Trust is a beloved gift. We need trust, for transparency and truth, for a democracy in every sphere of our everyday life. All is explained below:
The freedom of speech was the first clarification to the United States Constitution, elucidated in the First Amendment. It is seen as critical to all democracies worldwide. Yet, is it all that it is made out to be?
In America we highly value our transparency, using the ubiquitous and pervasiveness of technology and social media. If a celebrity coughs, we get a tweet saying he/she is ill. Technology is also used to hold politicians accountable for what they say and do. The media records every word that a politician says trying to get elected and we then hold him/her to their promises. While this accountability may sound great at first, it may not be actually the panacea that it is made out to be.
Democracy is about disagreeing. It is about discussing things and having the ability to change things for the better if we are persuaded that is the best course of action to take. Yet, when we inflexibly hold politicians to their election mandates we lose these very benefits of democracy. This is why I believe that politicians are careful what they say, and elections are not really about substance, but what will get you elected. It is just a game of managing mistrust. Then, as Ivan Krastev says, it becomes a “problem [as] people start to believe that it is not a game worth playing.” But, this issue in politics is actually a bigger one. It is symptomatic of a pervasive problem that is in all spheres of our lives: work, home, play, in all relationships we have.
At work all too often we hesitate to speak our mind if we are afraid of the consequences. What if people will think negatively of me, if I take up so much time at meetings? What if people will start to label me a troublemaker if I point out things that I think are problems with products that we are making. (Not daring to disagree is one reason we have whistleblowers…) We also are not authentic in our relationships, not wishing to say the truth as we don’t want to be thought of as other than perfect.
What is the point of transparency, openness, and truth, when we do not dare to disagree? When we are selective of the truth we share, we are speaking half-truths, leaving the important unsaid. When we have the courage to disagree transparency leads to trust and an authentic freedom of choice. Margaret Heffernan also explains this value of openess and why we should not be “echo chambers” any more. You can hear her perspective on dare to disagree on TED.
Once we can disagree productively we allow the openness that we so highly value be used as a means for learning and growth. It transforms not only politics, but also our everyday lives.