The International Writers Magazine:Comment
Who Can You Trust?
Why is it that in today’s society there is so much mistrust, of politicians, the media, businesses, you name it?
“Humans are a trusting sort. This is largely a good thing, as progress requires co-operation and co-operation demands trust. Countries with higher levels of trust grow faster and have more stable public institutions. Trusting citizens are healthier, happier and more likely to start their own businesses.”
These wise observations are to be found in The Economist, a journal widely regarded as a right-of-centre paper, and perhaps the least likely to be labelled ‘socialist’. With the exception of a single caveat, to which I shall return, I believe the Economist’s claims to be true, if not indisputable. Trust has been the cement that allowed puny man to become the top predator of the animal world. Long before the invention of gunpowder man hunted in groups bound by trust, just as chimpanzees do today. Over the centuries those groups coalesced into tribes, and into nations in which a people shared a sense of identity and mutual trust.
So, what happened? Why is it that in today’s society there is so much mistrust, of politicians, the media, businesses, you name it? Why do so many people think that institutions only want to rip them off. I believe the answer lies in a philosophical change that people have been conned into accepting. Over a number of decades everything was done that could be to erode our sense of identity and mutuality. Nationhood was abandoned to be replaced by a global view. We have been led to believe that values are common to mankind across the globe, that society was at best an irrelevancy and at worst an imposition foisted upon us by those damned socialists.
That collective identity based on trust was displaced by unadulterated individualism based on self-reliance. Mutuality gave ground to egoism. Those individuals unable to cope in this self-reliant world become either pariahs to be scorned, or unfortunates for whom one of course feels sympathy. In the process those institutions fostering mutual trust were eroded, be it family, church or nation.
So deluded have we become that many now accept the present state of things as ‘natural’, implying that it came about and is maintained because of natural forces. That is not the case. Our world today is the creation of conscious manipulation by those who believe that progress depends on competition rather than co-operation. It is the product of those for whom the sense of mutuality presented a barrier to their ambitions. It has been manufactured by people who share the caveat regarding co-operation that I mentioned earlier.
‘Co-operation demands trust’ only in a world where there is a collective identity, but if that identity can be destroyed, co-operation can be enforced through fear. The truth of this is evident in totalitarian states, where fear may be for one’s life, but in a society based on egoism the fear is more insidious. In our society the individual is not so much free as abandoned to his or her own devices, unable to trust others for support. Fear is not necessarily of death, but of failure and possible impoverishment.
This division of human society into an archipelago of isolated egos is not only not natural to the human animal, its perpetuators know it to be a cynical construct from which they absent themselves. They know that the concept of self-reliance is a lie to which they are not subject. Standing above our fragmented egoism they have formed their own society depending on trust and a sense of mutuality. While we indulge in self-obsession they have created their own collective class, and it has been consciously done by people well-schooled in philosophy.
To return to The Economist’s view “Countries with higher levels of trust grow faster and have more stable public institutions.” If that is the case, we must ask why our public institutions have been deliberately destabilised. Who has gained from this process whereby well-established institutions were broken up and the pieces flogged off? Do people trust Yodel more than they did the General Post Office? Does the energy oligopoly deserve our trust more than did the old British Gas Board?
This process of fragmentation and abandonment continues unabated, reaching into public institutions that escaped previous raids. The assessment of people’s fitness to work, the assessment of a disabled person’s application for a blue badge for parking a car, and many other processes have been outsourced to ‘service companies’ some of which have been created solely to exploit the bonanza. Do people trust these target-driven, profit-centred institutions more than they did their public sector predecessors?
Such questions are irrelevant of course, simply because trust is not a consideration. Nor is service. Nor, perversely, is economics, except in the sense that economics became infected with the philosophical virus that gave us individualism. The virus is known in the field of economics as neo-liberalism, which promotes the myth that private enterprise is both more efficient and more beneficial than public enterprise. It suggests that the profit motive is necessarily superior to a sense of service or dedication in all fields of endeavour. It is no coincidence that those promoting this philosophy are people who either make pecuniary gain from it, or feel no need of the services flogged off.
So, to answer my earlier question, there is so much mistrust in our society today because the basis of trust, the acknowledged mutuality in society has been destroyed. Where will it all end? Well, that depends on whether or not the duped masses realise what has happened when they become tired of taking selfies.
© Tom Kilcourse Feb 19th 2016
A New Decadence
The politerati in the West have lost their way and are increasingly divorced from their subjects. Everywhere in the western world we see the rising phenomenon of unconventional politicians and political parties, with either Left or Right labels.