'If conflict threatens a society, safety is more important than freedom' Do you agree? What do you think Miller's viewpoint would have been on this?
If a society sacrifices the basic principles and values that define it in order to maintain safety, what will be left of that society to save?
This is one of the troubling elements of the situation in Salem. To protect the community, the townspeople are willing to kill off the population.
I agree with the previous posters in saying Miller would probably not have agreed with this statement. The government--in this case the court and the church/church officials--wanted to protect this society from the evils of Satan and witchcraft. Instead, these institutions fostered deception and evil. It is the individuals in this play who stood up for rights and freedoms against the government, much like Miller's own experience with McCarthyism.
I think Miller believed, as he was observing this in the early 1950s with Senator McCarthy's hearings and blacklisting in Hollywood, that people of his time were losing their freedoms - freedom of association, of speech, or the fact that they were innocent until proven guilty - just as the people of Salem were in 1692 during the witch hysteria. I think he believed humans too quickly abandoned their civil rights simply so they could have the feeling and perception that they were being protected, even though it often throughout history wasn't actually true.
It would seem that Miller's primary objection to this argument is that those who can profess "safety" could actually be doing more harm than good. One of the most profound elements of Miller's work is that it shows how individuals can be duplicitous and how political structures that are guided in the pursuits of singular conceptions of the good can actually be responsible for some of the worst of crimes. The citizens of Salem were led to believe that human freedom has to always have positive ends as the resultant, and that if it does not result in such entities, there is foul play involved. Rather than embrace the freedom is complex and intricate, the desire to create a singular notion of the good that is shrouded in the elusive notion of "safety" helps to do much more damage than any freedom or conflict within such a setting.
I think it is clear that one of the major points that Miller is trying to make in this play is that safety is not more important than freedom. He is trying to show us that when this mentality exists, we tend to lose our freedom without really gaining much in the way of safety. This is because we strike out blindly trying to protect ourselves even though we really do not know what we can do that will actually keep us safe.
I am ambivalent about the statement. If the government could guarantee my safety from terrorism by tapping my phone and making me take off my shoes at the airport, I would agree. But I am not convinced that they really know how to keep me safe from terrorism.