Thinking Aloud About Trust

I didn’t know Osama bin Laden had been killed until I returned to Britain on Wednesday last week. Immediately, it seemed, the world was abuzz with claim and counterclaim about what actually happened. Whose account should we trust? Whose account COULD we trust? At the same time, the endless rumble about ‘the financial services industry’ (banks to you and me) continues to raise questions about trust; so too does the debate about the limits of freedom of the press. The Catholic Church is still feeling the effects of the lack of trust that inevitably follows from what we have learned about the abuse of children and adolescents. Everywhere we look, it seems, public trust is very low. Is it any wonder that bad faith and lack of trust often mark our private lives too?

For me, the problem with that question is that it presupposes that public morality shapes and determines our private codes of morality and honour. It is true that some people take their ideas of right and wrong from what is legal or not (though I have to say that does not seem to apply to speed limits). That is why time and energy is devoted to promoting/opposing/repealing legislation which touches on human rights, or what are perceived to be such. Fundamentally, however, it is our private ‘world view’ which shapes our attitude to the public sphere. If there is a lack of trust, and even more, a lack of trustworthiness, in our private lives, it is absurd to expect better in the public sphere. If we bend the truth, why shouldn’t others? Isn’t that why we sometimes doubt what we are told, rather than because we think others are trying to hoodwink us?

I was sickened by what bin Laden did in life, but I have also been sickened by the gloating that has followed his death. The desire to circulate photographs of his dead body to ‘prove’ that he is dead is nothing of the sort. It is a manifestation of something I’d call glee, a measure of the lack of trust in our public institutions and, by implication, an admission of the lack of trustworthiness in our own lives. Overstated? Possibly. Trust is a beautiful quality, well worth cultivating. When it is lost or destroyed, something very precious passes from the earth.



3 thoughts on “Thinking Aloud About Trust”

  1. “Revenge is mine, says the Lord” and something tells me we would all do well to remember this…
    Sorry Bible reference temporarily escapes me.

  2. Strangely, the West created Osama bin Laden and we have forgotten it. In the end, it had to destroy its own creation (see the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the CIA training bin Laden).
    Yesterday, I watch a youtube video on Pedro Arrupe, who was in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb exploded. He took care of the thousands who came through his place some miles away from the explosion. From then on, he could not stand violence of any kind.
    While I experience violent reactions, reactions I hope some day will go away, the older I get, and I’m getting older, the stronger I long for peace and peaceful means.

  3. I feel the same way, Claire. MaryClaire is astute in quoting “Revenge is mine.” And I agree with the central notion put forth by the main blog entry by Digitalnun.
    I found the rejoicing very distasteful, and the clamoring for visual evidence repulsive.

    At the same time I cannot say I can find it in my heart to condemn what happened — and I never thought I’d say this about a wretched assassination.

    An anecdote: I had dinner with a friend a couple of nights ago; it’s hard to say which one of us is more intensely liberal. She is also frightfully CORRECT and FAIR. She told me she had two swift reactions to the news of the death of Osama bin Laden. A thought that burst into her consciousness, amoral in its swiftness, “Finally, we did something right.” And here she had in mind in one fell swoop all the things so many of us had abhorred from the bombing of Afghanistan to the war in Iraq. It was swift, unceremonious, and arguably defensive. I see her point. Her second reaction was bursting into tears as 9/11 flooded back.
    Both of us are New Yorkers.

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