Security theatre

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

  • A security guard at the MRT (train) station in Manila looks up at my camera as I snap a picture of yet another line for a pointless security theatre check. Her expression conveys her own boredom at what is a completely meaningless and utterly hateful delay to everyones day.

    Manila is plagued by many such futile and ineffective checkpoints. Guards take momentary glances inside your bag and sometimes do farcical ‘pad-down’ searches. The armed guards checks are laughably poor, and I would often tell them that the large metal object in my pocket (my camera) was a firearm. Not once did that comment draw any kind of concern.

    Much of the security theatre comes from the fact that Manila has something of an unenviable reputation for being a dangerous place. That reputation might be deserved in some parts of the city, but to me it seemed no more dangerous than any modern city of twenty million people. Certainly the saturation of so many pot-plant security guards added nothing to my overall safety, and instead just took away some of my enjoyment of this colorful city.