Don’t trust me…make your own decisions

Trust is disappearing and organisations are panicking. Like any rare commodity, just as we are scraping the bottom of t...

August 11, 2003

Trust is disappearing and organisations are panicking. Like any rare commodity, just as we are scraping the bottom of the very last trust barrel, everyone has suddenly decided they want some – and if they can’t get any, they’ll fake it, or buy it or start trading in trust-derivatives, like CSR and social marketing.

Trust is eroding at an infrastructure level: railways, airlines, traffic, telecommunications…all in chaos

Trust is eroding at a policy level: financial regulation, asylum, hooliganism, mmr…all fiascos

Trust is eroding at a symbolic level: doctors, police, politicians now carry little or no authority. We know our rights.

Trust is eroding at an engagement level: media lies, PR spin, celebrities lie, sport drug-taking, failure of international governance…all ambivalent or ambiguous

Trust is eroding at an outcome level: divorce, pensions failure, judicial failure, bankruptcy…all rising

In response to this lack of trust, what happens? ‘They’ try to tackle the effects.

‘They’, increase regulation… ‘We’ practise avoidance

‘They’ increase measurement … ‘We’ engage in deception

‘They’ try to regain control… ‘We’ demand freedom

‘They’ make bolder and grander promises… ‘We’ berate them for inevitable failure

‘They’ become more transparent… ‘We’ become confused, and cynical

And all the while, this game of social chess continues, the gap between ‘them’ and ‘us’ continues to widen. But actually, we realise ‘they’ are ‘us’. Our sense of self is increasingly splintered, our dignity is tainted. We are victims but we are also complicit.

With no trust to fall back on, our sense of community has become a mere vapour, inhaled when Oxfam is at the door and exhaled with a spattering of phlegm when something real, like a train-seat is at stake.

So, in response to this lack of community, what happens? Again, ‘they’ try to tackle the effect.

‘They’ humanise authority figures…’We’ laugh at their frailties

‘They’ focus on delivery… ‘We’ lambast them for incompetence

‘They’ campaign their values… ‘We’ distrust them more

‘They’ want to be understood… ‘We’ don’t see the point

And what has been created through these cycles of mislearning? Trust-free communities. Communities of self-interest.

At no point in this litany of disaster has anything been done to tackle the causes.

So here’s a radical and uplifting thought. Maybe trust is an inevitable casualty of an information democracy. A natural sympotom of mass-affluence.

Here’s an even more radical thought. Maybe we should just learn to live without unquestioning trust…and find something more meaningful instead…’self-respect’.

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