Curmudgeon's Corner, Philosophy

Curmudgeon’s Corner: Trust Today

Written by Sanford Begley

Trust. According to research, our society is considered a high trust society. This means that if your new neighbor comes over and wants to borrow a pair of pruning shears you don’t think twice, you let him. This is made possible because our society is a high trust one. We do not expect everyone to steal and lie simply because we are not family. One of the mechanisms that allows this is the public censure of individuals who violate that trust. If your neighbor steals, even if it can’t be proven in a court of law, other neighbors will notice this and cease extending him those opportunities.

In practice this has worked well through most of our nation’s history. We have had relatively small communities and the theft had other consequences. Credit was not extended. People were less likely to hire you. When someone did hire you you weren’t left in positions where you could steal again. The mechanism wasn’t perfect, but it worked well enough that we don’t consider bars on the windows of the average home a necessity.

That level of trust has even extended to our large cities for the most part. Most people follow the mores of the community even if they can get away with violating them. Other societies are not so fortunate. The Arab society, for example has always been a low trust society. You trust your brother before your cousin, your cousin before the village, your village before your region etc.

Now we are seeing a lessening of trust in our society. We are still a high trust society, but it isn’t quite as high as it has been historically. Why is that? Well there are many reasons. The simplest and probably most pervasive is the widening gap between segments of our society. When people are raised for generations being told that they are victims, that another subset of the community has stolen everything from them and that they are owed, well, they feel entitled to take what they feel they are owed.

Add that to a lack of consequences for their actions and the problem expands. If you are told that you will never hold a real job and your only way of ever having anything is to steal it, well you were raised to believe it, so you steal. When you get caught, and your immediate community says that it is wrong to punish you, you feel that you are wronged by being punished for your crimes. We have all heard the stories of families claiming their child should not have been killed by a homeowner for breaking in, “How else is he supposed to get school clothes?”  

Another reason for the problem is the resentment of the mainstream of society for the direction crime and punishment is going. Rightly or wrongly the average American who is trying to make a life and a better future for his children sees the state of the legal system and feels almost equally victimized. They know that if a gangster breaks into their home and robs them an attorney will claim that the poor unfortunate youth was simply left with no choice and that they are horrible people for calling the police. The police are getting afraid of arresting criminals for fear that any force needed will backlash on them, even resulting in them going to prison for trying to do their best to protect and serve.

The police are often in a position where they feel they cannot trust anyone. The people they spend the majority of their time with are criminals. Which subconsciously leads many of them to assume all people are criminals. Add that to the fact that many police departments have had their jobs switched from protecting the public to revenue gathering and things start to get a little untrusting. On top of this the SWAT teams are the glory positions, on police forces, so they get oversized and used instead of a regular officer. And the increasing bounty of surplus military equipment being issued and it is getting to the point where there is little trust of the public for law enforcement, and no trust of the public by law enforcement.

We have time to change this slide into a low trust society where everyone turns their hands against their neighbors, but that time is running out. What do I see as the first steps in fixing the problem?  

Well we could start by erasing the plethora of bad and useless laws that effectively make everything illegal. We could start expecting the members of various interest groups to start obeying the laws and being punished when they do not. We could remove from positions of influence those who profit by dividing us. And we could start holding our elected representatives to a higher standard.

Do I think we will do any of those things? Sadly no.

5 thoughts on “Curmudgeon’s Corner: Trust Today

  1. When people are raised for generations being told that they are victims, that another subset of the community has stolen everything from them and that they are owed, well, they feel entitled to take what they feel they are owed.

    I think that historically the First Nations have a good reason to think that.

    They know that if a gangster breaks into their home and robs them an attorney will claim that the poor unfortunate youth was simply left with no choice and that they are horrible people for calling the police.

    I’d really love to see an example of this. Real court documents as compared to anecdotal evidence. Or rather several examples. Because I have a strong feeling that this is an Urban Legend.

    We have all heard the stories of families claiming their child should not have been killed by a homeowner for breaking in, “How else is he supposed to get school clothes?”

    But how true are these stories?

    The problem with your thesis is that while it sounds great, there’s no backup, because crime rates have fallen significantly over the last twenty years. I had intended on embedding a link, but the blog software thinks a link to the FBI website is spam.

    What has changed is the reporting of crimes. Twenty years ago (1996) the Internet was still unknown to most people. Early adopters like myself had been on it, and companion services (WWIVNet, FIDONet) earlier, but we were the exception.

    Now you can hear about a crime in Waco, a crime in Toronto, and a crime in London in within seconds of the crime happening. This creates a perception that crime is more prevalent than it is.

    So you get people who have become paranoid after watching the news using a gun to blow away someone who broke into their house. Of course the family of the dead break in artist is going to say nice things about them. They wouldn’t be human if they didn’t try and remember their family member in the best possible way. There’s and old saying, Don’t think ill of the dead.

    Of course another possibility is that society is fifty years behind the crime curve. The Sixties and Seventies were possibly the most violent decades ever. Crime has been dropping since, while paranoia, mostly against the different coloured other has risen dramatically.

    And murders sell newspapers. Maybe we’ll see a future where the crime writers of competing newspapers/tv stations/web news sites kill each other off for ratings! Or maybe they’ll organize a version of American Ninja Warrior for news people that is to the death. It’d draw a hell of a lot of viewers.

  2. Uh, actually the most violent crime decade was the 80s. Something about cocaine being a hell of a drug. As of this year, since it’s been dropping we’re tied with the 60s/70s in terms of violent crime.

  3. Wayne, you want to see examples of criminals or their families suing the victim? Do a simple Google search. Use the term “burglar sues” and see how many hits you get. There are any number of suits where the person breaking into a house (or his surviving family) has sued the homeowner for protecting himself/herself and his property from the crook. Hell, man, even Crack’d has a recent article showing some of the crazy lawsuits that have been brought against the victims: http://www.cracked.com/article_20605_5-victims-horrible-crimes-who-got-sued-by-criminal.html

  4. How him gonna get his money for school clothes?
    https://youtu.be/2ZGSQXmJPaQ?t=108

    Sanford, I think Americans are becoming less trustworthy. Between socialist ideologies and the great dumbing down (maybe that’s the same trend,) large swathes feel entitled to other peoples stuff. As a landlord I was forced to learn how to screen tenants to avoid being destroyed. Now I apply that to all acquaintances in order to invest wisely.
    It’s nothing new I guess, just more prevalent. Rabbits reproduce until they destroy their environment. I think we are about there. Then we rebuild.

    1. Sadly I cannot disagree with you. It doesn’t help that we have Canadian idiots with huge egos and tiny intellects trying to pontificate on any discussion of the situation. And of course they always side with the NYC liberals because they still hope to be considered cool kids

Leave a Reply