Two words have been on everyone’s lips lately: truth and immunity. Both seem to be used in arguments where the point is dramatically missed. Truth is defined as that which is consistent with fact or reality. It means authenticity, integrity, or accuracy. It is about how things actually are. And a person who is immune is not receptive or responsive to something because they have the protection they need.
There are numerous examples in the media of the truth being elusive, and of what really happened being obscured and tainted with suspicion of corruption or hypocrisy. It is not surprising that we have industries that are used for cover-up by people who can do whatever they want without consequences. The result of this is a growing distrust of institutions and authorities and an increasing cynicism about the value of truth. In fact, it weakens the foundation on which our societies are built.
The Corona pandemic has put the term “immune” in the news, suggesting a protection against the virus similar to that of polio, which we clearly have not achieved. Instead, there are many people who have contracted the virus despite vaccination or even after a previous infection. The experts quickly revised their words and instead spoke of protection that weakens the effect of the virus on the human organism but does not immunize it. This caused many to doubt the point of vaccination and even to doubt the measures taken to contain the spread of the virus.
We have also seen an interaction between the two debates, with conspiracy theories that suspect the authorities of Western governments of exercising mass control and authoritarianism through the pandemic, and that assume that the virus was a hoax and that measures were not necessary at all. While countries that took the measures saw at least a temporary drop in infection rates, with New Zealand standing out, the countries or states where the restrictions were rejected faced high infection and death rates – including prominent anti-vaxxer activists.
The question of what is true about all this is obvious to one side of the argument and hidden under a veil of conspiracy to the other. The two sides regularly clash and have a degree of media coverage that keeps the situation in people’s minds, and the emotionalism of the situation takes over. The media coverage masks another fact, which is that the vast majority of people are trying to protect themselves and follow the rules that have been established, but distrust is growing, nonetheless. Authoritarian regimes look on and smile.
I think our biggest problem is that we in the Western world are developing an immunity to the truth and promoting cynicism. There are forces at work that either work for their personal gain or are used by opposing regimes that prefer authoritarian rule to true democracy. The two, of course, could be intertwined. I remember a discussion in one of the universities that was televised about trust in society. There were many who called for more trust, but the lady who stood out was the one who brought the discussion to the heart of the matter, which is that there can be no trust if there is no trustworthiness.
Only when we all work toward trustworthiness in our personal lives, in our work relationships, in politics, and in our social interactions will trust return. Only then will we come to the facts, to the reality of a situation as it really is. Only then will we become immune to cynicism and work together to defeat the natural enemies of humanity and develop protection against influences that can limit us in our freedom, our health and our well-being.
So, it is up to all of us to ask ourselves how we can become more trustworthy, how we can ensure that the people we give power to are more trustworthy, and how we can foster a society built on trust.