Last week I was thinking about how important it is to socialise, this week I’ve repeatedly been reminded how important trust is in our society.
We live in what is now described as a ‘post truth’ or ‘post facts’ world and this scares me precisely because it serves to undermine trust. Nowhere is the necessity for trust more apparent that when we drop our children at the school gate or visit our GP for a consultation. At the school gate we hand over our children and trust that the school will do no harm to them during the day and that they will be happy, smiling and, hopefully, a small step along their learning journey when we collect them in the evening. Likewise, when we visit the GP and they inform us of the need to take certain pills or submit to a certain procedure, we are trusting that they have been trained to do this, that they are acting in our best interests and, ultimately, they are experts in their field (when was the last time you asked a teacher or GP to see their various certificates?). The fundamental problem that drives the need for trust is that we are not experts in every field (I couldn’t tell a good virologist from a bad one) and we simply don’t have the time or the expertise to check and verify the evidence for everything that we take at face value - and so we return to the need for trust if our society is to function.
Unfortunately, at the moment, online, in the press, and in the news our trust seems to be being undermined and eroded. While we trust that the politicians are taking the right advice and that they are making the decisions for the right reasons, in the various echo chambers online, we are made to feel naive and foolish for having this faith. And perhaps this is now necessary? After all, world leaders will confidently say something one moment and a few months later completely deny having said it (and this is despite video evidence that they did). Facts seem to stand for nothing and the power of truth and factual intellectual debate in public debate is rendered worthless when it is simpler to just discredit the character of your political opponent rather than his or her argument.
So what are we left with? Well, I think we are left with a greater need than ever to educate our children that trust is not naive, so long as it is complemented with some discernment. It is a necessary requirement of a functioning society. It must be tempered with just the right amount of questioning and doubt but, ultimately, we must teach that it is a fundamentally important part of how we work as humans. Without trust we can no longer deposit our money in the bank, buy anything online, drop our children at the school gate or agree to have surgery.
John F Gilmour