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June 11, 2022

The Breaking Down of Trust

Photo by Ivan Obolensky

Trust is defined as the assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something. One in which confidence is placed. It is also the belief in the reliability of someone or something.

When I examine the world, I see the persistent, systematic, and incremental breakdown of trust among individuals, between individuals and organizations, organizations and governments, and between governments, organizations, and individuals.

It is a thread that runs through today’s stories. Is this by accident, or design? A symptom, or a cause?

Each of us as individuals can be self-destructive. Perhaps groups are not so different?

Regardless, examining the declines of many civilizations across large swathes of time, distances, and cultures, the common denominator before and during their implosions was the breaking down of trust. Those things that could be relied on became unreliable. This applied to both institutions and the values they embraced. Being inconsistent and capricious, they were abandoned.

Given the above, what can be done?

As individuals, we can do several things. We can keep our word. We can do what we say we are going to do. We can be trustworthy. That may seem like a small thing, but it is far more powerful than one might think.

In an article called The Cooperation Game, where I address this issue in more depth, I wrote that computer simulations point out that being trustworthy and reliable over many iterations creates small pockets, which grow and join other pockets, which expand and connect with others into islands. Over time, life becomes better.

Trust may be hard to find today, but we are not without hope or the means. By being reliable, one becomes trustworthy, and that encourages others to do the same. In this way, civilizations are maintained, or can be reborn.

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