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trust is fragile



commentary • 28.01.03  

I’ve come to learn, unfortunately, that you can’t really trust people unless either their self-interest is engaged, or you’ve got them by the balls in some way. The latter is probably a sub-species of the former.

But when you think about it, what else can there be beyond self-interest? I have pondered this forever and been unable to come up with an answer that gives pure altruism its place. Experience has confirmed that people act for self-enhancement. Some may be bad at it and fail miserably but that is still the broad picture.

Problem is, making that observation doesn’t help much. Although most human behaviour can be easily classed as selfish there are infinite shades and degrees of that. For example, a parent may be completely self-absorbed in nurturing a child’s well-being but that is an entirely different class of act to abusing that child. Both are selfish, one for good the other for bad.

Searching for an absolute in a moral matter is not very useful. The workable answer is relational and contextual. You have to look at the circumstance and weigh things up in that light. Humans will never be trustworthy in an absolute way. Trust will always be relative to the situation and invariably subject to change. Trust is fragile and transient and like many things in life requires constant fostering.