Last month, The Saving Ninja proposed a thought experiment, which he does every other month.
I’ve participated in his thought experiment series one time before, and then I kind of got sidetracked, so I haven’t contributed to the series since. This months (last months) topic however, really got me thinking. I know that you’re supposed to post your “answer” to the thought experiment on the same day (the 15th), so this post will not be an official “reply” to the series 😉 – But, I’m going to piggyback on it none the less (I hope that is acceptable).
A different opinion is somewhat frowned upon in our clique based society, but some of the greatest minds of all time were outliers. They weren’t scared to go against the grain and stand up for what they believed in. So, for this Thought Experiment, I’d like you to reveal yourself: What opinion do you have that most of your peers do not share?
I had a somewhat interesting week, which sparked a few notes on my phone (I often take notes when something pops into my head, which could turn out to be “of interest” for the Total Balance blog).
I was at a 20-year reunion party with my old elementary school class last weekend. (Yes, you smart-asses – that means I’m getting old!). Obviously people change over the course of 20 years, but (not) surprisingly the majority kind of stayed the same (same style, humor, opinions and dreams). While the majority of us really hadn’t changed a whole lot (in the broader sense), there’s always that one person who’s made a complete 180. (I know what you think, but that person wasn’t me. At best, I’d say I’ve made a 90 degree turn 😛 ).
I still see a handful of my old school friends on a regular basis, so those assholes obviously didn’t surprise me a whole lot (they are still the same! – Loud and smelly 😛 ). But there was one girl, who began the night with a party-trick that I had never seen before; she tested the water for impurities before she drank it (she didn’t drink it – as it failed the test…).
Testing the water
This trick didn’t really impress the crowd a whole lot (she was obviously, cuckoo, right?), but she instantly had my attention, as I had kind of already caught on to her “alternative ways” via her Facebook likes/updates. I was eager to learn more about her life since we graduated, as it was pretty apparent that she had changed – a lot. I was impressed by her story and “transition” (no, I’m not going to share it here – that would be rude 😉 ) and it struck me that out of all the people there, she was the one that I had the most in common with. I like people who are not afraid to “go against the stream”, to search and discover their true values, and to pursue them like there’s no tomorrow. I respect that. I dig that. Am I that?
Since I was a kid I’ve pretty much been drinking nothing but water. I don’t drink soda, I don’t drink coffee and I don’t drink alcohol (I’m not religious about it, I just prefer water as nothing quenches the thirst like a cold glass of water 😉 ). Never did it occur to me, to actually test the purity of the water that I drink!? The water company knows what they are doing right? And they act in everybody’s best interest, right?…
Trusting the system
In Denmark (and western Europe in general) we have a very high degree of trust in “the system”, the government and each other. This is a good thing! Trust is (in my opinion) one of the most important corner stones of our modern society. And yet, our trust in “the system”, society and each other is fading. Little by little, we begin trusting each other less and less.
From 2007 to 2014 on average, confidence in national governments across OECD countries declined 3.4 p.p. from 45.2% to 41.8%. The steepest decline was 30 p.p. while the highest increase was 25 p.p. (source: OECD)
The numbers obviously cover a very big spread, from Switzerland at the top (75%) to Slovenia (18%), Greece (no surprise there) and Spain at the bottom. Looking at the top 10 Government trusting nations, I was quite surprised to see countries like India, Russia, Turkey and Indonesia. I was however not surprised to see my own country (Denmark) just barely above the average of 42%.
The thing about trust is; much like love, it cannot be demanded or bought. – You have to earn it! And once you’ve lost someones trust, getting it back is not an easy task.
So, why is it that we seem to have a problem with trust these days? I believe human nature is not “trust per default”. In order to gain someones trust, you have to show them that you are trustworthy. Giving the development of the modern day society, we’ve “grown” to trust each other a lot more, than our own nature actually dictates us to. We thus have a tendency to label the people who blindly trust others as naive.
Trusting each other
I’ve had the privilege to grow up in a country, where there is an extremely high degree of security. The Danes are among the highest taxed people in the world – but it’s OK, because we know (trust?) that the taxes goes to a good purpose: the community. The idea that together we are stronger is a powerful mantra that is somehow embedded in our DNA – and yet, we are not in general considered a friendly welcoming people – because “outsiders” are NOT in our “circle of trust”. The notion that foreigners are coming to Denmark to TAKE something from us, is something that has been tooted in the mainstream media for decades. Denmark is for Danes! What kind of asshole mentality is that?! If you were born and raised in Denmark, we trust you – if not, we don’t?
But then, here is the kicker: In case you are in fact a bad person (native or not), we trust our judicial system to take care of that 😉
The power in Denmark is divided in three; The Legislative Power, The Executing Power and The Judicial Power (I bet you thought that the Royals had power too, right!? They don’t. Those days are long gone. Today the royal family is nothing but figureheads on top of the fairy tale cake).
Based on the two graphs above from OECD, it appear that we don’t trust the people (the system) who create our laws, but we trust the people (system) who are responsible for upholding those laws (the judicial system). Why is that?
Trusting “The Man”
It occurred to me a while back, that as individuals our morals and ethics are fairly clear cut. We know and understand right from wrong. When presented with something that appears to be immoral or unjust, our moral compass is going to clearly mark the right path. Sometimes though, our moral compass can be misguided. – If we’re in a group, we tend to follow the popular opinion, which is somehow not always aligned with our own moral compass.
It gets even worse, if we’re in a corporate environment (the government can also be considered a corporation in this context). When we work for “the man”, the lines between right and wrong easily becomes blurry (so the history clearly tells us). This is why we’ve invented the concept of the whistleblower. These are in fact the real heroes of the world. These are people who risk their livelihood (and sometimes lives too), to “stick it to the man”. To not let their own moral compass be corrupted by the powers and allure of the corporate world (most people simply prefer to keep their job, rather than become a whistleblower). Through history there has been countless examples of these whistleblowers. Most recently Edwards Snowden has become a prime example, of how following your own moral compass (when at work) can result in your life changing forever. It’s no wonder people often choose to keep their mouth shut. Such is the power of the system.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) whistleblower Cheryl D. Eckard exposed contamination problems at GSK’s pharmaceutical manufacturing operations, which led to a $750 million settlement with the U.S. government related to civil and criminal charges that the firm manufactured and sold adulterated pharmaceutical products. Eckard was awarded $96 million in 2010 – Source: Wikipedia
So, returning to my initial story about testing the water for impurities before drinking it:
Do I believe that my water is pure (as can be)? Yes, I do. – But I would be a fool to blindly trust my water company to keep it that way, as clean water is a business, just like everything else on this planet.
Money rules the world, and money has no moral or ethics. If you believe otherwise, you are naive.