25 March 2011

Who Do You Trust?

Have you noticed that many of the most important issues that make the news (or at least reach the attention of the mass media) are, in one way or another, about breaches of trust?

Trust is one of the most difficult and complex of social and psychological issues.  How do you know when, how and who to trust?  How do you know when to trust your own judgement, and your own instincts?  Are there times when you have given someone the benefit of the doubt, only to find yourself in an unfortunate situation?

History frequently shows that misplaced trust can lead to disaster, potential disaster, and a great deal of distress.  But can a better understanding of trust help us to overcome the machinations of the untrustworthy?

Wikipedia article - Trust (social science)

You may have noticed that I often place Wikipedia articles on my blogs.  Should you trust the information they contain?  Why would you trust that the link will take you where it says it will?

I like Wikipedia articles even if they may be inaccurate at times.  They are where we each have a right to improve the accuracy of information when we discover errors of fact.   The articles are merely a preliminary source, in my view.  They are never treated as a primary source.

Wikipedia article - Primary source

Do you know the difference between a preliminary source, a primary source and a secondary source?  I always treat the mainstream media as a preliminary source.  A preliminary source should never be trusted as being accurate or reliable, but it can be a useful starting point in our understanding of trust.

The point of understanding trust is that it helps us, as individuals and as part of a local society and global community, to respond appropriately to untrustworthy people.  Anyone who is abusive is untrustworthy.  Many abusive people either do not believe they are abusive, or they believe they are so trusted, or so important, that they will be able to continue their abuse without redress for the victims.

Abusers enjoy being abusive.  It gives them a feeling of power, excitement and privilege.  They treat their victims as being of less worth than themselves, of less power, of little consequence.

The purpose of a good society is not only to prevent abuse, and all forms of cruelty, but to empower victims of abuse to have trust in themselves as being worthy of trust.  The trustworthy are the most important people in any society.  But how might we know who they are?

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