Hosea 8-7: For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind; it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.
In the first installment of this series, I examined the issue of trust and how it can affect friendships, making the point that trust is something that has to be offered to the Multiverse and to Life itself, rather than to individuals. Trust cannot be taken, trust cannot be given. Trust can only be offered forth as a gift, as an acknowledgment of love, of solidarity, of belief in a larger, connected conception of Reality that goes beyond the individualized conception of self-protection and selfishness that seems to be the natural human condition.
In explanation of that last controversial statement, let me explain further. Many might argue that trust is a natural part of the human condition; that children – when they are very young – are very trusting and that, as they grow older, life presents them with trials and tribulations that lessen their trust in people, in society and in life in general. Bad experiences, untrustworthy individuals and the experience of pain and suffering combine to create the masks that we wear to fit occasions where the exposure of our true faces might result in some type of social or physical pain or rejection. I would argue, to this point, simply that life itself is natural, so distrust, being a condition of the experience of life, is also natural.
The Buddhists believe that the Four Noble Truths – the first three of which state simply that life is desire, desire causes suffering, so life, therefore, is suffering – encapsulate the drama experienced by all people in all times and all places. The fourth of the Noble Truths states the solution to this conundrum succinctly: in order to end suffering, one must cease to desire. Trust is, many times, confused with the desire to be intimate with another. So when that faux-trust is broken, we feel betrayed.
Who hasn’t been in a social situation where someone you’ve trusted acts in an untrustworthy manner? A family member has betrayed you by taking the side of another family member, or does something that is directly counter to your interests, maybe stealing something from you, or lying to you.Children, in their experiences with their parents, siblings and society in general, get their trust betrayed every day.
Just the simple experience of having a parent tell them they can have or do something and then change their mind about it, for whatever reason, is a betrayal of trust that begins the process of qualifying unconditional trust; of creating barriers, separation between that child and his or her family, friends and the world. This process of mask creation forms the social face that becomes necessary as a wall between our true st, inner selves and the world as we age and begin to interact more and more with external society. Many of us as adults still have an Inner Child that is in need of healing, of love and understanding, as an acknowledgement that we exist and that our existence is meaningful. Learning to trust should be a large part of that healing process.
So how do these issues of trust affect people at a wider scale? Individual questions of trust, family, friends, our personalized degrees of interactions, mirror the relationship of individuals to society, and the relationships between different societies as they interact at the regional and global scale.There is an old adage from the Christian religion that states, as above, so below. In the most abstract sense, this means that the experiences that we have as individuals are akin to the experiences that groups have when interacting with other groups and with the world at large.
For example, my relationship with a sibling may be discordant in some manner or another. I may fight with my brother incessantly, over trivial and serious matters alike. Likewise, Christians may fight against Muslims incessantly, over trivial and serious matters alike. Texans may fight with Californians over the size and importance of their states. The Flemish may fight with the Walloons over language differences and the superiority of French over Dutch culture. The examples are voluminous.
Many years ago, the social sciences (Geography, Anthropology, Sociology, Political Science, etc.) believed in this theory known as Environmental Determinism (ED). The theory itself was very simple. Humans who evolved in hot climates (Africa, the Americas, etc.) were inferior to and less industrious than humans who evolved in cold climates (Europe, E. Asia, etc.), because people in cold weather climates were driven to create technologies based upon their diligent resistance to the cold environment, whereas, those in the hot weather lands had no incentive to do anything but have Siestas, party, pick and eat fruit off of the trees, run around naked and have sex all of the time.
The not-so-underlying resentment that infuses the previous perceptions continues to fuel, even today, racist beliefs about people based upon illogical and historically inaccurate environmental assumptions. The misperception of ease, and of these brown, red and black people being held in the bosom of Gaia, the Earth Mother, was internalized by Europeans used to hard, cold lives and reflected back at the Sun-blessed Peoples in a paroxysm of violence and bloodshed that lasted for centuries and that may still have not yet ended.
Ostensibly based upon Darwins theory of Evolution, philosophies such as ED became known as theories of Social Darwinism, in which the world was a battle for survival, and only the fittest survived. Disciplines such as Geography and Political Science (then known as Geopolitics), used Environmental Determinism in order to philosophically and scientifically justify racism and colonial expansion across the world.
During that same period of time, Robert Malthus proposed that the world only had a limited amount of resources, and that overpopulation would soon drive the worlds poor to the shores of the richest countries in the world, seeking solace from the sheer bleakness of their plights. Today, his followers are called Neo-Malthusians.
Other scholars, such as Garrett Hardin, came up with corresponding theoretical exemplars such as the idea of Lifeboat Ethics, whereas the rich countries are afloat upon an ocean of despair with all of their amenities, and the poor and unwashed masses of the world are swimming toward the lifeboat, wanting to get on, giving rise to the questions: Can the Western lifeboats carry all of the world’s populations? Is there room on the lifeboat for everyone?
I raise these questions and mention these academic philosophies in light of the question of trust. As should be clear by now, the lack of trust among groups of people has resulted in the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Xenophobia and greed are on the rise and there seems to be no end in sight to the increasing distance growing between the richest one percent of the world’s population and the rest of us. Here, in the United States, national and global forces are working to destroy the middle class and open the borders between countries, creating an indivisible gulf between the classes that will make the American Dream more of an impossibility than it ever has been. Even so, for many Americans, the Dream has alwaysbeen just that, a dream, and no more.
More and more, the idea of biological racial categorization is coming to be seen as an anachronism, although the institutional structures that have resulted in the system of white privilege remain and generations of immigrants benefit from them daily, through no fault of their own. This, on the other hand, is sociological racial categorization, and it is as real in the lives of Americans and people the world over as is the Sun coming up every day. And yet, it is possible, these days, for a European-descended man or woman to say with a clear conscience, “I’m not racist, I’ve never said the “N” word or discriminated against a black, brown, red or yellow person once in my life.” Because of our complete immersion within the culturally-delineated, institutional structures of our daily lives, these individuals are, in large part, unaware of the privileged nature of their experience unless they forcibly encounter “The Other” by way of negative encounters with law enforcement or abrupt changes in economic and social status.
I’m reminded at this juncture of that South Park episode where Jerome “Chef” McGilroy was irate over the racist South Park flag that showed a black stick figure being lynched by white stick figures. Throughout the episode, he’s arguing civil rights with the Klan, who are clearly racist, and the townspeople, who are more interested in the town’s heritage, while the kids debate both sides of the flag question without ever realizing that race has anything to do with it at all.
Other scholars say that the need to accumulate material goods, to hoard energy and wealth, is a result of evolutionary and environmental stressors that have shaped the experience of different groups of people. They state that ethnic groupings that have lived for thousands of years in tropical environments are different from ethnic groupings that have lived for thousands of years in maritime or cold environments. Each group has been shaped by their environment to deal with the world in different ways.
Many use the example of the Aryan invasion of India, where the matriarchal and melanated Dravidians were conquered by the patriarchal and pale-skinned Aryans, or, the more recent examples of the Maafa/Triangular Trade, otherwise know as the Slave Trade – a period which lasted approximately 400 years – upon which foundation the wealth of Europe and the Americas was built, as clear examples of the Iceman Inheritance of Europe and European-descended peoples. The need to hoard food, energy and riches against a hard future ahead is the epitome of distrust; not only a distrust of other people, but a distrust of the world itself. An institutionalized and somewhat sublimated cultural distrust whose expression has been proven valid over centuries and millennia of harsh living conditions and warfare between Clans, then Tribes, then Ethnicities, then Nations and then, finally and perhaps even originally, between Races.
As above, so below. As we are pushed toward greater self-understanding, so must we also understand who we are as groups and as nations, and by doing so, understand where we have been, where we currently are and where we are going in our relationships with other groups and with the natural world. While Gaia may shrug, casting diseased humanity into oblivion, she will continue to exist, incorporating our ills within her very structure. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Trust between nations and peoples can only exist as a gift that we collectively choose to give to the Multiverse. There is no other rational course of action.
Strife and discord have been the rule in the relationships between groups and nations, and trust, the exception. Considering the extraordinary selflessness required in the cultivation of trust – to gift trust – it is easy to understand why things are the way that they are right now in the world. Also considering such, it is possible to take on a very negative outlook regarding future prognostications about the fate of the world.
What incentive do aboriginal Americans have to trust whites after being the subject of merciless genocide and land theft? Why should Koreanstrust the Japanese after what happened between them during Japan’s colonial era? Why should Zionist Jews trust Muslims after every nation inSouthwest Asia rose against them the day they declared themselves a country? And why should the enslaved ancestors of Africans in theAmericas ever trust an institutionalized system of governance and law that was formed in direct opposition to the very concept of their humanity?
The desire to trust is beyond the Four Noble Truths and approximates the answer to the human condition, in that true , freely gifted Trust elevates human consciousness to a plane of selflessness that is exemplified by the willingness of an individual to sacrifice of one’s Self. By the ability to give of one’s Self without expecting anything in return. To gift trust, not expecting that trust to be honored. And, by the even more daunting prospect of self-sacrifice, of freely gifted trust, in the face of death itself.
As I state in the very first paragraph of this essay, trust can only be offered forth as a gift, as an acknowledgment of love, of solidarity, of belief in a larger, connected conception of Reality that goes beyond the individualized conception of self-protection and selfishness that seems to be the natural human condition. Individual experiences and beliefs mirror group experiences and beliefs, and our very own personal stories can cast a bright light upon the stories of people through time and across space. The gift of trust is our only salvation. Beyond spirit, soul and religion, selfless trust can be considered a principled promise to our species; faith, if you will, in our proven ability to persevere and survive past all logical conceptions of our continuance.
If we do not, as a species, decide to let go of the past and move forward in trust and solidarity, the karma of the Ages shall continue to cycle remorselessly and we shall, indeed, reap the whirlwind. The sins of the Fathers gather unto infinite generations only find relief when the cycle is broken, when some person, or group, decides to rise above, to go beyond, to go within and trust. If this elemental choice is not made, the continuous cycle of inevitability is virtually guaranteed, and the resulting conflagration of Spirit and Soul might leave the present world bereft of human life, our collective legacy broken and cast, desolate, to the Four Winds.