THE MAGAZINE

Working Together Across the Divide

By Sherry Harowitz

Modern scientific theory hypothesizes that there may be multiple parallel universes—bubbles of reality that coexist but never intersect. If you doubt it, all you have to do is scan the Internet, cable, and print media. You will find parallel conversations discussing identical events but from perspectives that are worlds apart.

The issues that underlie these worldviews are all highly charged and emotion-laden, precluding any objective dialog. The John Kerry Swift Boat ads played on those emotions in reawakening the divisions over the Vietnam War. The debate over Watergate still plays itself out as well—I recently saw on one channel a panel with Nixon’s Attorney General John Dean and others from that era discussing what they saw as the monumental transgressions of the Nixon administration, while on another channel journalist and author James Rosen expounded the view that the country may have been better off if Nixon had not been forced from office.

If these historical events can still ignite tempers—and they can—then how much more so the current life-or-death concerns, such as whether the science really proves that we have to radically change our lifestyles and economies to prevent the destruction of the earth from global warming or whether we really are in an existential battle with radical Islam.

I can recommend sources of information on either side of these issues, but few will give you both sides objectively compared and contrasted simultaneously. Sadly, the people who hold these views—and the so-called experts who make a living espousing them—talk past each other, rather than to each other.

Similar willful myopia on a smaller scale is what causes the type of stovepipes blamed for intelligence failures leading up to 9-11. It is also the bane of security’s existence in that security professionals may find they are viewed as a universe unto themselves within a corporation, rather than a key player in the business itself.

It’s critical that security directors fight against the tendency to operate in a reality bubble of their own making. Instead, they must integrate their objectives with the goals of their businesses and even with society at large.

For example, security concerns can be meshed with “green” building standards when new facilities are planned. That’s the topic of this month’s cover story by Laura Spadanuta. The process entails having security meet with the architects, engineers, contractors, and occupants. The goal is to find the right balance between security and sustainability.

The two universes of security and environmentalism are not naturally compatible. In fact, they can at times seem to be diametrically opposed. But if the proponents of either of these fields remain in separate silos, both sides lose. Only by communicating and collaborating can they find ways to serve themselves, their organizations, and the entire community.

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