Human beings are pre-disposed to trust, is it a part of our evolutionary DNA, we need each other to survive. We all know we are stronger in a group, relate to those similar to us, who share similar histories and beliefs, and who are held to us by shared relationships.

We need to feel that someone we know and trust ‘has our back’

British anthropologist Robin Dunbar proposed in the 1990’s that there was a cognitive limit to the number of relationships an individual could hold at any one time,  of 150, now known as Dunbar’s number.

However, and it is a huge ‘however’, trust has to be earned over time, it is never just given without thought and an emotional commitment. It is this emotional component of trust that leads to the  depth of emotion when we are let down by someone we trusted, because it is not just a let down, it is a betrayal.

Tuesday’s census was a debacle. It makes absolute sense (no pun intended) to collect the data electronically, unless of course the arrangements made to receive the information are inadequate. Predictably as soon as the servers crashed, the inevitability of which was widely assumed outside the cocoon of Canberra, nobody was prepared to recognise the stuff-up for what it was. The Canberra two-step blame game was in immediate view.

‘Of course it was  not a stuff up, it was the hackers’ is not a defence that allays any of the cynicism of the population, sick to death of the self serving bullshit fed to us in the expectation that we will just keep on believing.

Our so called leaders wonder aloud at the drastic decline of public trust in our institutions over the last 25 years, and I wonder why they are so publicly naive, as few of them are completely stupid.

Trust comes with consistent over-delivery on undertakings. We listen to the words, but it is the actions that really count. It is no different in small groups to the whole community, business and elsewhere, we trust those who do as they say, and say as they do.

Our political institutions in all their manifestations have consistently and significantly over-promised and under-delivered over the last 25 years, and that is the sole reason we do  not trust them, and the census night debacle has been met with a collective sigh of resignation to the inevitable.

Credit to Larry Pickering for  the header cartoon

PS. Two further thoughts that occurred during the day.

  1. How reliable will the data really be? I can hear the blathering now, assuring us that all is well, but where have we heard similar assurances before?
  2. Will those who failed to fill in the forms on Tuesday be fined, or perhaps they will the sue the Bureau of Stats for making false promises? Make false promises in advertisements and public utterings in the private sector and you have the the consumer protection grizzley’s after you.