The burden of trust
By Narendra Luther
‘In God we trust’ is the motto of the U.S. Government at least so far as the legal tender is concerned. You can see it inscribed on every one-dollar note. I haven’t seen notes of a bigger denomination. It is more a declaration of intent than a matter of practice - like our own national motto - satyameva jayate which proclaims that truth alone triumphs. But in actual fact, does it? May be in the long run it does. But it is more definite that, as Keynes said, in the long run we are all dead. So sometime truth and death are synchronous. In other words the only truth is death. But let us stop before we sink into this quagmire of hair-splitting analysis and discussion.
No credit here
Some shopkeepers use this dictum humorously to their advantage by putting up a notice saying: ‘In God we trust; with others it is in cash’. That is for the benefit of the casual small customer. In practice, they do trust others and their entire operations are run on the basis of trust. In fact our entire life revolves around trust. Every transaction in our life - material an emotional - is based on trust. All human births are results of the trust of women in men. All children grow up on the basis of their implicit trust on their parents. All parents spend their old age on the basis of their trust in their children. All neighbourhood is rooted on trust. Every institution from family to State stands on the bedrock of trust. All relationships that give rise to these institutions and in some cases grow out of them are a matter of trust.
Trust and public servants
Here I propose to talk of public trust. By that I mean the trust that the common man reposes in a public servant of whatever station, high or low. Some of them like high constitutional functionaries take an oath in a public ceremony to that effect as if without oath they could not be expected to be trustworthy. As we progress in social organization, we move from status to contract. That contract is an affirmation of trust on both sides. Political scientists tell us that the civilized society came into being a result of the ‘social contract’ amongst people living in a ‘state of nature’. Much of the social contract had now been codified but still a large body of it rests upon trust. Every employment is a matter of trust. Only a fraction of the understanding is spelt out in black and white in the contract.
When I travel by bus, I trust that the driver has a genuine driving license, adequate knowledge of driving, and is not drunk. When I go by train, I assume (trust) that the engine and all the bogies, the tracks, the signaling mechanism have been checked for their safety. I assume that the driver knows how to drive the railway engine and to respond to all the commands from the human and mechanical elements. I trust that he is not inebriated and that psychologically he is in a fit condition to drive the engine. About a thousand persons and their families assume that. In the case of airlines pilots, a medical certification about their fitness is a routine requirement before every flight. I trust that has been actually carried out. When I am driving my car on the road, I assume every other driver is qualified and in fit condition to drive.
When I drink water anywhere, I trust that it is potable. In restaurants where I get occasionally to eat, I trust that all preparations have made by cooks in hygienic conditions and people who have washed their hands. Every chef is required to wear a long headgear not to make us laugh but to make sure that no hair falls into what he is cooking. In ships and in restaurants, it is a mandatory requirement that the remnants of all food left unconsumed by the end of the day is thrown away and not reused the next day.
When I fall ill I trust that the physician has diagnosed my ailment correctly and has prescribe medication which is appropriate. When I go to buy medicines, I trust that the medicines are not adulterated and the prices mentioned thereon are not ‘administered’ by the manufacturer, or worse, by the packers.
If I were to mention more areas where trust is taken for granted, I could fill up reams of papers and yet not do justice to the job. In fact our law books and penal codes deal with the assumptions of trust and their breaches. Go to any good lawyer’s office and yet he will have only a fractions of the tomes he may be called upon to peruse to argue his cases relating to misplaced and betrayed trusts. With every advance we make, we run greater risk of the trust being betrayed. Thrice I was billed for the use of credit card incorrectly. I then decided to surrender it and to live as I have lived all the years before the introduction of this convenience. For people of my generation who have lived in the era of cars made in India, the new breed of automobiles are magical machines that seldom let you down. Yet when I complained of some trouble to my dealer about transmission in car engine, the mechanic told me that sort of problem occurs when you use adulterated petrol! I had grown up mostly on adulterated milk but I thought petrol was untouched by human hands and so was ‘pure’. No longer. My website was hacked and converted into a porno site. I came to know of it only when some one complimented me on taking that route for supplementing my income rather late in life. Better late than never, he said. I don’t know how many people accepted my disclaimer.
All of us have been victims of breach of trust of some sort or the other at some point in our lives. Some times we did not even come to know of the betrayal. In some cases, unbeknownst to us it is still going on. That is the situation for which it is said that ignorance is bliss.
In matters spiritual
It is not only in the material field that it happens. It is truer of the spiritual field. ‘In God we trust’, but in which God? Which religion? Adherents of different Gods are warring with each other trying to prove their brand is genuine and others fake. There are godmen and even godwomen galore who promise different varieties of heaven. The world of religion is a supermarket; godmen are its salesmen and we are the shoppers. We enter the place with trust – and some trepidation. Will it be different from other markets where we have been bitten?
So, I keep my trust to myself and let the sleeping gods lie.
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