As we grow older we tend to look back at the ‘Good Times’ no doubt with an element of rose tinted spectacles. Times when life was easier and we could rely on people and organisations not trying to deceive us. I’ve tried to make sure my rose- tinted specs are well and truly locked away when looking at the question of trust in our current society.
“You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible” - Anton Chekhov
We grew up in an era when trust was the norm. When we negotiated our first mortgage, we completely trusted the bank manager providing the loan. We never even considered that he might trying to sell us dodgy insurance or get us involved in a loan we could not afford. He, it was always a ‘he’ at that time, was looking after our best interest. He regarded us as life long customers. Performance targets have turned bank staff into salesmen and we now have to treat them as such. When we insured our house we did not have to look at the fine print to see what might allow the insurance company to dodge payment on any claim, as recently happened to the young couple who sold a few spare eggs at their gate. That made their house into business premises and made their insurance void.
We trusted figures in authority, police, politicians, lawyers perhaps niavaely, but we heard of very few problems. We trusted people unless they proved to be untrustworthy. There were scams about like the old roof repair trick but they were rare and easily detected. Perhaps investigative journalism was not so well developed then as it is now.
I opened my emails yesterday as usual and saw an email from Google asking me to check my security settings. My now instinctive reaction was to question its authenticity. Was it genuinely from Google, was it Google trying to get me involved in something I do not need, should I even click to open it? We are all going through that process now and if we are not, we will get caught. So many aspects of our lives are contained in our lap tops and mobile phones. Breaking into them would give almost complete control of our lives. We have to be so careful. Like most people I get regular emails from my friends that are not from them at all, so I can’t even trust emails from people I know and trust. There seems to be an army of people out there trying to deceive us. Many are very skilful and well organised.
It is interesting to look into the survey information on the subject of trust which like everything else you can find in abundance on the Web. Of course, you have to check who is doing the survey to be sure you can trust the information. Unfortunately, the surveys do not go back far enough to encompass my experience of trust in the 60s and 70s. Perhaps that is confirmation that it was not the problem then that it is now.
Interested in Marcus Today? Marcus Today contains stock market education and ideas every day.
Some things stand out. In general Australia is fairly trusting by world standards, but not as trusting as the Scandinavian countries. We trust one another more than most but we have seen a significant fall in trust in our government. According to the OECD survey only 44.6% of Australians in 2020 trusted their government which is mid- range of the OECD countries. It’s almost the same as the US and more than the UK on 34.7%. What has Boris done to achieve that? Clearly our politicians have a lot of work to do to regain lost trust.
Sadly, journalists come out very badly from the surveys which is so unfair to many of our excellent journalists who continue to do so much good work to keep us well informed. The journalists’ rating is clearly impacted by the very low standards of journalism in some news and information outlets where financial control has more impact than accurate information.
A recent survey in the Financial Review commented: “Distrust has become society’s default, with more than half of Australians (55 per cent) declaring their default tendency is to distrust something until they see evidence to the contrary. Concern about fake news is at all-time highs”.
Fake news has become a major issue particularly in the US. Covid misinformation has been rife throughout the world fostered through the electronic media and no doubt costing many people their lives. Fake news about Covid is part of a bigger issue of loss of trust in experts.
Whilst doctors and teachers are regarded as trustworthy many other experts are treated with suspicion. Our experts in infection and disease control showed their strength in the pandemic yet many people chose to ignore their recommendations. Whilst the vaccines worked, and I chose to have the full complement, I can understand those who do not want to be injected with strange substances. Refusing to wear a mask that we were told reduced our chances of being infected by 40% I find hard to understand. It can only be lack of trust in our experts.
Lack of trust in experts is not only to found in the lower socio- economic sections of the community. Many of our politicians believe they know better and ignore expert advice to our cost.
One of the characteristics of trust is that it takes a long time to create and only seconds to lose. It’s time to start rebuilding.
If you would like to email Harold please click here.