The real crisis, in the end, all comes down to a trust deficiency . TRUST. That is the single most important ingredient in a functioning society. We need trust for all kinds of different reasons:
- We need to trust the environment: Individuals need to be able to trust basic existence, trust that their food is safe, their water is safe and the land on which they live is safe. If an environment is untrustworthy it becomes much harder to extend trust in other areas
- We need to trust laws: Society only functions when laws are clear and applied as equally as possible with clear consequences. Any parent worth their salt could confirm this. Children with no clear consequences, or unequally meted out punishments, will inevitably buck the system. Adults are no different. People will take more negative risks in an distrustful society and will often get away with it. The prevailing thought being, if everyone's doing it, I better get mine first.
- We need to trust sources of reliable information. People need to agree on a set of credible information sources, whether experts, leaders, journalists, or organizations. People can disagree on policy, or on how to approach a certain problem but at the end of the day, ideally, they should be working from a single set of agreed upon facts. There is a vast difference between shading the facts to point to our own point of view and breaking those facts outright. To quote Stuart, a character from the popular t.v. show, The Big Bang Theory, "It's a little wrong to say to say a tomato is a vegetable, it's very wrong to say it's a suspension bridge."
- We need to trust the ability for independent organizations to stay independent: Society really only works if we believe that certain organizations are working for the good of all fellow countrymen. Organizations like the Supreme Court, Military, CDC, Homeland Security, Department of Justice and Law Enforcement cannot be seen to be political in any way. They need to be able to function the same way regardless of who is president. Loss of trust in these basic organizations can be catastrophic.
- We need to trust politicians: The push-back on this probably started before the statement was finished. Yes, politicians are considered categorically untrustworthy, and often self-motivated. At the end of the day, though, a healthy society needs to be able to trust the President when he says that something needs to be done for the good of the many. This is even more important if it means short term pain or even outright discomfort for others. Let's say a new bridge needs to be built that will greatly improve air quality by rerouting traffic, but two neighborhoods will be negatively impacted. That leader would need to hold enough trust to be able to "sell" that bridge to his constituents. No trust leads to people who are unwilling to make sacrifices lest they be the one's who are duped
- We need to trust the process of government. People who trust their government to listen to their grievances and address them have little need to protest. Protests and riots happen when people feel they are being disenfranchised. Right now across the country cities are being over run with protests and riots from all sides of the political spectrum because people do not feel their voices are being heard.
- We need to trust each other: This one is hard. People are inherently self-motivated. When presented with two options they will almost always pick the option that benefits them. We need enough trust between fellow countrymen so that they will at least consider that choices which benefit them might be actively harming someone else, and change course. It is impossible to remove all elements of predatory behavior, but when a majority, however small, trusts that their fellow man will take them into consideration, then they themselves will begin to do the same. It is the Golden Rule writ large.
So, what the heck am I supposed to do about this? It is possible you are feeling overwhelmed and aggrieved by everything you see in the world today. It is possible the things going on around you and your family make you feel frustrated and sad, and that in turn leads to anger. There is good news however. There is something you can do:
- Check Yourself: Check to see if the decisions you are making are harming others. Make a decision to make more trustworthy choices. As so often used, but ever relevant, "Be the change you want to see." Challenge yourself to try and stick to only what you know to be true. You will know what is true if you follow the next rule.
- Check your Sources: The more we vet our information resources, challenge our own confirmation biases, and make sure that at least 3 sources from across the political spectrum agree with what we are about to share with someone, we can help return everyone to a single set of trusted facts. The more we can trust the source information, the quicker we can stop arguing reality and start arguing actual policy differences. Trust me*, we will get things done much faster and cheaper that way. (*Did you see what I did there)
- Surround yourself with trustworthy people: The more you trust the people in your life to have your back, the more you will begin to trust strangers.
- Hold Leaders Accountable: Leaders are a reflection of our nation; they are the face we put out to the world. We empower these men and women to make decisions for us that impact our daily lives in ways that we need to trust are for our benefit. There should be steep penalties and mechanisms to enforce them for leaders who break the trust of the people. Not all countries are lucky enough to be able to change leadership, but in the countries that are, trust should be the single most important factor in determining fitness for office.
Trust is the glue that allows people to function. Without it, people's world view shrinks to the circle around themselves and their immediate family. Things break down. Nothing works. No one knows who to believe. We need to work to build back trust across the spectrum. We need to do it. We need to do it worldwide. And we need to do it before it is too late.