After Americans spent a full year suffering through COVID-19 and the government’s overreaction to it, you’d think we’d see almost universal excitement at the idea of a vaccine that has the potential to put this whole pandemic in the rearview mirror. Yet, 47% of Americans have said they’re reluctant to take the vaccine. Once you start asking why that is, you start to realize that it all comes down to trust. Scientists like Anthony Fauci have been wrong about the virus almost every step of the way. Social media and the mainstream media have worked tirelessly to censor and undermine anyone who says anything counter to conventional wisdom about it. In fact, the whole issue of the virus has been heavily politicized to the point where you can’t trust the government either. You think Joe Biden is going to get up there and say anything other than something like, “We’re doing a marvelous job of handling this virus, everything is good, and any problems are the fault of Republicans?” So, what ends up happening is that there is no one that the average person can trust on the subject.
This is becoming distressingly common in America.
On any topic that has to do with politics, the mainstream media is completely unreliable and in recent years, EVERYTHING seems to be tied to politics. Sports, business, gender, masculinity, free speech, the Founding Fathers, crime, you name it, it’s considered “political” now and there is always narrative that is more important than the truth to reporters. Telling a truth that cuts against that narrative is a good way to get “canceled” and so, you can’t trust that what you’re being told by the MSM is honest, unbiased, or even true. This has led many people to turn to alternative news sources, all of which are highly biased and some of which are ridiculously conspiratorial and dishonest.
Politics is even worse. In a world where the population is becoming increasingly divided into heavily conservative and liberal areas, there is very little reason for politicians to reach out to moderates, be fair to the other side, or try to come to a mutual understanding. In a state or district where only one side of the political spectrum matters, you win by telling those people what they want to hear, whether it’s true or not. You want politicians that are going to look out for America and tell you the truth, even when it doesn’t serve their interests? You might as well be looking for four-leaf clovers or hen’s teeth.
Well, how about corporations? They’re becoming increasingly political. Movie stars and musicians? They’re essentially commies trying to push their weird ideology on the rest of the country. What about the police, the courts, and the FBI? The Left is working to convince Americans that the police are murdering black Americans at will while simultaneously pulling them back in areas where liberal groups are rioting. Prosecutors in many liberal cities will simply refuse to prosecute liberals that riot while going after people that defend themselves from rioters. Listen to ultra-partisans like former FBI director James Comey or former CIA director John Brennan and tell me that you believe you can trust either agency to give a fair shake to conservatives.
Pay attention to your neighbors blurting out every stupid thought that comes into their heads on Twitter and NextDoor and ask yourself if you trust these people. Listen to our “elite” today and ask yourself how most of them compare to the sort of men who created the Constitution, built an atomic bomb, or put a man on the moon. There are a few of them that seem to be of that caliber, but for every one of them that is, there are 10 of them babbling on about Critical Race Theory or that seem confused about how to figure out what gender someone happens to be. Some of them are genuinely smart, but in the real world, our supposed “best and brightest” seem intellectually inferior to the sort of everyday people that own their own small business or farm.
America is becoming a low-trust society and that’s a big problem because there are a lot of ramifications to it. If the only people you can trust are other members of your own “tribe,” then you will increasingly view the members of other tribes with suspicion, be less willing to help them, and less likely to take their concerns seriously. Governing becomes extremely difficult because neither side can trust the other to keep their word on any medium or long-term deals. In a world where only your tribe matters, people often advocate for positions that are toxic to those that disagree because if they are outside of the tribe, they don’t matter. Even things as basic as treating people from other tribes with respect or being honest about them become difficult.
We have gotten around this problem in the past by having a strong, central culture that encouraged people to adopt Christian ideals and embrace traditional American values. Long term, that sort of thinking allows a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural nation to survive. When that goes away and we’re just a mixture of different tribes, with different values, that don’t trust each other, what reason is there for us to stick together? Why even bother making the effort for people that are going to hate your guts and treat you unfairly for not being part of their tribe? We do have a low-trust society and if you look around the world, societies like ours often move on to much more dangerous ground. Political repression. Open violence. Camps. Dictatorships. A republic like America can’t survive long-term when it breaks up into tribal groups that hate each other. At some point, we’re either going to have to reverse what’s going on or all those people that believe “it can’t happen here,” which would have included me ten years ago, are going to be proven wrong.
John Hawkins is the author of 101 Things All Young Adults Should Know.
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