22 November, 2019

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A Cause For Concern: Diminishing Trust Or Distrust Leading To Fear & Uncertainty

By Suji Hettiarachchi

Suji Hettiarachchi

The “Diminishing trust or distrust” article was written to catch the eyes of the scholarly readers of the Colombo Telegraph. It was not an attempt at analyzing human behavior per se. The objective of the article was twofold; to initiate an open dialogue among the intellectual community who could contribute to the discussion and through that engagement to find ways to build a trusting Sri Lankan society and alleviate the distrust among people. 

To understand what has happened in Sri Lanka, we do not need a scientific investigation or a different set of lens. The malignant corruption and the unethical behaviors that we all have seen through our own eyes, is enough to allow us to make our own judgments. Yes of course, everybody in Sri Lanka will run to help if there is a need to as readers of Colombo Telegraph commented. This is because helping those in need is a basic human characteristic. Nevertheless, we – humans, have manufactured the distrust through years of altering the truth. The effect of this demise has inarguably impacted the very existence of core human values which include collectivity, consensus, cooperation, open communication, accountability, transparency and obeying the rules of the law and so on. The society at large is plagued by the illness of not having the desire to know the real truth. I am not an expert in international relations or in political science (I am a Sociologist!) but I am a strong believer in reality, truth, honesty, peace and harmony, concepts that seem to be slowly approaching extinction within society today.

If you analyse what you read in the media today you can judge for yourself what diminishing trust is and how it is leading towards fear and insecurity. We all believe that we must get to the bottom of this problem of distrust. Searching for the root cause of diminishing trust, one must sail to its origin and history; however, this will never be an easy task. Therefore, even the thought will not bring about the intended purpose. As a Sri Lankan, a Buddhist and as a human being, I believe we are all part and parcel of the root cause and must share the responsibility for its invention and the blame.

Fear and Uncertainty

Let’s understand what fear and uncertainty is. We can define fear as “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid”. Uncertainty on the other hand, is “the state of being uncertain, doubtful or hesitant”

Trust our people who placed their confidence in us

What is in rarity in today’s society is an intrinsic belief in genuine honesty, true love and kindness, true patriotism, respect and true nationalism. In his article titled “Premadasa’s development visionDayan Jayatilake takes us back to late President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s era, his development philosophy where I find reference to trust “ We must trust our people who have placed their confidence in us”. In today’s Sri Lankan society, the trust has disappeared! Its time to take a leaf out of such politicians of yester year! There were politicians who trusted people and people who trusted politicians. Time to take advice from such people and time to invest in altruistic individuals to help our country and build a trusting society without fear and uncertainty. To achieve these, we need to stop and re-evaluate our actions and make adjustments necessary. 

Another comment from readers of Colombo Telegraph was to experiment federalism (which is not separation according to him!) as in Australia. With my little knowledge in politics, I could suggest that the federalism works in Australia, which is a large continent (with a landmass of 7.692 million km2) with enormous resources for generations to come!  Sri Lanka on the other hand, with a land size of 65,610 km2, is even smaller than Tasmania (68,401km2), which is a state of Australia.  Australian state and the federal governments have their own parliaments and premiers and the governance is transparent, accountable and it’s a country with a great wealth. Our little island of Sri Lanka may not be large enough to have separate states. 

As per another comment – we create problems. I totally agree with this statement. The problems are everywhere not only in Sri Lanka. All problems are man-made (human-made).  They did not accidentally appear in the world out of the blue. It has been the case for some years now in Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, written rules of law do exist and spoken about. Living by rule of law is our own responsibility. If you respect the rule of law and you abide by the law, it is your inner conscience that will make you a respectful, obedient and law obeying person. 

Trust is to be lead with and lead by

The trust is mutual reciprocation at a higher level of acceptance. The time has come for us to lead with and lead by trust. There are 5 stages of distrust  (leadingwithtrust.com)– doubt  (slight uncertainty), suspicion (belief without proof), anxiety (feeling of uneasiness or apprehension), fear (afraid for your well-being) and lastly self-protection (building walls around you). Rebuilding trust will take time. Of course, Sri Lanka is not a dysfunctional state as one of the Colombo Telegraph readers had posted. Rational thinking of its citizens is in a form of fledgling state but the nation is moving forward. Rational thinking is some thing that you learn over time and the rationality in Sri Lankan thinking has dwindled in front of our own eyes.  To a certain extent this may be true.

“Democratic governments by nature appear somewhat chaotic superficially because everybody is trying to make their voices heard by various means,” says another reader. I agree with the suggestion that “everybody is trying to make his or her voice heard” exactly the problem we have in Sri Lanka is just that.  

In “Trust, distrust and 2 paradoxes of democracy” of European Journal of Social Theory, Piotr Sztompka explains that the measure of trust that people vest in their fellow citizens or institutions depends on reflected trustworthiness, basic truthfulness and culture of trust.  The culture of trust is in reference to pervading their society and normatively encouraging the trusting orientation. The author argues that democratic organization contributes to trust-generating conditions, such as normative certainty, transparency, stability and accountability. His final argument rest on 2 paradoxes; democracy breeding the culture of trust at many levels and secondly, the institutionalized distrust remains a resource used sparingly and only when there appears significant breaches of trust. 

 If you watch live streaming of the Sri Lankan parliamentary sessions, you will see just that. I often watch these on you tube. OMG! On the side of the stream runs the people’s commentaries that makes me wonder who these people are and how easy to cyber kill a person. It’s that easy! Though some of their comments and concerns are real. I too agree with readers of Colombo Telegraph. Sri Lanka that I lived was not chaotic and superficial like today. It was more calmed, respectful, law-obedient and well acknowledged around the world. 

Fake or distorted News creating distrust

An item becomes a news whether it is fake or distorted or not the truth but nothing but the truth. There is a plethora of news not newsworthy but still go pass the radar of people’s choice to see, hear or listen. People enjoy it, react to it, respond to it and sometimes make fun of it. If you read the comments on any news item you will understand what this means. You can do a scientific analysis of human behaviors, mind-sets, mentalities, thinking patterns etc. It will be a golden platform for the psychologists, psychiatrists and mental health professionals.

The world has been invaded by fake news that I called distorted news. It’s creating a mentally dysfunctional society whether we accept or not. Eight billion on earth now – watching or reading news that is untrue with endless viewpoints and opinions, where would the society be in another 10 or 20 years. Therefore the time is now for all who spread the distorted news to stop doing so.

Can we rebuild the trust?

How do you rebuild the trust? Forgive or be forgiven, be open to other viewpoints, friendly and positive dialogue, build a bridge, be honest, learn to apologize, use the universal principle of loving and kindness. None of these are apparent and visible in the thinking of Sri Lankan mentality. 

Creating news that is untrue will make a messy society with no stepping back to correct them. We read and watch news all day every day thinking this may be true. These hypotheticals will not help the society or the people.

At the moment Sri Lanka is like a Pandora’s box.  No one will ever know the truth Are we continue to follow the same path? It is high time that we all re-invent ourselves. The only solution to diminished trust and distrust is working together for a common goal with conscience. Unless we realize that we cannot be the receivers always so at some point we must give some, we must forgive and try to forget whatever the misdeed we had done. This requires unprejudiced minds with broader knowledge and ability to be genuinely interested in nation building, attitude changing, gentle and honest politicians and civil servants to take the country forward. 

Prejudice is a curse in our country. Dividing on the lines of race and ethnicity, religion and belief systems etc. is not the right way. It is time to go on reverse gear and ask ourselves – what do we all need to do for our country today? When you speak with any Sri Lankan today may it be expatriate or not, they are all fearful and uncertain of Sri Lanka’s future. We all pray and hope. Not having a strong untarnished leadership and seeing passive and diminished interest from our youth to be future leaders leave us in a vacuum. Where is our second-tier leadership? Why are these young, vibrant are not bothered about coming forward to voice their interest in leadership? Will we ever see young honest leaders of our future?

Social Glue and Humble Trust

Trust is commonly described using the metaphor of invisible “social glue” and absence of the glue of trust is distrust says Jason D’Cruz in “Humble trust” (Philosophical Studies 2019 176:933-953). Distrust that is based in real fear yet fails to target ill will, lack of integrity or incompetence. He explains suites of behaviors characteristic of trust and distrust. Trust brings with it the engagement and feeling of security and confidence where as distrust we avoid or withdraw interaction.  When we distrust we avoid reliance, interaction and vulnerability. He concludes, “that “sometimes the thing we must trust others to do is trust us. We must trust that our actions and words will be interpreted favorably in the face of uncertainty…this trust does not come automatically, the perception of hasty or unwarranted distrust undermines the conditions that make such trust possible, thereby undermining trustworthiness itself. This is the predicament that calls for humble trust

The above fear bound uncertainties emanating from diminishing trust and distrust will ultimately find it’s natural death. How we deal with it and who will come forward are the questions we face today. 

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Latest comments

  • 0
    3

    An interesting, unusual, thoughtful article.

    • 5
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      Dayan, It is your comment that made me to go thru the material in the article. She has opined high of you!
      .
      Suji Hettiarachchi, As a sociologist, your knowledge revolves around development, structure, and functioning of human society. And yet, you try to link, land mass and federalism. You are not just a failed political analyst but also a sorrow specimen of a sociologist.

  • 1
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    Though in theory the above said facts may be true, in reality Lanka is now in a hopeless, helpless and worthless situation. The public and the state is currently in CODEPENDENCE. The family ruled governance ( Senanayaka, Banda, Rajapaksa, JW/RW) has taken the country to an irreversible state. Negative reinforcement and conditioning by respective governments has now made what is abnormal has the “new normal”. The house is filled with murders and criminals , there is no one credible person who we can confidently say we trust. As long Lanka is dysfunctional or not there is no such scale to measure the severity but considering the facts I believe we are. It will vary depending on who is currently residing, who have been severely affected, who left country to save their own life —-etc. After going through the article I could not identify one single factor favoring our prognosis. I am not for one to live in DENIAL. There is nothing worse than public debating the least evil as next leader.

  • 1
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    Though in theory the above said facts may be true, in reality Lanka is now in a hopeless, helpless and worthless situation. The public and the state is currently in CODEPENDENCE. The family ruled governance ( Senanayaka, Banda, Rajapaksa, JW/RW) has taken the country to an irreversible state. Negative reinforcement and conditioning by respective governments has now left us with the “new normal”.(what is abnormal). The house is filled with murders and criminals , there is no one credible person who we can confidently say we trust. As long Lanka is dysfunctional or not there is no such scale to measure the severity but considering the facts I believe we are. The opinion may vary depending on who is currently residing, who have been severely affected, who were forced to leave country —-etc. After going through the article, I see a lot of suggestions and desperate wish but could not identify one single factor to favor our prognosis. I am not for one to live in DENIAL. (There is nothing worse than public debating the least evil as next leader.)When I visited Venezuela few years ago, public then , did not think they were dysfunctional. What happened after is history. I see the same ominous signs in Lanka too.

  • 2
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    Suji!
    ………………..” Federalism (which is s not separation according to him)” the inference one gathers from your statement is that federalism is separation. The argument advanced against federalism for Srilanka is that Srilanaka is a small country. It is not the “land mass” that matters but the ‘mind mass’ of the people who live in federal states. Switzerland is a federal state where the ‘land mass’ is much smaller than Srilanka. Singapore though not federal is almost the size of Colombo and our politicians wants to follow Singapore style of government only in words not in practice. Singapore was attached to Malasia but broke away without Blood shed. To day both Countries are doing well, a thousand times better than Srilanka Srilanka is not ruled by elected Members- instead it is ruled by Saffron Clad monks who are supposed to represent lord Buddha. Sinhala only, Buddhism given the foremost place and periodical communal riots mostly created and led by the Saffron clad will not allow unity among races in Srilanka .Like the face covered Abaya, prevents the identity of a person the saffron robes prevents the identity of the good from the bad and the bad from the ugly.
    Unless the priest belonging to all religions, including the cardinals are kept in their places Srilanka may not progress like your favorite county Australia, Suji.
    To my knowledge the intellectuals never solve any problem practically, other than to talk ,talk and talk, Suji Intellectuals are a misfit in politics, other than to draft constitutions, only to be challenged in the courts
    Big or small, federalism fits all countries to bring unity among races.
    Size Doesn’t Really Matter.

  • 2
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    Dear Suji Hettiarachchi,
    Thank you for your attempt to to rebuild the trust in Srilanka.
    You are rightly pointed out the current of status of the trust between communities, between religions, races. We all should accept one truth that this island is the motherland for diversed communities, not for a particular community or particular religion. Unfortunately our political and religious leadership failed to understand this truth since this country became independence from British in 1948. Opportunism played a major role in creating distrust among communities and religions. I am sure still the people and leadership have no desire to know the real truth even after seventy years of continued destruction of trust. You rightly picked up the outcome:
    “The society at large is plagued by the illness of not having the desire to know the real truth.”

    ” I am a strong believer in reality, truth, honesty, peace and harmony, concepts that seem to be slowly approaching extinction within society today.”

    “The only solution to diminished trust and distrust is working together for a common goal with conscience”

    We all know that working together for a common goal with conscience is one of the solution but the problem is to find out how to break the barriers to working together. Do we know who should work together?
    Further, I don’t know why you picked up the point below in this article and give your opinion but in my opinion your argument is wrong and it is one of the solutions to rebuild the trust among diversed communities irrespective of the size of Srilanka. The problems and distrust caused by the opportunism within a unitary administration is much more than the impact of size.
    “Our little island of Sri Lanka may not be large enough to have separate states.”
    “Can we rebuild the trust?”

  • 1
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    Do the past and present deeds, misdeeds and ig-deeds by BBS-Buddhism founder Gnanasara Thera, cause us concern?

  • 0
    1

    All Sri Lanka require urgently is one Law for everyone and good law enforcement.
    ..
    Secondly we need to elect a proper parliament, who can actually contribute to the economic reforms inline with the world.
    ..
    All religions need to take a back seat and abide by the Law.
    ..
    We need a open public debate on the issues of each religion and how the respective religious Leaders will contain the issues.
    ..
    Kick out all the NGO’s if they are breaking any laws. Yes we require help but not at the expense of our freedom and our culture.
    ..
    We have enough resources and drive, to make Srilankans fly high.

  • 1
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    Trust & Leadership is the core of this article. Simply, both goes together and one without other will not suffice. Looking back, no one except Dudley Senanaike, come closer in Sri Lankan history. Current crises have bought to the surface the lack of it, from the politicians. One can laugh at it, but the implications for the good Sri Lankans are a many future years in the wilderness. About 11.5 million Democratic Socialist Sri Lankan voters need to decide what and whom they want. Otherwise be an armchair commentators for the next five years.

  • 0
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    One Thera says to stone and kill Muslims. Another says there should be only two candidates in next elections. One more went on fasting to get rid of all Muslim ministers. Another came out on pardon to threaten “fire works” all over country. Few have left to Kalmunai to settle scores. Ranjith is busy taking selfies with some of them. Fernando from England is busy defending Ranjith. In the mean time, 176 children are with out parent (some both parents) to day because of our so called leaders of our miracle nations. . A Muslim businessman was murdered in daylight yesterday in Dehiwala for ransom.We had good number of riots after Easter and I believe more to expect in Rajapaksas play book. BR as proposed GR , who is currently investigated domestic and US, for political murders as our next President.MR suggested “a strong arm twisting ruthless person who loves the nation, but not the people for next president”. MS is competing with Trump in lying and deceiving. And still we believe Lanka is functional and not DYSFUNCTIONAL. Even denial has its own limits, otherwise it is known as DELUSIONS.

  • 4
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    Suji Hettiarachchi

    The “Diminishing trust or distrust” article was written to catch the eyes of the scholarly readers of the Colombo Telegraph. It was not an attempt at analyzing human behavior per se. The objective of the article was twofold; to initiate an open dialogue among the intellectual community who could contribute to the discussion and through that engagement to find ways to build a trusting Sri Lankan society and alleviate the distrust among people.

    *** Wishfull thinking at the 11th hour. Can you please tell me how you are going to build trust when you have as rulers brutalised the Minorities for the last 70 years with no end in sight with more of the same,. Let me tell you why your dream is not going to come true.

    1) The so called intellectulas have no guts or willngness to admit the past mistakes and show remorse , punish those who are guilty before we can reconsile. Thee LTTE carders are being indicted but those guilty of mass murder on your side are being given State of the Art security. Praised for their vision for the country
    2) At least thanks to USA Gotha will serve time if found Guilty
    2) Convicted Racists (Ganasara ) are pardoned by the eleted Predsident underminng Rule of Law and the Jusice system.

    We have to look for solutions to come from outside. Taking aim at MR Modi has invited TNA for talks. So my advise to you is dont waste your time. What you have done and are doing is a habit of a life time passed on from generation to generation.

  • 0
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    Get religion out of politics first.Then make RULE OF LAW paramount and Law should be equal to anyone whether it’s the president or the layman from the villages. In my opinion everything will fall into place

  • 0
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    Suji, The CID found there was no evidence against Dr. Shafi to file a case. Lets stop here and analyze it. The last count of “Lankan me too” was in thousands. These are fake women organized and coordinated by sitting MP of Kurunegala MR, who came with fake complaints against the doctor who had faithfully served them one time. This is repetition of “sterilization pills ” and “Black July”, where innocent minorities were targeted, murdered, properties looted and burned down. As a sociologist dont you see a pattern here???. It is racist jealous public, Buddhist religious bigots (rathana, Ganasara, Malwatta), crooked politicians together working as a team on a hidden agenda which was initiated soon after independence. (please see Satchi,s two part article). Where is the trust and mistrust in this sordid saga.Dysfunctional to the core.

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