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Is it too late for us?

September 7, 2010
Our investigation has taken a turn towards trust.
Trust is a critical issue when creating more equal societies.  For example, high trust means low crime (or maybe low crime means high trust).  Having spoken to experts on social trust and its roots, it became clear that trust came from the culture of a society: the way people treat each other, and the environment they grow in.
It seems impossible and to be honest undesirable to copy another culture, so we are all doomed.
Or are we?  The question arises, what can one do to generate a trusting culture?  I was perplexed at the idea of changing a culture, seemingly so closely linked to the organic development of culture through history and tradition.  Without changing history it seems improbable that the way we treat each other could be rapidly altered.
Creating legislation can be an option to instantaneously force a society to act differently.  For example, the one child policy in China reversed the culture of large families.  However, this was enforced through undesirable methods.  In Sweden, the laws on paternity are moving the country towards equal rights for fathers over the next 10-15 years.
Perhaps we are beyond hope but the future is not?  We can plant the ideas for the next generation through politics and education.  In a democratic society, the people are free to choose what kind of society they would like to live in.  I mentioned before that to change things from a base level, we must look to education.  But before we educate the young, we must first agree what it is we want to teach them.
Since the writing of this blog, we have interviewed a history professor called Lars Trägårdh, who has lived the past 40 years both in Sweden and the US.  As a result my perspective is changing.  Look out for his interview soon!
2 Comments leave one →
  1. Alex permalink
    September 7, 2010 7:04 pm

    Your thoughts on trust are interesting. It seems that people in Sweden seem generally to have higher levels of ‘trust’ for fellow Swedes. Does this mean that trust at the national level is the best kind of trust? I think most people have trust for their friends, families and colleagues but trust beyond this level I think requires something different. Social trust still comes down to individuals. For an individual to trust other people in his society it appears that they must either believe that the other people have no incentive to try and exploit them (perhaps through everyone being equal and wanting equality) or through a policing system that stops anyone getting away with exploiting others. Perhaps by putting a lot of resources into the state system through taxes it stops others from being able to exploit you, as your services are provided by a central state and therefore you feel secure about them. Separately I noticed one of my own personal biases, which I think many people share, during an interview when discussing the idea of the ‘big state’. While I disagree with the idea of a big state I found myself less opposed to the idea of a strong, or effective state. I don’t know if this is just word play or points to something more meaningful.

  2. September 10, 2010 10:17 pm

    Trust starts from a whole nation approach, from political leaders, institutional leaders (in particular educational institution, the media and the families. People live and function within a political system and if the approach depends on too much checking and demanding on evidence of product then there is a culture of mistrust. For example in work places, where individuals are trusted to take responsibility and can be trusted to inform the people who are authorise to be in charge. There needs to be a fine balance.

    Children learn to trust from home and schools. The emphasis on common set of values including trust need to be inculcated both at home and at school.


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