it comes naturally for us to trust each other. Reciprocal trust is fundamental to the smooth working of the societies in which we live. But untrustworthiness has become so widespread that it is no longer being automatically condemned, argues our correspondent Future of Our Children.
This morning I read an extraordinary article on the BBC website entitled Cryptoqueen: How this woman scammed the world, then vanished. It told the remarkable story of a glamorous, cosmopolitan and articulate lady who persuaded thousands of people around the world to invest in One Coin, a cryptocurrency that she invented and claimed would out-perform the apparently very successful BitCoin.
Ruja Ignatova, for that was her name, took advantage of the fact that many people are easily lured by the prospect of getting rich quickly and that few of them understand the complex mechanics of cryptocurrency trading systems and the safeguards that assure their smooth operation. Her attractive appearance, combined with her oratory, helped her to draw big crowds at special events. This was sufficient to induce widespread trust in her to the extent that initial investors went on to persuade many of their friends to follow their example and buy into One Coin. The day that she disappeared, they found that they had been duped and would never see their savings again.
This made me think that it comes naturally for us to trust each other and that reciprocal trust is fundamental to the smooth working of the societies in which we live. Trust not only binds together relationships between individuals but is also fundamental to the effective working of the institutions and services on which our daily lives depend and to our confidence in their performance. Unless we are of a sceptical or suspicious nature, we automatically treat other people. even if we don’t know them, as being trustworthy because this is - or perhaps I should say ‘was’ - a behavioural norm.
Most of us were brought up to tell the truth and expect others to do the same. We have grown up with an innate tendency to trust in people who work in institutions that command our confidence, whether doctors, priests, policemen, judges or members of parliament. It is painful and often saddening when we find our trust betrayed.
The most successful fraudsters. like Ruja, manage to remain ‘above suspicion’ for many years before, if ever, being found out. When we learn of their misdeeds our initial reaction is often one of shock and incredulity. If we have been directly affected by the fraudulent behaviour of others, we may even perversely admire their ingenuity and end up blaming ourselves for our naivety rather than them for their deceit!
What is most worrying is that untrustworthiness has become so widespread that it is no longer being automatically condemned: falling standards of integrity seem to be gaining tacit acceptance. This is particularly so in relation to politicians, where there appears to be a growing, but possibly erroneous, public perception that they are all dishonest and that therefore nothing can be done to prevent it.
If we vote for candidates in the upcoming election (however honest they themselves may be) who are members of parties led by people who have left a trail of broken promises and are recognised as habitual liars, we are increasing the chances that we end up with a prime minister who, to put it mildly, is economical with the truth. Perhaps more seriously, we become complicit in inducing a further decline in the standards of truth that we have a right to expect from our political leaders.
It would be hugely damaging for Britain’s international reputation – and for our self-respect - if we were to vote into office a Prime Minister who has repeatedly betrayed the peoples’ trust. The implication of putting a known compulsive liar into Downing Street would be that Britain’s electorate had failed to uphold support for truth in politics, making a nonsense of any claim that we can reclaim our national ‘greatness’.
We must not allow ourselves to be seduced by charm and bonhomie and turn a blind eye to the habitual betrayal of trust by a leading politician in the naïve hope of a change in his behaviour. If we were to do so, we could no longer condemn our politicians for letting us down because we would have become accessories to their misconduct.
The answer is to MAKE IT STOP! By voting tactically……
London4Europe blogs are edited by Nick Hopkinson, Vice-Chair. Articles on this page reflect the views of the author and not necessarily of London4Europe.