeply emotional responses. In private, there's the whole issue of reaching agreement, defining the bottom line, stopping the untenable costs, saving face and redefining the boundaries.

National cultures and attitudes towards war and safety go way beyond the remit of our awareness service, and yet the corporate security culture has its roots in human perceptions, beliefs, ethics and moral values. We're unlikely to make much headway in changing those, although that alone needn't stop us trying! Hopefully we can influence some attitudes and hence some behaviors, perhaps drawing on cultural cues as part of the process.

There's plenty more to say on security culture as we work our way through the month: I promise future episodes will be less jingoistic and more upbeat. 

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