Mind War: Part 3 -- How much do you trust your government?

A couple of years ago, we realized that some of our mail was getting stolen. Particularly some Christmas checks and cash from well-meaning relatives. We purchased a locking box, but the issue continued. We ended up working with a postal investigator. She would send us tempting looking cards and letters and call us to see if they arrived.

When she called to let us know that the issue was resolved and we wouldn't have any more problems, she was evasive and vague. But I can tell you that we had a new postal carrier the very next day. And in the following year we had enough issues with our mail delivery (notes saying that our mailbox was blocked and they would no longer deliver, mail in the street -- locking box, remember?) that we ended up getting a PO Box for a time. Retaliation, I figure.

Maybe you're cynic enough to just nod and say "yeah, that's how it goes." But I can't help thinking, you know, if you can't trust mail to come, then doesn't that tell us our civilization is just hanging by a thread overall?

Shit's been pretty scary out there in the big world. The Friday of the Paris attacks, the kid (who is all of 12) came home and said "this is the start of WWIII." She's got a high school level WWII history class, but said that her teacher dodged the question of current parallels when she tried to ask it. But she can see it coming when she sees the news.

The US public and political response has been, for the most part, completely appalling and calls into question both our basic reasoning skills as well as our humanity. It's as if fear has rendered us unable to think straight (Gordon is right as usual).

I know I have readers in various countries around the world. But despite this being from a US perspective, I believe that much of it is applicable to any country. Because if the symptom is fear, the cause is lack of trust. (And if the cause is fear, the symptoms are hate and intolerance, but that's a rant for another day.)

Years and years ago (and yes, I'm getting old enough to use "years and years" un-ironically) I came to the realization that the ability of any civilization to survive relies on trust in the structures of that civilization -- that typically means trust in government. You don't have to like your government, but you have to trust it. This is regardless of the kind of government you have. The trust of the populace in the king, parliament, dictator, congress, or president is the lubricant that keeps gears and cogs of civilization moving. It's theoretically easier to trust a democracy (you own it, right?) but that's what makes the current trend so scary.

Nothing I've seen since has change my opinion on this. The solution to any problem, the advancement of any technology, the smooth functioning of nearly every public function is based on this.

Trust the US government "just about always / most of the time"
Go play with the numbers, it's interesting stuff
So, you can see the problem, right? 

This guy agrees (and he got book and a TED talk, so he must be awesome). He notes that the issue is global.

The reaction to this from anyone below the age of 60 is going to be shock.... shock that the US population was ever that naive. Meaning that most of us are not only mistrustful, but mistrustful retroactively. This probably explains why we see old people as hopelessly naive: they were the idiots who used to trust the government, lol.

This lack of trust is bi-partisan. Liberals don't trust the government to care for the environment, keep corporations in check, implement reasonable control of firearms, avoid killing the middle class through corporate welfare, levy logical taxes, and limit the power of authority to harass and spy on citizenry. Conservatives don't trust the government to respect the sovereignty of the states/local governments/individuals, do what's necessary to fight terrorism, limit pointless regulation that suppresses entrepreneurship, avoid killing the middle class through welfare to the poor, levy logical taxes, and limit the power of authority to harass and spy on citizenry.

And no one trusts the government to look past the next election and their own individual pocketbooks and future consulting gigs in order to get anything done whatsoever. In fact, I'm sort of shocked that 20% of us still actually trust the government. Who are these people?

This lack of trust is rendering us unable to implement solutions to our many problems. Even solutions that sound good and workable are ruined by our inability to trust that our government won't mess it up. And the lack of trust in the "other side" goes all the way to the top, to the government itself. So it's a self-fulfilling prophecy as half our government mistrusts the other half.

And whether the government is literally trustworthy, or ever was, is actually not that relevant. It's the perception of trust that matters. I know that sounds crazy, but if a majority of people trust the government to have its act together, to align its best interests with that of the populace, to accomplish its goals with a minimum of bullshit... they will allow the government to at least attempt to function.

It's similar to currency. Paper fiat money is a civilized fiction, a collective delusion. But despite the fact that there's no "there" there (nothing of hard value to back the paper), the general "full faith" in the currency allows it to function and it therefore gains value from that fact alone. The bank that holds my mortgage, the farmers market, the electric company, and the gas station will all accept US currency without any issue. In fact, they will go further and accept the fiction of the fiction of value by taking my promise of currency through a credit card, debit card, or personal check (theoretically, I rarely use checks anymore).

In fact, the government expends a lot of time and effort making sure that the currency fiction never wavers because the result would be chaos. Chaos that impacts everyone, but particularly the wealthy entities of our country (Wall Street, banks, corporations, the government itself). I think this happens because the effort is tightly scoped (there are only a handful of official entities involves in literally "making money") and relatively under the radar.

Too bad there's not a similar effort to keep up the sense of trust around the rest of the government. But in fact, the opposite is true. There are many entities that are highly invested in eroding our trust -- in the government, in science, in knowledge, and in each other. And while, as a liberal, I feel justified in pointing to conservative media and churches, there are people who claim every political affiliation who do exactly the same. Some of that erosion is accurate and some inaccurate (I've taken my share of potshots at industries like big pharma and agriculture that I believe are actively harming us). But at a certain point, truth matters less than usefulness.

Above all, trust is eroded by the government itself which shows you just how dysfunctional the system is, as they stand there and shoot themselves in the foot for dollars (the soap opera of the current Republican party is the most visible example, but not the only one by far).

Liberals don't trust corporations and conservatives don't trust the government. What we both seem to be missing is that at this point the two are fundamentally the same. There was a time when, regardless of your political alignment, you expected both to act for the general good -- because the general good for us was also good for them. Happy customers buy more widgets. Happy people reelect their leaders. Now we expect the exact opposite... and they endlessly meet our expectations.

The politics of the US is barely functional, and while the problem is worse at the federal level, it permeates every level of society (right down to the local mail). And corporations and financial entities are no better. Their "enlightened self interest" is no longer aligned with our best interests. So we don't expect to be able to trust them, and indeed they aren't trustworthy in large ways and small (looking at you VW). They will gleefully bankrupt all of us and the Earth for their short term profits until we all collapse together. How else do you explain the '08 crash? You hoover enough money out of the larger economy and it starts to all be smoke and mirrors. It takes only the slightest breeze for the whole thing to go *poof* into the ether.

In fact, this hints at the reason behind the erosion of trust. If trust is required for civilizations to get anything done, it's also required for civilization to change. If you want a different system, you need to come together in a general atmosphere of trust. You have to trust that you can work with people who aren't like you, who have different beliefs and goals and views on the world, to find a way to make things better for everyone. No trust? Status quo, all the way.

We can't change the trajectory we're on -- as a society -- because we don't trust anyone or anything. And there are those who like this just fine. At least some of these entities are obvious, those who benefit from the current mess, who make the money and have the power. Some are less obvious, those who love the fear and lack of trust, who lap up our dark energy and get power and enjoyment from it. That sounds supernatural, but every person standing there saying "fuck the refugees, fuck the immigrants, fuck the poor" are sipping a thimbleful of that poison themselves.

The result is two things, both scary:

  • First, the current system can't be fixed from within or without because it no longer functions well enough.
  • Second, the current system is unsustainable and will eventually collapse.
If there's a takeaway here, it's that politics both harmful and useless. Vote if you must (and based on the current US circus, you may need to), but don't waste any time thinking about or debating or arguing politics. It's a shell game, created to divide and distract us while the world burns and the .1% divide the spoils.

Look local, keep it personal, build trust and networks of trust wherever you can. Don't give in to fear. 


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