Trust me, I’m a ….!
(extract from The People Business)
Trust, a small word with a big meaning.
One that lies happily above truth in most dictionary’s in the happenchance of soul mates co-joined by their integrity. Trust has no measure, it’s either there or it isn’t; if it's there it can be given and if given it can be earned. No relationship between sentient beings can survive without it, no community flourish, no nation progress or world know contentment; it is truly priceless and, as such should be costless, but it isn’t.
Trust can be misplaced, adulterated by commerce to the point where its antithesis has to be coined in order to protect its true meaning – anti-trust. Hard as it is to have earned trust but not be given it in return, it’s better than being given trust and not earning it by regarding its pricelessness as something that can be squandered for painless gain.
In our world it is a rare commodity and one I suspect is getting even rarer; while its antithesis –anti trust – is spreading from the world of commerce - where it had a purpose - to our everyday world of living and the life that affords us in a pandemic turmoil of anti or no trust. So to whom or what do we award our trust and to whom or what do we deny it.
In the smaller units of society, parents, family, friends, trust is fairly freely given though it’s usually monitored and metered by experience. Innocence in young children doesn’t question, merely assumes trust. Sometimes trust is forced on you as the antithesis to despair – such as the patient with a brain tumour who has to trust his surgeon knows what he’s doing. And, if that patient doesn’t sense his trust is warranted he’ll shop around till he finds one who does. Trust is an everyday thing in millions of everyday ways that are only noticed when something happens to disrupt them. Which then raises the question as to why we consider it to be so rare?
To answer that I suppose it’s necessary to try and define who and what we don’t trust – though I suspect a list of those we do would be shorter. In fact if I’m right in my hypothesis, why bother with a list at all, instead I’ll go with my instincts and give a few examples.
Top of the heap must be governments; primarily because they’re formed by politicians for political reasons and are backed by bureaucrats both of whom profess their commitment to trust when in fact they corrupt it and as a result bastardise the results. By their example they distort the democratic process into a self serving tyranny where truth is subordinated to convenience and trust to the lies of illusion. This paradigm of politics filters down from parliament to parish and has the same effect as that which attracts fly’s to shit.
Where governments fail is in their – Fit for Purpose & Reasonable Test – and they miss the mark by taking their eye off the ball given by the people and the corresponding goals that are expected of them. Which are, that the lot for the people will be better than it was when they got in; or, at least it will not be worse. This is all we expect of them. Not that they should please all of the people all of the time, or that they should be flayed for getting some aspects wrong – just that they show competent commitment and effort to pleasing most of the people most of the time.
After all they supposedly serve a reasonable populace. In recent times few, if any, have been assassinated or suffered physical threat to body, family or property. So why should that populace expect any less of them from their acts and omissions when they act as executives for that abstract concept called State. In truth, no man can serve two masters, and we all know the one they choose, which by definition, makes them not fit for purpose towards the other.
It’s a big job running a country; an easier job ruining one. Because of this most of us wouldn’t aspire towards having the necessary qualities or qualifications; but these aspirants claim they do and offer themselves for our consideration. The problem is defining what we are being offered. In short, are their aspirations towards improving our lot, or merely theirs. Are they groomed by the university of life or the colleges of politics – is their integrity to populace or party. Who knows until such time as they enter the hallowed halls of governance and the many who have clamoured are reduced to the few who will pay any price to be chosen. But they’re in and all it has cost them is a sliver of their silvery tongue forming empty promises and – though to them it’s a cost without loss and therefore meaningless – the loss of our trust.
So, in one way, or many, this Ship of State, its command, crew, passengers and the cargo it carries has managed to lose trust from both its course and manifest. It carries none, is aiming for none and in its hubris is not concerned by its lack, which may yet prove to be an oversight of Titanic proportion and result.
Yet, serious as this lack is in governance it develops into a toxin that permeates throughout the institutions that supposedly serve and protect our everyday lives.
Our police no longer serve justice or maintain the rights of our liberties to enjoy in peace, privacy and freedom the best we can make of the choices life gives us. Now they are the instruments of State, honed to suppress dissent in order to protect the property and interests of the State they serve and the ‘friends’ it’s in cahoots with. The Media, is propaganda writ large but softly and insidiously whispered. Where protest is portrayed as violence and its purpose ignored while alleged costs are ad- nauseum trumpeted.
Where those by dint of fortune, provenance or disillusion find ‘Welfare’ has to be earned by wading through a drudgery of grudge – where the inquisition of ‘means’ is very mean indeed if you have the misfortune to be poor. But if you’re a banker, estate owner or farmer, they call welfare subsidy and the means they adopt there is, “Just fill this in here and that there and we will see the cheque gets in the post.” It seems charity has now to be measured by the billions - £15b to scroungers - £65b to tax avoiders - £150b allowances (no nothing to do with the meltdown – this is before and still happening) to banks. But hey – the £15b amongst the unwashed are the easy touch and cracking down on them will make the rest think twice to apply, even if they are entitled to a bit of a hand up.
By now you could be thinking we’ve got rid of faith and exposed the claims and rigours adopted by charity so where lies hope? In answer I’d like to tell a story.
In recent years a Supreme Court has been set up in England. The purpose of this was supposedly to create a firm division, a separation, between the Judiciary and its administration of the Law, and the Executive who pass it into Statute. This is what we’re told; how truthful or comprehensive this explanation is your instinct is as good as mine. Some consider the Supreme Court has a covert purpose to subvert the independence of Scottish Law, others to soften the impact of the ECHR it could be all, or none, or more; who knows! But that’s not part of the story.
A few years back, when the razzmatazz of the sub prime was being hawked around I got involved in a minor way with a Consumer Forum which owed its creation to a young law student who, realising how much his bank was costing him took them to court on the charges they were levying on his account; on the bases they were a penalty charge, way above any relationship to the actual costs of their administration and in layman terms a cash cow being exploited by the banks. He won, some of the media reported it (guess the ones who didn’t) and the banks began to suffer, if not the death, at least the discomfort of a thousand cuts, with millions more pending. If memory serves I think it cost them around £16 million in the first year. At the time we thought this was great, a chink in the armour of the those who have by raiding the purses of the those who hath not. The euphoria led to high expectations; figures in the billions were prophesised and the more cautious wondered whether the banks would be able to withstand the onslaught. (Little did we know just how much our naivety would be exposed within a few years.) My role was minor, to act a few times as a Macpherson friend though more often merely to advise and encourage, as generally, the policy adopted by the banks was to settle out of court and thereby thwart the possibility of a precedent being set. Instead they sought to petition for trial to be set between the banks with the plaintiffs being represented by an institution of the government. For whatever reasons the banks got their way and the Office of Fair Trading was selected by the Government to act for the plaintiffs.
It was then that the arcane and esoteric labyrinths’ of the law sabotaged the purpose of the action. The banks challenged whether the OFT had the right to investigate and present the case. They lost in the High Court and in the Court of Appeal and the considered opinion were, were they to take it to the European Court they would lose there as well; instead they waited and took it to the Supreme Court and won?
Like many, my disappointment was scarred by disbelief and the confusion created by my ignorance of the legal process. After all the bases of the argument was clear and the justification either for or against was quite simple so how could the previous judges get it wrong? It was only later that I learned the issue of charges hadn’t been tested; that millions were invested by the banks and as many millions by the taxpayer to decide whether an institute of a democratic government, selected by them to investigate the validity or otherwise of the charges and whether or not to test them in court. The Supreme Court said “No”.
Last week, I happened to find myself watching a programme called Justice on BBC 4 – it may have been on before; most programmes have- in this one the content was on the issues the Supreme Court had handled and included interviews with some of the judges that have handled them.
They came across very well; wise in the law and its application, committed to justice as applied by the law and approachable toward avuncular in their purpose. My attention was sharpened when one of them referred directly to the bank charges case. Here he was making the case for the law to take precedence over emotion – to the best of my recollection he said – he wanted the OFT to win for the sake of the millions of people who stood to gain from it, but as it stood the OFT didn’t have the right to investigate written into its articles and covenants? (I doubt if articles and covenants were the words he used; but you’ll get the jist.)
As a layman I find this logic and the rationale behind it disturbing. That the authority of a democratic government to appoint one of it’s departments – the one whose purpose is the supervision of fair trade – only to be told it has not the authority to investigate a commercial enterprise for possible abuse of its customers makes a nonsense of the department, the government that appointed it and ultimately the democracy both it and the court is supposed to serve. And if the law is of the opinion it comes above the democratic process it has no right to claim it serves justice.
Which leaves the question, where, when and should emotion step in? In the 1930’s the Nazi’s decided Jews were second class citizens. Laws were passed and judges passed sentence under them and by their actions gave tacit support to the holocaust. I suppose a few stepped down or whatever judges do when they throw in the wig and gown. But if the emotion called compassion had been aggressively acted on it could arguably have shortened the rope and scope a madman was given to play in.
I’m not arguing the quandary placed before the Supreme Court was as evil as the one faced by Germany in the 30’s; nor am I arguing that governments shouldn’t be challenged by and in the courts – within that context I would argue for the citizen to have an automatic right to take his government to court – but when the fundamental rights and freedoms of people are undermined by the law, or priced out by the demands of its procedures to the benefit or advantage of institutions, then the Law is an ass which, in it’s consumptive dictat has chosen attrition instead of constant nutrition by adaption in order to counter the threats posed to undermine these fundamental rights.
A legal process which seeks to protect its self is in danger of becoming just as tyrannical as any other government or institution which adopts the same practices of infallible omnipotence.
In the populace the confusion created by these actions transforms from bewilderment to doubt and possibly suspicion as to motive and purpose.
Such as; were the government aware of the deficiencies in the powers the OFT had? Were they in league with the banks all along…… And if not, why not force the banks into the European Court. And in view of the fact that by now the bubble of probity claimed by the banks had burst in full view and cost to the public – was the Supreme Court ‘influenced’ by the possibility that another blow could sound the industry’s death knell; no matter how big they were? Given the situation facing them, was the decision of the Supreme Court knowing the decisions of the previous courts, based on the letter of the law or on the pragmatism of convenience?
And whether it was or not, what does the confusion created by the decision do for the embodiment of trust.
Any democratic process worthy of the name must be constantly reviewed and developed in order to protect, maintain and add to these fundamental principles of rights of the people they are designed to serve. In a fast moving world the stasis of the status quo or the inertia of tradition is not an option. The demand of democracy is that any government selected serves the people, not its own vanity. And any elected opposition argues for improvement or rejection on the issues raised before it, not on the brooha of irresponsible negativity. Technology has given us the means where every issue of import being debated by parliament could, by ringing a number then pressing one digit have an immediate response from the electorate. Possibly cutting the need for representatives by half, and, as a consequence increasing the requirement for open and honest debate and disclosure of all relevant facts.
Hierarchies, hegemonies and the privileges of secrecy have no legitimacy in a democracy. Nor does it license commitments to treaties or obligations that are sold to the public by lies, obfuscation or duplicity that in any way serve to distort their purpose. Within a democracy government is contracted to serve the people, not the interests of professional lobbyists, their clients, nor institutions of establishments commercial or public. The administration, income and dispersion of the public purse should reflect the values and wishes of the people, not the vanities or objectives of establishment hierarchies.
Just as truth requires honesty, trust needs openness and integrity in order to thrive; provide both and you strengthen the bedrock of democracy and the pay-off is in the trust, interest and commitment the people give to it.
Trust is the foundation The People Business must be built on.