A blog about our shared experience…

Community and Trust

A number of previous posts written here were on the subject of community and human nature. It seems pertinent to draw some of those concepts to some current affairs such as the Trayvon Martin killing and the murder of James Craig Anderson amongst many others. Many would attribute tragedies such as these to a rising race or class war, but I feel that there are larger principles at play that we may benefit from considering before we blame these actions of individuals on an overly-superficial analysis of what’s going on.

As some of the discussion in previous posts on race explores, it’s very easy to point the finger at familiar terms such as “race” or “class” when I feel that “trust” among us as individuals and a community is the element has to be considered. Many of us have been led to believe that people outside our blood family are not to be trusted, and that people will likely take advantage of us at every opportunity given the opportunity.

Obviously I generalize, but I believe that most will agree that some degree of suspicion is common in our experience and training about survival in today’s world:

Don’t trust the cops.
Don’t trust the people.
Don’t trust people wealthier than you.
Don’t trust people poorer than you.
Don’t trust people of other religions.
Don’t trust business people.
Don’t trust customers.
Don’t trust women.
Don’t trust men.

Messages like these were often unspoken rules that I assimilated to, and doubt that others are immune to these subtle but ever-present messages we send each other through how we behave and talk to each other and the messages we consume in our media.

The thing is, I’ve had so many places in my life that informed me through experience that people are very much worthy of trust…in fact, we don’t get what we need in life as far as diversity of human interaction and experience without it. Further, people want to trust and be trusted. When you watch a movie, who do you generally gravitate towards and root for? Is it the self-serving bully who takes advantage of those weaker than them or the noble champion who grows through their hard-work and challenges to move higher and higher in their understanding?

So pulling back to the recent news events that I mentioned above(and I welcome others brought forth as examples of a point, please share a link), who are the people who are part of the story? Are they stories of “saints” and “monsters” who are essentially “black or white” characters with no gray area to them or are they individuals with challenging environments that they navigate and make mistakes(sometimes gravely serious) from their vantage point? Can we easily put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, say, in the case of someone like George Zimmerman? What is his story? What was he taught about at home about who and what he can trust? What pain shaped him into the character that committed this act? …it’s possible that his past has a good deal of sadness and pain to it. Do you know any young folks like Deryl Dedmon, John Aaron Rice and Dylan Butler? Is there something you can do now to assist in them making different decisions as they grow?

I’m not trying to excuse inexcusable actions, mind…I’m just trying to look beyond the emotional response to an act that is easy to engage, and think about we can go about the business of preventing the sadness that come from acts like these by healing ourselves and those around us.

We. Need. To. Trust.

8 responses

  1. It is a travesty, these types of crimes and tragedies that decimate us so often, and it is very easy to become so emotionally involved so as to skew our responses. “Justice is the best beloved of all things in my sight,” and it must needs prevail, but it only thrives in a cool head.

    ‘Reaction’ is not necessarily congruent with ‘acting rationally’. We and the media are consumed, presently, with stories resulting from and individual’s irrational reactions.

    We need not look long, nor hard, to find examples of all-out multinational wars, resulting from the irrational reactions of our collectives.

    Cool heads, or slippery slopes. That’s how I see it.
    Peace
    .t

    March 27, 2012 at 3:14 pm

  2. Great post old friend. However I think the concept of trust is standing proxy for a much wider – and much-needed conversation – about the ethics of public life: what is decency, what norms can we agree on, and how do we protect the vulnerable? Is the fact that we no longer trust media, politicians, etc ingrained to now that we don’t trust individuals or is it the other way around?

    As if that were not enough of a mammoth weight of unspoken assumptions to heap on to “trust”, the word is also shorthand for the contested claims of moral decline. The assumption is that we trust less these days because people are more likely to behave badly. For the right, this increased immorality is attributed to the loss of conventional religious underpinning to social norms and an individualistic relativism; for the left, it is about the rise of neoliberalism and its ruthless pursuit of profit and efficiency. Perhaps for our generation we are raised to be cynical and not to trust anyone- I have seen and been inundated with the same don’t trust hyperbole that you mentioned.
    The idea of overall moral decline is not credible; a short wander through history reveals all manner of crooks, corruption and dodgy behavior, and rapscallions. But perhaps there has been fragmentation in specific aspects, so while we may be less tolerant of sexual harassment for example, we are more accepting of an aggressive pursuit of profit.

    True or not, the perception of decline indicates an uncertainty about how, or whether, we could all agree on basic ethical norms in public life. Is it all simply a matter of opinion, my view versus yours. Can we no longer talk about the difference between right and wrong?
    The reason why this is about trust is because above all else the word is about an expectation of someone else’s behaviour, namely, that they will abide by the rules we know. So discussion of a crisis or decline in trust might really be about the uncertainty of ethical norms. “The reflexive use of the word trust is really an invocation on ‘public morality’; the use of the single word is an inadequate compensation for not being able to reason our ethics in public life,”

    The reality is that we depend more and more on trusting expert systems which ensure that our food is healthy, our medicines work, our new cars don’t crash. For all our complaints about loss of trust, we continue to be very trusting in everyday behaviors. But we are anxious because the speed, mobility and information overload of our lives have long since outstripped the mechanisms our forebears used to judge trust – such as personal relationship, deference, family connection and local reputation.

    We trust because we often don’t have much choice, but it’s grudging and nervy and we like complaining about a loss or crisis of trust. That personal anxiety is projected on to public life and is being used to mask the absence of a much-needed debate about the values and behaviour we expect of the powerful institutions which shape our public life.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    • Brothaman, you gave me much to chew on and consider!

      The conversation on morality is and interesting one. A haven’t always thought this way, but I feel that a more present sense of morality will depend on folks agreeing to a common standard in any given locale(and eventually a wider and wider dialogue with others to consult and reflect on those standards), and basing those standards not on existing or past standards, nor the fleeting personal whims of individuals who feel that their own personal autonomy exempts them from being accountable to that social agreement. We presently adhere to such a social contract in the form of laws that govern our states or countries. Some of the elements of that social contract are simpler to navigate because of our experience with it, though I would argue that the present legal system as we know it has some blinding flaws. Point is, no matter how freedom-oriented any individual among us is, we are familiar with subjecting some of our personal sovereignty to a larger social order.

      I’d argue that moral code has been offered as long as we can look back in human history through figures such as Buddha, Zoroaster, Moses, Christ, Muhammad and most recently the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh to name just a few in that long line. A challenge in keeping that evolving moral code in perspective is that many have tried to impose their own interpretation and cultural code to it, making something flexible and evolving very brittle and suffocating over time, leaving little room for the passing of generations, centuries and the maturation of the human species into account. Thus, my perspective is that religious and spiritual understanding is designed to evolve and grow as we do. Easier said than done, I know:)

      The ability of a neighborhood or town to consult and adopt some basic principles to guide interactions and provide a safe space for each person to explore their own expression of those principles in action provides a good starting point for folks to engage more effectively and positively with this budding moral code. We will all, though, have to check ourselves often and frankly to keep the challenging habits and patterns of past communities from hindering that slow and steady progress.

      Obviously, I have more to say, but I’ll let others chime in with thoughts before I assume too much…

      April 4, 2012 at 6:21 pm

      • It’s interesting to think of morality as evolutionary as well. I hadn’t considered that, however I think you are right. Great thread my brother. Talk soon.

        April 5, 2012 at 10:38 am

  3. marcos

    Bravo!! I gotta put the baby to bed. I’ll return with a better post later.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:24 am

  4. Hell.. we can’t even trust ourselves half the time. Yet without it we freeze and close ourselves off to love. So that whole mess of trust, love, forgiveness, joy, peace… it all melds together and we call it life. Walking our journey commands that we do these things, even if it causes us pain and frustration. Because LOVE is what we all seek, in all ways, even if we don’t know it. Those a bit more conscious of it are just that, a bit more conscious. Those that aren’t are still seeking the same thing. We have to.. it’s our nature to want love. I will continue to trust because I choose not to live the alternative. Great writings by everyone. Bravo!!

    March 29, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    • I agree with you, Willow. We do all want that love. The challenge we face with that is that there are many places where love from human to human has been distorted to be purely in the form of sexual or material favors, conditional on expectations that may or may not be from a pure place.

      Many of us will have to reflect deep on our own understanding of love and where that understanding comes from…

      What personal examples informed you of what you are looking for and are able to offer others as far as love goes? Can all of those things be applied universally?

      April 4, 2012 at 6:28 pm

  5. Wonderfully said!!!

    April 11, 2012 at 5:03 am

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