Trust – the common denominator in politics, business and religion – is at all time lows. We are learning the hard way that offers put in front of us by companies are usually in their best interest, but not in ours. When companies evoke freedom of choice, they usually mean freedom to sell. We are also learning the hard way that elected representatives don’t necessarily put our interests first either.

“Many promises lessen trust.”
(Horace, poet)

“For trust him not that hath broken faith.”
(Shakespeare, poet and playwright)

“Once bitten, twice shy.”

“Knowledge people have often comes from faith or
tradition or propaganda, more than anything else.”
(Robert Proctor, professor)

Agnotology, i.e. the deliberate creation of ignorance, is unfortunately quite popular these days.

For example, can we really take Facebook’s or Google’s word for anything?

Do we really trust them?

If not, why are we using their services?

The unfortunate consequence being that sooner or later we tend to become distrustful not only of those trying to exploit us, but of everyone, including ourselves.

After all, how can we trust ourselves and our own judgement, if we don’t trust those, who we are voting for and whose products and/or services we are buying?

“I trust no one including myself.”
(Joseph Stalin, political leader)

Have we forgotten how good it feels, when someone says “I trust you”?

“”I trust you” said the fox to the fox.”

Trust is social capital, it is the glue holding societies together. But societies are failing everywhere, as free markets are not so free, representative democracies not so representative and we, the people, are way too passive.

It takes guts to be honest and those of us trusting their own judgement tend to be more courageous than others and are therefore more likely to speak up.

Anonymously whining in trust surveys won’t change a thing. We have to back up our distrust with action. We must therefore make our trust expensive, make it hard for companies and politicians to earn. And yes, we have to force our elected representatives and corporations to stay trustworthy. After all, we have found that it is not in their nature to voluntarily forego quick and profitable wins. In other words, where there is a bonus-system, there must also be a malus-system.

No ROI without an ROE, a Return on Ethics.

What do we get in return for our invested trust?

Those who fail to earn our trust, don’t deserve our business or vote. It is as simple as that.

If we don’t put a value to our trust, why should others?

We claim not to trust our politicians, yet we often reelect them. We claim not to trust Facebook, yet the user numbers keep on rising. And the list goes on. Humanity definitely doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to choosing leaders and holding them accountable.

But we forget that they need us as much as we need them, may be even more. On one hand, customers need some, but definitely not all, of the products and services offered by corporations. On the other hand, no corporation would exist without money paid and – increasingly – data provided by their customers. And yes, citizens profit from some services provided by the government, services for which they have paid with their taxes. And speaking of taxes, more often than not, they are not invested in the problem areas they were raised for in the first place.

The dependence, if we can call it that, is mutual and not unilateral.

We all know that trust and honesty go hand in hand.

Is being honest a luxury that not everyone – especially the addicted voter-consumer – can afford or doesn’t want to afford?

Even worse, honesty is often not rewarded. I’ve seen it happen more than once and have also experienced it myself that being honest and speaking the truth leads to others deriding you as being naive. “Weltfremd”, as we say in German: “unwordly, having or showing lack of experience or knowledge of the world” according to Merriam-Webster.

Whose world?

And isn’t it changing all the time?

Is withholding the truth or lack of transparency tantamount to lying?

Why are so many companies reluctant to provide understandable and trustworthy information about their products and services?

Why does Facebook need around fourteen thousand words to explain its terms of service and data use policy, whereas the U.S. Constitution manages with four thousand four hundred and the Ten Commandements with less than one hundred words?

Many words don’t build trust, quite the opposite, they suggest that something is being hidden and opaque systems are not trustworthy.

Why do we let these corporations get away with it?

Will generation bargain hunter hold a corporation responsible for unethical behavior?

Is generation bargain hunter behaving ethically?

I believe that there can be no honorable merchant without an honorable customer and that there can be no honorable government without honorable citizens.

“Fame is something which must be won;
Honor only something which must not be lost.”
(Arthur Schopenhauer, philosopher)

Outsourcing responsibility is not an option.

“When the Nazis came for the communists,
I did not speak out;
As I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I did not speak out;
As I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
As I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I did not speak out;
As I was not a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.”

(Martin Niemöller, Protestant pastor and social activist)

Will we dare to speak up?

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”
(Walt Kelly, cartoonist)

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