Is this the era of distrust?
The coronavirus epidemic not only brings the world to a halt, but also leads to a rise in misinformation, lies and conspiracy theories on the internet. In an era of fake news, where even a president of the United States is accused of spreading misinformation, could it be that we are living through a crisis in trust?
So what on earth is trust? And in whom should we place our trust? Actually, the problem is not about trust itself but about trustworthiness–the ability to be trusted as being honest and reliable. Of course, telling lies and lacking trustworthiness is nothing new. In old times, the ancient Greeks were tricked by the Trojan Horse. In modern times, the American financier Bernie Madoff, notoriously known as “the biggest swindler in history”, was sentenced to 150 years in prison for his part in the Ponzi scam which defrauded investors of 65 billion dollars.
Generally speaking, trust can be described as a judgement that someone can be believed and relied on. When we trust each other, it makes life easier, quicker and friendlier. Society can’t function without trust, but that doesn’t mean the more trust the better.
If you simply place trust indiscriminately without making a judgement about whether the other person is trustworthy, then you are just trusting to luck, which is probably not a virtue. There’s a difference between trusting someone because you have good reason to believe them and being gullible, meaning you are easily deceived because you trust and believe people too quickly. If you don’t judge who is trustworthy and who is not, you are trusting to luck—simply believing or hoping that things will happen for the best. Being gullible and trusting to luck is exactly how Bernie Madoff was able to trick so many people into giving him their money.
If indiscriminately trusting people is such a bad idea, how do we avoid it? How can we tell who is trustworthy and who is not? Here are some tips. To be trustworthy, an individual needs four ingredients.
Competence: They have the skills, knowledge, experiences and resources to do a particular task. They are honest about what they can and can’t do.
Reliability: People can depend on them to keep the promises and commitments they make. They are consistent in the way they behave from one day to the next.
Empathy: They care about other people’s interests as well as their own. They will think about how their decisions and actions affect others.
Integrity: They say what they mean and mean what they say. Their words are in line with their actions, and they are honest about their intentions and motives toward others.
1. coronavirus epidemic 冠状病毒流行
2. conspiracy n. 阴谋；密谋
3. trustworthiness n. 可信度
4. Trojan Horse 特洛伊木马。古希腊传说中，希腊联军围困特洛伊久攻不下，于是假装撤退，留下一具巨大的中空木马，特洛伊守军不知是计，把木马运进城中作为战利品。夜深人静之际，木马腹中躲藏的希腊士兵打开城门，特洛伊沦陷。
5. swindler n. 骗子
6. Ponzi scam 庞氏骗局。金融领域投资诈骗的一种称呼，即利用新投资人的钱向老投资者支付利息和短期回报，以制造钱的假象进而骗取更多投资的行为。
7. defraud v. 诈取；骗取
8. indiscriminately adv. 不加选择地；不加区分地
9. gullible adj. 易受骗的；轻信的