Episode 279 S7-41
Can We Restore Trust?
Hope on the Horizon Ch 41
Today we explore an article by the Atlantic titled Collapsing Levels of Trust are Devastating America. The author, David Brooks, argues that there have been many past moments of moral convulsions in the United States. He is unsure that Americans have the moral fortitude to come to a table to discuss issues without applying a centralized power. I harbor the same questions but would never agree to the application of centralized power. Good things never come from it. Let's break this article down.
Brooks and I can agree on many things. We both agree that there is a strong feeling of disgust in society. Trust in institutions is plummeting rapidly. Also, anger over the past and present is plaguing too many Americans. 2020 was the breaking moment with factions from all the extreme viewpoints shouting so loud the leaders could no longer ignore their voices.
In his article, Brooks spews his hatred for Trump all over the pages of his writing, but the thought exercise about how Trump did end up in the office is one that is worth exploring. It was utter distrust for the current political leaders that brought him forth. People wanted a complete outsider with no political experience.
Brooks argues that national consciousness transforms during these tumultuous periods, and new societal norms and beliefs arise, and there is an adjustment of power.
He goes on to explain that the Baby Boomers of the 50s and 60s grew up in a stable society where everyone looked forward to a vibrant economy and boundless opportunity. The convulsions in the 60s were based on unshackling from societal norms and coming together as a people.
Today's generations never experienced this security. They watched institutions fail and lie. Children grew up knowing that the opportunities were drying up, and they would not have the life their parents did—the world view as altered to one of negativity. Teachers taught us that people were a plague on the planet. Climate change was a direct product of this human threat. Prominent voices declared that technological advancements were also a threat to a society designed to destroy the traditional way of life.
The view went from an opportunity to a threat. Brooks argues these alterations are now turning group think from liberation to security, from freedom to equality, from individualism to collectivism, and from a sink or swim mentality to social justice. I believe this is a problem. The boomers' soft times created a new generation of weak individuals, scared of living and unable to take responsibility for their lives. Because of this, they are looking to a benevolent government for answers rather than taking risks and carving their destinies.
Brooks wonders, as I do, if we are in a state for renewal or decline? Will we rise to the challenge?
He explains how the twentieth century saw an end of brutal regimes and the beginning of unharnessed globalization. Capitalism, democracy, pluralism, diversity, and globalization were all gleefully embraced. People came together, and the walls came down. Classic Liberals believed that "individual freedom would blossom into a loosely networked democratic capitalistic world. Individualistic views supported the idea that society flourishes when unshackled from community and state, when they have the freedoms to be true to themselves. If everyone does their own thing, everything will work out for everyone.
I partially agree with these views. Unshackling is the way to encourage growth, and allowing individual freedom does work best. However, there are a couple of things to remember. The first thing is the values. If values are lost, people don't protect one another or our planet. Then, greed and corruption take over. Also, no system is going to be best for "everyone." Some people will inevitably fall through the cracks no matter what type of leadership system is in place.
Brooks, on the other hand, thinks these views were just naïve. He argues that we didn't know what a globalized economy would do to the world's working-class people. Brooks argues that people thought global mixing would breed harmony, but that didn't happen. He argues that everyone thought there would be an opportunity for all, but the elites pull up the ladders of opportunity behind themselves. Brooks finishes his argument with the belief that they were naïve that oligarchs wouldn't steal nations.
Enter the period that Brooks calls, The Trust Fall. He explains that people had confidence in one another not so long ago to do the right thing most of the time. He described the concept of linked destinies and shared moral values, where most people had the same norms. This environment creates a high trust society where people can organize quickly, take action, and make sacrifices for the common good. These societies have lower corruption rates and encourage entrepreneurship.
Brooks does not give a reason for this societal norm falling apart, but I have a suggestion. I believe that the lack of faith in God and the removal of religion from society encouraged the breakdown. It destroyed families and encouraged sinful lifestyles without respect for one another as fellow human beings.
Regardless of where it went wrong, the distrust has morphed into a feeling of "explosive distrust." Brooks explains that society currently doesn't just see those with different beliefs as incorrect but illegitimate. Only a third of Americans today believe that other people will do the right thing.
Brooks argues that an individual builds trust upon the number of people who have wronged you versus those who remain loyal. Those individuals in the lower economic classes have the most distrust of any segment of society, and fewer than one-third of Americans say it is the greatest country in the world.
I believe this is because of the cynical viewpoint that educators have forced upon us. Educators are not teaching about the freedoms that America provided to the world or that we are the beacon of hope for other nations.
Brooks argues that humans need security for survival. Current generations have faced financial insecurity and emotional insecurity because of the lack of two-parent households, identity insecurity because of the lack of socially defined traits, and social insecurity because of a constant worry over how society perceives each individual.
I would argue that all of these societal trends are created by corruption and push to establish a communist state in America. If you look at the goals presented to congress in the 60s, all of these items are on the list. The purpose of the elites has been to turn Americans into debt slaves. The removal of God made marriage less and less respected, disrupting household stability, and furthering economic instability. Another communist goal was to encourage moral disintegration and remove pride in oneself and the nation. When you have nothing to base your self-worth upon, you look to society for affirmation, but no one truly knows what anyone else is thinking. It is all speculation.
The distrust is spiraling out of control. The less you trust your institutions and your government, the more likely you are to believe that there is no one you can trust. You have to put on thick armor to make yourself feel safe. Brooks argues that there are high suicide rates because the lack of trust self destructs the brain. I think it is the lack of self-identity because of the removal of societal definitions and the lack of faith that the creator crafted you for a reason.
Explaining further, Brooks states that distrust makes people less willing to take a risk and reduces entrepreneurship. Groups face off against alternate groups, and political extremism abounds. I can see this point of view. However, I also think that media is just highlighting it more, and social media and search engine algorithms encourage polarization even more.
One thing Brooks and I do agree on is the institutions failed miserably during the pandemic. Brooks argues that the low trust groups took it the worst. Every aspect of society created distrust during this time. The institutions had mixed messages that no one could trust. He claims leadership failed, but I would argue that any leader up against the mainstream media's hatred would have had a tough go of it. People don't trust the testing or solutions. This distrust creates international turmoil and eventually collapses the institutions because no one will want to fund them or work for them. The lack of trust is getting worse. Many groups believe that ripping it all down is the only way to fix the problems.
Brooks goes on to explain why the lockdown didn't work. He blames it on Americans "going off the diet." I can't agree with this assumption. A two-hour flight was turned into a twenty-four-hour flight without the people's consent, and people wanted their lives back. Quarantine is for the sick, not the healthy, and society can't exist in a lockdowns situation where tyrannical leaders tell you when you can go out and what you have to wear while you do it. Brooks also places the blame upon society, without mentioning the removal of faith, the elitist corruption, or the power grab that is happening right now. He whitewashes it all with idealistic principles that use guilt to convince the reader that they should hand over their freedoms because society has become lost.
Brooks explains that we are experiencing some critical cultural shifts. Society is turning from risk to security. "Republicans have gone from free trade to closed borders." His assumption is not valid. Republicans believe that the country should limit immigration to those who do it legally. Trade can still be borderless, except when the trading partners are tipping the economic tables to take advantage of us. Brooks also claims that the neoliberal Dems have turned to security-based views like universal income and expanded welfare. He states that society is turning from achievement to equality. He argues that society is basing your value, not on your wealth, on the quality of your life. I agree with Brook's assessment of the trend; however, I don't think it's a trend toward social equality rather a balance of individual lifestyle to temper work and play. Society is turning from self towards society. Each of us is not concerned with the individual, rather the group's identity. My opinion is that he is wrong regarding a sudden turn to group identification. Throughout all of history, individuals have their identity and the identity within the group in every culture. Group identity is nothing new, but Brooks tries to use it as a way to convince people to forfeit their rights for those imposed by a command center.
Brooks claims that views are shifting from global to local. He claims distrust of institutions is causing a shift back to the community. I think this is a good thing, but I feel it is because people realized the value of a tight local community and how meaningful those relationships are after experiencing the disconnect of global penpals on a social media platform. Finally, America is turning from liberalism to activism. Brooks explains that the urge to raise your group above others will ensue because of the community withdrawal and the distrust of other communities.
After unpacking this article, my faith that we can restore trust in our government is not very high. Brooks explains that in the past, these moral convulsions led to responsibility, organization, and rebuilding. People focused on responsibility through community groups, and political reform abounded from it.
Like Brooks, I share concerns. His answer is that we need centralized power to control the people and make them come together. I don't have the answers, but I am sure that is not the solution. The centralized power is what the authors of the communist agenda for the United States presented to congress in the 60s. A dream that the communists have dreamt of for many years would come true. I believe the problem is centralized power. For too long, people have looked to the federal government to make laws and control every state's rules in the same way. However, the founders of our country never intended for the states to be identical. That is why we are the United States of America, not just America. Each state was supposed to have the power to govern the people of their state how they saw fit. If you didn't like how the state you were living in operated, you changed it or moved to a state that was more in line with your views. The more we try to force people to fit into the box, the more people will want to break out of it.
I'm interested to hear your solution. If you have a moment, drop me a note in the forum.
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