Inderpal Grewal


On her book Saving the Security State: Exceptional Citizens in Twenty-First-Century America

Cover Interview of February 18, 2018


I would like people to rethink our concern for security within our families and communities, in the country and internationally. We have spent so much money on militaries and the war on terror and yet we still have serious problems with inequality and violence in this country. Weapons manufacturers, digital media and entertainment corporations obsessively focus on weapons, guns, killing and wars. Violence has long been central to entertainment, and the connection between the U.S. military and entertainment industry is a long history. Now digital media has expanded this use of violence, still aligned with the military, but also “securitizing” and militarizing communities and families via new technologies. They use violence to profit from us or to control us. Perhaps we need to be less afraid, less paranoid, especially with regard to the diversity of humans among whom we dwell. We have come to believe that every nation-state should be a territorially bounded entity with a racial and linguistic monoculture inside it. That is an incorrect reading of history and a desire that nurtures racism and violence—even fascism. Being less afraid should be a mantra for us. Being less afraid would stop us from surveilling each other and make us less suspicious. Understanding the histories of race, class, religion, ethnicity, gender and sexuality are steps towards this goal. My goal is to have us consider how to make societies less militaristic and less violent.

My other goal is writing this book is to understand that humanitarianism is not a solution to the world’s problems. So much research has now made clear that humanitarianism is at most a band-aid to problems which are complex and large-scale. What we see today around the world are the effects of histories of colonialism on regions of the world that were used mainly for extraction of humans and resources and left in terrible condition. This extraction of people and resources continues—mining corporations are still literally impoverishing indigenous communities globally—and it benefits the wealthy. Humanitarianism cannot correct this. Humanitarianism is about the power of the humanitarian, and it shows the inequality, often racial, between the giver and receiver. It simply gives wealthy people, and mostly white Westerners, more power to choose whom, when and where they give help, rather than ending the predatory practices of extraction that creates violence and danger for impoverished communities. This is not to indict advocacy or volunteer work since these are essential to a democracy, but I am concerned that what was the work of the state (providing care and a safety net for all) is now being replaced by volunteer work that is often sporadic, and with little oversight or accountability. Volunteer work should not be a resume builder or something that people do while on vacation or when they retire or if they feel generous or guilty. Advocacy and resistance is work that we should do continually in our everyday lives to force governments to do what is necessary, not just as citizens but as inhabitants of any place on this planet.