Social Trust

Social trust is a human necessity if one doesn’t want to live completely isolated and alone. Social trust can be created within a household, a group, a community, a city, a state or province, a nation or perhaps even the world. It is the sense of togetherness, the norm of cooperation between individuals that allows them to work together in their lives. It is reciprocity and exchange.

Our personal levels of social trust may vary, based on our experiences of the world. The world we live in makes it difficult to trust anyone or anything sometimes. So many people have been disappointed or lied to or treated with disrespect or abuse in their lives by systems, groups or individuals. In the wake of this treatment, they lash out or isolate themselves further away from societal norms because they feel they can no longer trust that part of the system or the system as a whole. Sometimes they strike out with violence.

If a system treats you with violence, do you have the right to strike back at them with violence?

Truly, the statement “an eye for an eye makes the world blind” has some validity to it. Violence to solve violence makes no sense. Does inflicting more hurt take away the hurt that’s already experienced? Non-violent strategies can work. Sometimes they are met with extreme violence, and must face tremendous abuse and struggle.

In the last century, we have seen the change in North American society through non-violent means that has altered the status quo so that blacks are entitled to the same legalities as whites, and women as men. We have been moving towards more equity in many of our systems, but others still fail us. Other systems still breed hatred, intolerance or distrust. These systems must be changed. Social trust is lost with each inequitable system, and rebuilding the trust is a tremendous task.

So often, the creation of groups, organizations and associations is seen as the best way to build social trust. It extends so far beyond this. The social trust created must be greater than the social trust lost or we wind up killing and abusing each other en mass. We wind up feeling alone, insecure or angry; often leading to violence or violent thoughts.

The world is so incredibly complicated right now. It is really complicated here in North America because we are almost forced to rely on our systems for our daily survival. We no longer rely on ourselves and our systems are in many ways failing us. This is a scary thought. If we do not start building more social trust on the government and national levels and in our systems, the smaller associations of trust will begin to close themselves to the outside world and we will have learned nothing but distrust.

In many ways, this has already started to happen. Just look to the increase in barter and trade, and those seeking to live off the grid and be self-sufficient. So many want to escape this crazy system and live a more trusting existence, where they are connected to their own life. This new “financial” crisis (and I use that term loosely) has reminded us of the struggle of our parents and grandparents. Those who lived through the depression and scrimped and saved and yet often led incredibly satisfying lives. Many are beginning to see the failings of capitalism. The failings of this over-consuming society. Over the last several decades, we have become immersed into ourselves, increasingly insecure and in need of material goods to fill this insecurity. We need to rebuild the trust in society, and not fill this distrust with things or violence.

We can learn to work together and change, or we can continue violent practices. We have certain agreed standards already in place that are not fully enforced or ratified (such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). These standards were created to change societal norms to be more peaceful, but haven’t been fully incorporated yet into the whole society. They were created so we could avoid some of the tragedies we have seen in the past. A learning tool for us, a framework to start to make change.

If legally agreed upon standards are ignored by our governments, what example does it set to follow laws? Social trust is broken, and society becomes more chaotic. So how do we change this?

Little by little. We rebel against the injustice in peaceful ways. We speak out against atrocities. We change ourselves and our thoughts and behaviours. We change the legalities and systems. We learn from the mistakes of our ancestors and avoid those mistakes for our grandchildren.


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