YOU TRUST EVERYONE
Driving in downtown Vancouver over the past few days reminded me of something I used to ask my students in a lecture I did about sociality and social integration. I used to ask them whom they trusted. They would invariably point to family or friends or jokingly say they trusted no one. But, of course, we trust all kinds of people implicitly and regularly all the time. Our trust is not restricted to our intimates. It’s tough though because although we consciously and unconsciously think of other people and their effects on us, we deny that they have any control over us. Most of us truly believe that we and we alone are responsible for our lives and actions.
Truth is, we’re so conditioned by the ideology of individualism that we hardly think in social terms at all, about other people and their profound effects on our lives. There was even the spectacle a few years ago of a British prime minister suggesting that there is no such thing as society at all, only individuals and individual action.
Well, we are connected in ways we hardly understand and virtually never attend to and one way we deny that is by labeling other people. We often label people pejoratively in a myriad of ways. We denigrate others and don’t have any sense of connection with them, in fact we are often repulsed by them. Yet every time we get into our cars and drive down a busy street or highway we trust all of them, even the repulsive ones, like they were family.
Just think of the number of people driving anywhere downtown on any given day and there is bound to be a wide variety of people you could think of. There may be commuters, delivery truck and taxi drivers, moms and dads driving their kids to school, police cars and ambulances, service vehicles of all kinds but there could also be murderers, rapists, criminals of all kinds, violent domestic offenders and of course there will be a motley collection of more or less unsavory characters like conservative politicians, bond traders, media hypers, regular bullies and just plain obnoxious people most of whom you would never choose to associate with in any way in any other circumstance. Not all these categories of people are mutually exclusive either. A mom driving her kids to school could be beating the crap out of her kids when they get home in the afternoon and the service van driver could very well be a rapist. We just don’t know. We still trust them.
We trust that if they’re coming at us in the oncoming lane at 60, 80 or 120 k/hour they will not wander into our lane and kill us. Even if we’re going in the same direction as they are, we trust that they won’t wander into our lane and force us onto the side of the road, maybe into an abutment or barrier. Either way we may very well die. Of course there are accidents, but they are unintentional or are supposed to be. We don’t usually ascribe accidents to malevolence. To ignorance and stupidity, yes, but not malevolence.
You may argue that you really don’t trust them. Well, of course you do. You may not like it, but you do. If you drive, you trust. You trust every other driver on the road. I know that’s a scary thought, but that’s the way it is. You trust murderers with your life.