Trust is a two-way street only one party has established – and it is not the political one – it is us. Certainly, politicians care (about power, influence, and reputation (and money)). Just because we give away our trust to politicians, it does not mean that they owe us their trustworthiness. We want, and need, politicians to reciprocate our desires through concrete actions. The trust – and hope of care – we give is often, more than not, an illusion we have made up with that hope. Without hope, no desires (?). Our affirmatively constructed expectations are the second side to the same coin of the destruction of trust and care.
Everyone agrees to disagree about politics. No matter your political side, you almost certainly disagree about what the ‘other’ side does, says and represents – because it goes against your own identity (the social one, not the philosophical one, which is more complex).
We like to think that there is a strong link between what we think we observe and reality. However, this is wrong – humans are limited as creatures. We interpret the world through senses – which construe (often misinterpreted and hence flawed) flows of thoughts. We become what we think, rather than how we think. Our lives are formed by our senses and thoughts. Hence, our reality is good or bad depending on those aspects. What we assume to be good or bad is thereby made on the basis of what we perceive – not what actually is the case. Things subjectively ‘appear’ to be good or bad, right, or wrong – but things objectively in themselves are independent of their own nature. How we perceive reality is just a temporary, fragmentary experience of the existence of our thoughts, perceptions, and senses.
However, politics is a place full of disarray – both for the people involved in it and its ‘outsiders’. Opinions, perspectives, assertions, and postulates get thrown into political debate, shaken around, and thrown out again without tangible change created– well, that is often how ordinary people experience the political scene.
For those reasons, people don’t feel, think, and believe that politicians care – either because they overlook the ‘real’ problems people face or because the politicians in power deviates from the voters’ (world) view. Feeling overlooked by those the population entrusted with power is not a good feeling and experience – especially if one is suffering.
So, maybe – and this may sound controversial – people, and not the politicians, should look in the mirror and change how we see things, experience things, our opinions, perspectives, assertions, and postulates about the world (obviously, politicians should get their act together to create a better community –and society– too)?
Democracy is a system – which we have discovered – that relies on trust, and which is always open to abuse by individuals who seek power or want to exploit it. In our hope, and perhaps desire, to trust that politicians care, we need to undertake a leap of fate. This ‘leap’, however, does not bind politicians to their promises in any legal way. It can at most predetermine socially excepted policies for politicians to undertake. However, expectations are far from always met. If expectations aren’t met, people’s trust may decline; politicians become fraudulent. This decline happens not because of the general choice of trusting but is instead a result of people in positions of power which are perceived as untrustworthy.
The experience of ignorance distorts our concept of truth. Either we expect too much or too little. If ‘facts’ get conflated with opinions – or bullshit – we get a political discourse which harms everyone. As Harry Frankfurt – the author of “On Bullshit” – explains, liars assert something false, which they know is not true. The ‘bullshitter’ however, does not care about what and how they say things – they just make statements up to fit their own purpose. In today’s climate people feel and, maybe, expect politicians to lie or – even worse – bullshit.
What we expect becomes a ‘game of hope’ instead of real hope. We need to trust politicians to express the ‘truth’ – that their information is honest, real, and ‘objective’. Within a democracy, a small bulk of people need to be trusted. If not, millions, perhaps more, people may suffer. Hence, we partake in a ‘game of hope’, in which we desperately desire and feel the need to trust those in power. What they say, must then be facts. However, this ‘game of hope’ when coupled with the reality of distrust amongst the general population towards politicians creates a difficult paradox within democracies. We must trust politicians’ words and promises to elect the ‘correct political candidates.’ However, them falling short means we choose not to.
Often, we feel, believe, and think that politicians lie to us because they don’t keep the words and promises that they declare in various speeches, party-programs, or campaign. We like to think that a policy is fact-based; unfortunately, facts don’t create policies – politicians do. Language is a universal tool, which is constructed by humans over centuries – and language can – and will – be manipulated. How we interpret words and thoughts gives meaning to what we hear – that again justifies what we believe. We like to justify our justifications – if not, why have opinions, assertions, perspectives, and postulates?
What if – I know it´s a lot to demand, but… – we change our way of seeing the world. Maybe our opinions, assertions, perspectives, and postulates are so engrained that it makes it difficult to look ourselves in the mirror and try to think and live differently. Perhaps the problem is in ourselves, in a much broader sense then what we hope for. Our mind is shaped by the outside world, which shapes our interior thoughts – that we get from using our (limited) senses.
What we should know, or at least contemplate, is that we don’t live in a ‘perfect’ world. All of us, and especially ‘ordinary’ people, feel that the way the system and politicians (don’t) work, derives us from our more basic needs.
Democracy is not the best system of government, but it is the least evil. As John F. Kennedy said: “ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”. Perhaps what we can do is leave more leeway. Do not take promises as guarantees (do not take promises at face value). They are after all, simply attempts at buying our votes. We must see that the system is rotten from within. We are a commodity used by politicians to get in power. And although a sinister view, I believe that it can ironically lead to optimistic results. Low expectations allow for surprising outcomes if politicians do decide to stick to what they say they will. I want to emphasize again; this is not an attempt to turn a blind eye to the fact that the real issue is politicians and fraudulent promises and frankly lies. This is an emphasis on the fact that they lie to us as we have the power in determining the extent of their power. This is an attempt to say that perhaps, we can in part reclaim our power by at least expecting our dashed hopes and dreams.
The experiences we meet require overcoming obstacles, achieving goals, and fulfillment of needs. We like to make up our own meaning, understanding, and explanation regarding particular matters and promises that politicians proclaim – if they are too complex, we solve it by making tentative and inconsistent explanations concerning the matter at hand. In other words, we generate simple, subjective, and intuitive justifications based on our ‘common experience’, which objectively were never there.
Humans have the tendency to essentialize the conceptual understanding of words, thoughts, and senses – which is incompatible with what the ‘true’ content of words, thoughts, and senses are. Our idea of the world and how we interpret it is sufficient for navigating daily life – however, this is often counterintuitive by virtue of how the world indeed works.
The truth is harsh, but it is us voters who continuously chose to entrust and hope that this time things will be different. Sometimes they are, but the even harsher truth is that most likely when things are for once done well, it is for the self-benefit of politicians themselves in one way or another.