What trust is not

Trust is not the absence of fear or insecurity regarding the possibility of betrayal. The very structure of our society wounds us so badly from the very beginning of our lives that perhaps such fears and insecurities are doomed to persist. Rather, trust is the feeling of peaceful confidence in a particular relationship despite whatever fears or insecurities one nonetheless continues to feel. Trust is only meaningful as an earned relief from fear and insecurity; as such, it not only implies the continued presence of fear and insecurity outside of the trust relation, it even requires a practiced awareness of the default fear and insecurity which has typically persisted as a fact throughout the greater part of the whole, global human network. We find negative evidence of this in the observation that partners in an honest trust relation often become so absorbed in their own mutual security that they lose awareness of the frightful insecurity against which they have built that trust with great labors and against great odds. When this happens, the storehouse of trust quickly begins to deplete. In colloquial terms, we often refer to exactly this process when we object to being “taken for granted.”

Historically, the bourgeois defenses against this tendency are typically strategies of locking-into and locking-up the trust relation as soon as it is sufficiently established: make commitments backed by the wrath of God and the law (marriage); construct a physical space that is at once a fortress against external threats and a prison to contain internal threats of flight (the “home”); then whither until death in the empty husk of a trust that dies six months after it is locked-in.  Trust in the absence of fear and insecurity is not trust; it is merely a glorified emotional comatose which accomplishes nothing more than self-protection and the forgetting of the real omnipresence of fear and insecurity that persists between nearly everyone else.

Furthermore, this bourgeois illusion of trust is not simply pathetic, which would at least be harmless. This false trust of the bourgeois family is productive of more human fear and insecurity than existed before it was “locked-in.” It produces net fear and insecurity because the little and tawdry security gained by the bourgeois couple is more than offset by all the lonely, isolated peers who are objectively less secure after each and every exclusive, excluding, and acquisitive bourgeois coupling. Finally, the bourgeois techniques of politically organizing trust not only tend to destroy the true and emancipating reality of any real trust they seek to hoard, but additionally, by their exclusive and excluding nature they hardly permit any honest understanding (in private or public) about how this political organization of trust ultimately fails everyone. The basic political form of the bourgeois couple necessarily brings with it a strategically dishonest public ideology because its very strategy is simulative and dissimulative: what is most characteristic of the bourgeois organization of trust relations is the creation of a political edifice that props-up merely an idea of trust, using privatized and therefore rarified social resources. The real production of real trust _has nothing to do with it. _In fact, the whole bourgeois organization and conception of trust seems almost expressly designed to excise the necessity and anxiety of having to build trust.

In other words, because the bourgeois organization of trust relations is chiefly a system for simulating trust and dissimulating its precariousness, it is especially damning for the overall social trust because it not only fails itself and denies others, it also requires and sustains public allegiance to its honor and continuation at all costs. After all, that is the bourgeois couple’s original intention: to sustain a privatized “trust” at all costs, to hide from the insecurities that have always plagued humans everywhere, to pretend that fear has been abolished, at least until death do it part.  The truth is that people cannot know trust when fear and insecurity have merely been excluded and forgotten. Today, real trust can only be known when real fears and insecurities are so honestly recognized, shared, and accepted as a common problem and common responsibility. When this really truly occurs, the release from bourgeois fakery is so vertiginous and empowering that it cannot be mistaken. It is often named “falling in love.” Indeed, there is no reason to believe its uncommon and it is almost certainly the once-truly-lived kernel of truth within the dead husk of most bourgeois relationships.

We, on the other hand, do not seek to lock-in or lock-up the truth that together we have glimpsed, because for us, the truth we have shared is the hardest and rarest truth that can be shared: that there is nothing whatsoever to lock-in or lock-up. Recall that to betray means to reveal as much as it means to deceive. We do not betray each other because we neither hide nor reveal anything, but rather we produce shared truths that did not exist before of us. We are not therefore free of insecurities and hardly a day goes by that we do not tremble with some mundane everyday fear; we simply love each other but we truly love each other, and we trust each other despite that real love is a real cause for very real fears.

Cite this post: RIS Citation BibTeX Entry

Murphy, Justin. 2013. "What trust is not," http://jmrphy.net/blog/2013/03/22/what-trust-is-not/ (June 20, 2017).