Trust is dead
By Phil Hoskins
Hill Blue" -- -- This experiment in government
we like to call democracy depends upon a certain level of trust,
not only of government and elected officials, but maybe more
importantly among the people themselves. After many years under
attack, we can now declare trust dead.
Trust was more common and easier to uphold when this nation was
founded. With far fewer people, it was possible to actually know
those with whom you would have contact and in turn be aware of
their history. A liar or scoundrel was known for his works as
was the person who lived by their word. Each was trusted to
behave as they were and accommodation was made for the behavior
Today it is rare for many to even know who lives on their block
or even in the same building. Our culture is segmented, isolated
and IPod-ed so that we are but strangers passing in the mist of
self-awareness. After WW II Americans became more mobile and
less likely to live in extended families. In recent years the
permanent job has all but disappeared and workers have
increasingly been forced to move far from their roots to find
We are isolated as we drive to work, pushed to produce so hard
while at work that co-workers become objects rather than
compatriots, and spoken to and dealt with by the public sphere
on the basis of what divides us, not what we share in common.
Merchants cannot be trusted to deliver what they promise,
employers cannot be trusted to pay on promised retirement plans,
even spouses cannot be trusted to keep their vows. We live in a
buyer beware culture where every person is on their own to make
it through a jungle of real and perceived threats and attacks.
One cannot shop in a mall without fear of some idiot seeking
fame with a rifle, cannot book a flight on an airplane without
fearing being bumped because the flight was oversold. You cannot
drive on the freeway without concern that the idiot racing to
take your space will not pull a gun to prove his point, cannot
give a toy to a child without fear of lead poisoning, cannot
trust a politician on anything.
Trust is dead.
To compensate, we have tried regulating the behavior of
commerce, finance and nearly every aspect of life. Some on the
religious right want to force married people to keep their vows
and some on the secular left want to write enough laws that
trust isn’t necessary because it is replaced by government
The followers of Milton Friedman would have us believe we can
trust in the “market” to right all wrongs, despite the complete
failure in each and every instance where this philosophy has
been tried. Karl Marx would have had us trust in the communal
conscience to deliver the ultimate good, but again, each and
every instance in which it has been tried has failed.
Trust cannot be imposed, it cannot be brought into existence by
faith, it is by its very nature a product of free and open
communication and human interaction. Trust is not a lofty goal
of perfection and honesty. Trust is the acceptance of what is
with the backing of experience that what was foretells what will
be. But it does require facing what is without blinders, being
responsible to look beyond the bright and shiny promises and
putting in the effort to know other people for who they are.
Trust requires that we stop calling each other names as a
substitute for discourse and problem solving.
There is so much of our culture that shoves us away from those
requirements toward a world of fast paced isolation and fantasy.
There is no institution or force on the horizon to pull us in
the other direction, for all have become part of the vortex of
insincerity and pretense.
If trust is to be restored it is up to you and I to step away
from the distractions to see who is around us, to take the time
to smile and say hello, to learn to honor our word as the
definition of who we are and what we do. Trust is dead, but
isn’t this the season that reminds us that miracles are
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