Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Peek Under the Hood

Try as I might, I can't pinpoint the time nor the trigger that changed me. But I remember, long ago, holding the distinct belief that government was incapable of deliberately doing wrong. I just knew, deep in my heart, that our government really was "us" and that we would all do right by one another. I remember when I assumed people I met were fundamentally decent, good folks until they showed me otherwise.

You can call it naivete, but it wasn't that. Maybe it was an idealistic belief in me that I extended to others. If I remembered the time or the series of events that led me to lose such an innocent belief in goodness, I would be able to pinpoint when it happened. But I don't. And maybe that's for the best because I don't have a specific target for my analysis or my rage. If I had such a target, I might understand the genesis of what has been a lifetime of skepticism and mistrust that regularly bubbles to the surface.

I miss my belief so much it sometimes makes me want to cry. When I believed that the government's motives were pure, as young as I must have been at the time, I felt like everything would work out all right. I believed it. People were, as a whole, trustworthy. It was not only OK to help people in need, it was natural. It was expected. And I knew that if I ever needed help, people would be there to help me. Because we all would look out after one another. Because the government was really "us."

Today, I find myself angry at people around me for shirking what I believe are their responsibilities to get involved in their government...just vote, for God's sake! And I get furious when I realize that people take at face value what our government tells us. I want them to "question authority" and demand explanations and insist on seeing evidence that what we're being told is true. We can no longer rely on the media to ask our tough questions for us; we have to ask them ourselves. But we're not asking. We can't rely on trust anymore; maybe we never could.

I suppose I wish for the innocent days when I believed in people. It's not that I don't believe in people now, but my trust is no longer automatic and it can be lost in a heartbeat. I wish I could believe that people cared about their fellow humans. Sure, plenty of them do. But I'm afraid many more do not.

That's a hard attitude, I know. And it tends to make one unappealing and unapproachable. But it provides a hard shell that helps keep those soft inner attitudes protected from an angry, viscious, and increasingly hostile world.


YourFireAnt said...

I think it's a sensible attitude. Way t'go!


bev said...

I can't really remember when I stopped trusting or believing in the government. I kind of think that Canadians may have a somewhat different view of government. We have certain expectations, and if they aren't met, we tend to be rather quick to put the boots to any government that can't deliver the goods. Also, we have a very long history of rather pointed tv satire taking aim at government, so I believe that most of us grew up with the attitude that there is nothing sacred when it comes to saying what we think about how things are done. Imo, this is all good.
As for on a personal level -- I guess that I still believe there are good people in the world. I try to help others when it's possible. I used to be less inclined to ask anyone for help, but I've revised that thinking recently -- mainly because I'm doing a lot of traveling around with just my dog (now dogs) so I sometimes ask others for information, opinions on how safe it is to camp in certain places, whether a road is good enough to drive down without getting stuck, etc... I try to be helpful to others in the same way. I've always been a great believer in passing it forward -- what goes around, comes around -- and am still not too jaded to believe that's true to at least some extent. This past winter, I met quite a few people who live by the same philosophy. That was pretty refreshing and encouraging.