Tim Urban, who writes the popular blog, Wait But Why, has a new book out. I bought What’s Our Problem: A self-help book for societies immediately.
With a title like that, of course I did. And he did not disappoint.
Among the myriad potential memes and memorable aphorisms running through his book, the statement, “Trust, the critical currency of a healthy society, is disintegrating” got me thinking back to my years in Kazakhstan.
“Trust, the critical currency of a healthy society, is disintegrating.” Tim Urban
When I was living in Kazakhstan, thirteen years after their independence from the former Soviet Union, they had no checking accounts. There were cell phones galore, and banks that lent credit (at exorbitant rates) and offered ATM machines. But they had no credit cards or check books. Why? I wondered.
As I wrote in my memoir of that time, it had to do with the lack of trust the people had in their institutions – or the institutions had in the people? – Who could blame them when the entire infrastructure of their Soviet society, had just crumbled before them?
Trust enables us to put our money into banks, to receive loans, to use credit cards, to bother with long range planning; even basic cooperation requires some element of trust. I watched in dismay during our recent pandemic as trust in our own Center for Disease Control (CDC) wobbled and professionals, experts in their field, were summarily ignored or mocked. If Tim is right, if trust in our fellow man is disintegrating, with what kind of society will that leave us?
In his first few weeks with us, I watched Aslan, our new cat, tentatively test everything in our home. For the most part, he sniffed. Sometimes he tapped with his paw.
We humans have our own form of sniffing and pawing, don’t we? While you’ll not see me sniffing a new found friend, you will see me going slow in a new relationship. I want to be certain I’m not missing any red flags.
Wouldn’t that be helpful if we could see a red flag waving before us?
Alas. We are on our own here, with our own life experience our guide.
For me there’s safety in the authenticity, dependability, genuineness, reality, and truth of what I trust. I relax when I believe I can trust. But trust is always built on previous experience, starting in infancy of course.
Of course, I reserve the right to discover I’m wrong. Discovering I misplaced my trust will become one more piece of information to help me decide to trust in the future.
Which may be why I, personally, will never bungie jump. I have NO EXPERIENCE to help me feel safe. No thank you.
How about you? How do you experience trust? And do you agree with Tim Urban?