From my vantage point here in Australia, it’s interesting (albeit disturbing) to watch the rhetoric around the recent riots and violence at Capitol Hill.
This, it has been said, is the obvious and predictable culmination of a president like Donald Trump who is divisive and hate-filled, and of the political right’s narrative around the election results which has stoked the fires of insurrection.
While it’s possible – likely even – that those things added fuel to the fire I struggle to land on the conclusion that they were the primary cause.
In truth I think the recent (and, let’s be honest, ongoing) dissent is the by-product of a larger problem: people have no trust.
Specifically, people have no implicit trust in the institutions that used to command it. I use “institutions” deliberately broadly, to canvas both sides of the political spectrum and basically all organised media.
Most likely, of course, those institutions will continue their skewed approach to labelling and blaming others rather than introspectively pausing to consider whether their own behaviour, character and methods have played an important role along the way towards the recent chaos. No doubt they will consider themselves to be whiter than the driven snow, in pursuit of their virtuous objectives.
But why should I trust you, institutions?
Are the words from our politicians words that I can assume to be accurate, forthright, honest? Do we have candour? Do our politicians admit their mistakes? Can we really believe anything people in powerful positions say now? Perhaps more importantly: do we?
Does media boldly present the truth? Or does the media now devote its efforts towards willfully ignoring facts that don’t align with their narrative, and spinning the rest so that it does.
Why should I trust people who discarded a desire for the truth some time ago, and now seek only to promote a message? Why should I trust you when your approach to the people you agree with is so materially different from your approach to the people you don’t? Why should I trust you when your agenda takes priority over your humanity?
Generally what happens is fairly simple psychology: we believe that people who say things we already agree with are telling the truth. Whereas, things we don’t like or that we disagree with must be lies.
This is just another way of saying: we don’t trust anything.
Until trust exists, dissent will probably continue. It might not look like people climbing government walls, but it’ll be there.
Personally though, I have hope. Over time the problems will become apparent, things will shift, people will reflect, and change will occur. That is generally how it happens, after all.