Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Trust the Trusting Trusters

If there's anything that I firmly believe in is that nature has to be balanced. I'm talking about things like the water cycle - Matter & Anti-matter - cause and effect.

But, the purpose of this article is to investigate (not necessarily answer) one question: is our society's moral code currently in a state of imbalance?

Morality is a construct derived from empathy and trust - both uniquely human emotions - and I propose that you can't have a moral society without first having a society that is trusting and empathetic.

In other words, imagine Tony Montana from the movie Scarface. Now, imagine him as a pillar of society instead of being a drug lord with a loose moral code. Now, imagine him saying the following: First you get the empathy, then you get the trust, then you get a morally stable society.

...granted, it doesn't have the same kind of impact then the original quote, but it gets the point across.

I like to think of Trusting as the transmitter and Empathy as the receiver. Trust is the Ying, to the Empathetic Yang.

For those who think that I'm "stretching" a little bit here, just think about it for a moment.

At its most basic form, the act of trusting is an extension of you, right? If I need you to help me move, I have to trust that you will take care of my belongings as they were your own. If I need to share my day at work, I have to trust you that you will act as my confident.

Evolution has chosen to give the human species the innate ability to absorb emotions from others (empathy) then it is only natural to also believe that evolution has also given us the need to broadcast our emotions to others (the act of trusting).

...and these two forces need to be balanced.

We now live in a society that prides itself on a Dog-Eat-Dog mentality...but, that only works for dogs. Not Humans, not People.

Taking a quick look at the Animal Kingdom, you can't help but notice that Humans are at the top of the Evolutionary Ladder not because we have the strength of a bear, the eyes of a hawk, or the size of an elephant.

It is because Nature has chosen to expand the higher functions of our brain...the regions responsible for planning; abstract thought; language; and yes, social interaction.

As a matter of fact, there are no other species on this planet so entirely dependent on social interaction as Humans. So much so that it has led Behavioural Psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert to remark that "people see faces in clouds, but not clouds in faces."

And I like to say that the Internet is just an extension of the Human evolutionary need to feel connected with others.

So, would it be unreasonable to say that the "Wikileaks" of the World are just nature's way to restore balance in the Empathy/Trust relationship in our society?

I remember a scene from the movie Jurassic Park where the head of the park is explaining that he's able to prevent Dinosaurs from breeding by having only female Dinosaurs. And I remember Jeff Goldblum's retort that "life finds a way."

...this was a warning that Humans can't control the Will of Nature.

I am also reminded of a quote from Evolutionary Biologist, Stephen Jay Gould who said that:

"Violence, sexism, and general nastiness are biological since they represent one subset of a possible range of behaviours. But peacefulness, equality, and kindness are just as biological - and we may see their influence increase if we can create social structures that permit them to flourish."
And I think that's the problem.

I believe environments created by the institutions that have been entrusted to lead our society - e.g. The Government, The Corporation, The Media, and the Police - cultivate and spread that "general nastiness" that is so inhuman.

As a matter of fact, the works of Stanley Milgram, Solomon Asch, and Philip Zimbardo have demonstrated that people will do just about anything if they are simply "following the herd" and won't get the blame.

And that's why I'm not ready to trust institutions anymore. However, I am ready to trust people...but, only as individuals.

How do you restore trust? The answer is simple, but the work is difficult. Someone needs to put their neck on the line and forget the past.

That's why, even though I am ready to trust individuals, I am also ready for this unavoidable fact: I will get burned. People will take advantage of my good nature.

But what's the other option? To live like a Caveman? Being afraid of anyone and anything for fear that they may do me wrong? Not only is this counter-evolutionary, but it seems like a rather cold and miserable way of living.

Instead, is it unreasonable to suggest that we spend less time trying to "make-do" in a broken system and instead create environments where peacefulness, equality, and kindness can flourish as Stephen Jay Gould proposed?

Many people think that I live in a dream World and this is un-achievable. But, remember, it is only impossible because no one has done it yet.