Culture of Mistrust


Muhammad Maroof Shah

Once upon a time Kashmir boasted of a culture of trust despite foreign rules and slavery. Compared to situation today Kashmir was almost a heaven of trust, a generation or two back.  And trust between people and communities were grounded in common trust in God. People shared meals, milk, vegetables etc. Even dreams were not private. There were no separate rooms or bathrooms for every individual. More people could reside in a house than can reside in a Mohalla today. We had no craze for big houses, separate cars and lavish parties to advertise our vanity and show off personal empire that fundamentally results from distrust in community spirit.

Today, as people no longer believe in God in practice (prayers and fasts not withstanding as people are not ready to be transformed by them afterwards) one can count on fingers in one’s community people whom one can trust. Earlier we could rarely find a person who could not be trusted. The word was important and most of transactions involving even huge sums were transferred to contracting parties without affidavits or written documents. Today we would appreciate Bill Gate’s remark that the first principle of success is to trust none, to take nobody’s word at face value.

Mistrust also costs us a great deal of traffic jams. Here people don’t, generally speaking, provide the lift even if requested, not to speak of stopping out of courtesy we owe to fellow humans or fellow Muslims. It is killing for self dignity to request a lift to unknown person so it is better if private car owners stop on their own. This would immediately reduce number of vehicles on roads to less than 30%.

Spaces available for building trust are not there. No NGO or Mohalla Committee or State Department has this mandate or prerogative. Children don’t trust parents in key decision making processes and parents in turn prepare for old age without great hope that children would help. Students mistrust teachers as role models and they have ample justification for this. People don’t trust leaders and the converse is also true and partly explains Sheikh Abdullah’s betrayal of/by the people. Even spiritual teachers are often suspecting. Mureeds ask where to go or give one’s hand to. Pirs say mureeds can’t be trusted.

What can we say to those who ask whom should they trust given history of deceptions and betrayals? Where are the leaders who have no personal empire to build? Where are Pirs who don’t have their eyes set on our pockets? Where are religious scholars who have no trunk with any sectarian ideology or alliance with power? Do we have any answers? We are doomed if we can’t find them or understand why we don’t have them. We can begin to find answers by noting that individualism that comes up with socio-economic transition that market forces generates mistrust. Modernity breeds mistrust. Technology implies mistrust. Modern education our children receive contributes to mistrust. Creating mistrust is a huge industry. Our system is wedded to cut throat competition, to leg pulling, to institutionalised corruption. We are required to fight powerful forces and change our attitude and lifestyle if we want to restore trust. Are you and me prepared for this? Given this scenario how do we teach trust to new generation? Is our educational system ready to take up the issue head on?


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