There have been a couple of posts about trust recently. One from Anna Raccoon and another from the irascible Captain (thorn in the arse of authority) Ranty.
This set me thinking. Both posts focused on the institutions of society, justice and authority which have let us down, and I find nothing of substance in either post to disagree with. There really are few institutions, public or commercial, that can be trusted nowadays.
But that made me realize how little these institutions have in common with ordinary life and community or even with their own members. Given the appalling role models we see every day in the media, industry and politics I still find that in reality I can trust the majority of ordinary people I meet on an individual level.
That’s because in the real world, as opposed to the ideal one we might wish for, trust isn’t nor has ever been a simple clear cut issue, it’s not a case of yes or no but a matter of sensible degree. If you dangle temptation in front of people, and especially if that is combined with a lack of disincentive to cheat, you will find virtually nobody that can be trusted completely,
Yet I happily trust my neighbour with my house key. If we are away and there is an emergency I know he will turn off the water or cut the power or otherwise do whatever he can to help. Likewise I have an elderly neighbour’s key. If she presses her panic button and her son is contacted I am able to check for a problem much faster than he can. If I was on Bob Diamond’s salary and our houses were full of priceless antiques or contained stacks of money in the cupboard maybe I would reconsider, but that’s not a problem.
When we seduce people with the possibility of power, money and riches beyond the reach of ordinary people we should not be surprised to find ourselves with a whole cohort of lying cheats. We need to realise that nowadays (and probably for always) almost everyone is potentially corruptible. Business, politics and institutions should be designed accordingly. Put simply we either stop dangling the obscenely huge gold carrots or make the penalties for dishonesty much harsher.
When it comes to institutions the situation is even more complex. Most Institutions do not have morality, they have shareholders and bottom lines and will do anything to enrich those. Yet even then we may find some parts with an uncaring irresponsible ethos while other parts are perfectly OK, it really does come down to the individuals in the front line.
To underline the dichotomy the NHS is a good illustration. There are numerous horror stories of NHS mistreatment, contempt for patients, uncaring nurses, and excesses by administrators. I know these things happen because an elderly relative was on the receiving end of just such treatment. Feeding equipment that didn’t work, hydration drips that were turned off, nurses who didn’t notice, no doctors available until after the bank holiday then when we complained a senior nurse who made up a completely false report accusing family members of aggression, being threatening, and causing illness by smuggling drinks to the patient causing his death by pneumonia.
Then two weeks ago I suffered a rather nasty medical situation I went to the doctor, a friendly pleasant chap who I honestly believe sets out to do his best by his patients, I trust him.He wanted a hospital investigation so told me he would contact them and I should hear within 2 weeks, that being their benchmark response time for this issue. This was Friday at 5pm. I heard from the hospital by phone at 10am Monday morning. Could I make a consultancy appointment on Wednesday? So by Wednesday I was seeing the specialist.
After various poking and prodding I was strongly advised to agree to further investigation. If so, I was told, follow the nurse who would arrange an appointment for the next test. That test needed a minimum of 24 hours medication preparation, so could I start that the next day and make Friday for the procedure? After 24 hours of living in the smallest room after some seriously industrial strength laxative I was back at the hospital on Friday having a camera shoved up my bum.
The procedure is not one I would advise anyone to undergo for fun. (No, really it is not any fun at all!) Fortunately it showed clear of any real nasties.
There are accurate horror stories of poor treatment by the NHS yet in my case they did everything right, The NHS was fast, almost instant, and every person I came into contact with was efficient, professional, friendly, caring and considerate. So do I trust the NHS? No I don’t - but I trust some people!