VULNERABILITY: a condition of defencelessness against a perturbation of nature

Vulnerability is a predisposition to becoming a victim. To have no defence against a particular type of disturbance is to be vulnerable to it. Individuals or groups can only sustain themselves within the chaotic environment of nature if they can devise control systems to compensate for the endless variety and magnitude of the threats to their well-being. The bee is vulnerable to becoming enmeshed in a spider web because it lacks reliable warning and avoidance systems. Living creatures... human or otherwise... exhibit various degrees of vulnerability to becoming road-kill, depending upon their level of awareness and sophistication. Universally of course, the vulnerability to death of every living thing, is the predisposition to ending up as a convenient parcel of food-chain nutrients. It is even sensible to describe inanimate things as being vulnerable to natural forces... deforested hills to erosion, coastal areas to tsunami, waterways to icing over, and so on...

Vulnerability is a condition of being without a defence against a particular threat. Nature has evolved into more and more intelligent forms, by the advantageous mutations of predators being continually neutralized by the defensive mutations of the prey. A defensive system in nature has evolved to combat an ever-changing threat, and so diminish vulnerability to it. Humans can feel threatened by anything at all, in both the known and the unknown universe. There is nothing experienced or dreamed up by humans that they cannot be threatened by, and so defence systems... of various levels of effectiveness... have been set up against just about anything. Since no defence system can ever be infallible, so no entity can ever be invulnerable... and human history is replete with examples of defences that failed.

Vulnerability is enhanced by a lack of knowledge and experience. It is the state of a living entity, where sensory feedback is either unavailable or ignored, with the consequence that an effective self-interest interaction with nature is perilously reduced. All entities that are part of the web of life are subject to various forms and degrees of vulnerability at all times during their life. Unconsciousness... where the organism cannot fend for itself and is reliant on external support for survival... is obviously the most extreme, but even the various states of un-awareness are conditions of significant vulnerability. To be unaware that a wasp nest has been established in the garden shed is to increase the likelihood of being stung. To lack information about the financial dealings of an investment company, is to be vulnerable to being defrauded. Even behaviour which has been conditioned... and has thus become more or less instinctive... can be a serious hazard if the responses suddenly become inappropriate. Being conditioned to driving on one side of the road and reacting in an automatic way to common driving circumstances can be a serious hazard if it becomes necessary as a tourist to change from driving on the familiar side of the road to the other. The most common form of vulnerability however would be 'blissful ignorance'... summarised concisely as 'don't know, don't care'... Ignorance of everything from the rules of the road, the dangers of firearms, the hazards of microbiology, and so on, to a complete lack of medical appreciation as to the functioning and purpose of one's own internal organs, makes the uninformed individual vulnerable to being a victim. Ignorance is the aura which advertises vulnerability.

Individual vulnerability is diminished by social alliances The core concern for any individual entity is survival, and at an evolutionary level it is a matter of eat or be eaten. At a sociological level it is a matter of aligning with convenient groupings in order to acquire enough power to realize survival objectives. The individual is so vulnerable to random fiats of nature and to any predatory aspirations, that the fantasy of an all-powerful invulnerable super-hero or god is a pervasive delusion in the search for security. The reality is that the only security available to an individual in the environment of a society, is that which results from the pragmatic formation of group alliances of mutual support. It was never the prayers to an all-powerful god that provided any sort of security... but the size of the group performing the invocations. It is the numbers that count. Small groups tend not to get their prayers answered.