The Trust Factor
Corona Chronicles - Part 4
It was on March 20th, 2020 that the Prime Minister implemented the “Ausgangsbeschränkungen” (“exit restrictions” or “stay at home order”) for the state of Bavaria. In the days and weeks that followed, I watched as the entire free world implemented stay at home orders in an effort to slow the spread of this virus.
In a televised speech on March 16th, the Prime Minister of the state of Bavaria, (which by the way, is the region of Germany that has been hardest hit by the virus) initially announced the State Of Emergency and the measures that would be put in place to support social distancing and asked the citizens to adhere to these guidelines. During this speech, he warned that government-imposed exit restrictions may be implemented. It was only a couple of days later the exit restrictions were put in place for 2 weeks (through April 3rd). Then the restrictions were extended until April 19th and yesterday they were extended again until May 3rd.
As part of the latest extension, they announced some modifications to the current restrictions. All major events (festivals, concerts) will be prohibited through the end of August. Plans to open the restaurants and cafés are still undetermined. However, there are some steps toward easing the restrictions. DIY centers (like Lowes or Home Depot in the USA) will open, smaller shops (under 800 sq. meter = 8500 sq. ft) will be able to open with some customer distancing measures. Also, you can now exercise with someone other than family members (wow, I’m glad they loosened up on the exercise thing since exercise is such a big part of my life – NOT!!), and they have established a plan to get the kids back in school in May.
Barring any further extensions, May 3rd will mark 6 weeks of social distancing. During this time, life has changed in a way, I doubt none of us could have ever imagined. One thing that I have been completely shocked by, is the fact that people (well most people) adhered to the orders put in place by their countries, states, and municipalities. I suppose, when a situation is a matter of life or death, the odds of gaining control over one’s behavior are definitely in the government's favor. Nonetheless, if you really think about it, it is astonishing to think that most of the world has been or is currently under a stay at home order.
Let’s face it, generally, people do what they want, say what they want, live how they want, all under the name of freedom. So why are these orders generally being followed throughout the world? The answer is quite simple…..fear and trust.
During the last weeks, I have done my share of reading on the topics of social distancing, quarantine, and confinement. My son is the Director of Research at a Neuro-Science company in New York City and I was discussing the psychological effects of social distancing, self-isolation, and quarantine with him and he sent me an article on the topic. I will not get into this topic, as I will leave this to the experts. But the potential psychological ramifications of these measures are not a pretty picture, and no one knows the long-term effects this will have on our society. (for the record, although none of us are loving this “stay at home thing”, I want to be clear, in that no one knows exactly what we are dealing with and there currently is no known vaccine, I do agree that it was probably a necessary measure to slow the spread of this nasty virus)
In all my research and reading over the last few weeks (which I officially did too much of), I did not read anything related to the topic of trust and how it relates to our current situation. The fear side of the pandemic is very clear. We are fearful of catching something that could potentially kill us and if it doesn’t kill us, we may give it to someone we love or someone we don’t even know and kill them (how is that for being direct). Another point of fear for some is the fear of breaking the law; getting hit with a big fine, possibly going to jail or in India getting beat with a cane stick. But I think there is also a huge Trust Factor in all of this today and possibly even more of a Trust Factor that will come in days ahead.
Trust is not an emotion; trust is a part of our personal belief system. In sociology and psychology, trust is defined as a measure of belief in the honesty, fairness, or confidence in a person, a thing or situation. We learn to trust at an early age. As infants, we trust our parents will feed us, care for us and protect us. As we grow older, we trust our parents to guide us, teach us, provide us a nice life (like giving us a car when we turn 16) and we begin to trust friends.
I think for a good part of our lives we are naturally open to trust. The unfortunate problem is we live in a world of people and people fail. Oftentimes trust not only gets tarnished, but it also gets stomped on. Lies, deception, betrayal, unfaithfulness, stealing, (breaking the sacred bro code – sorry, I had to throw that one in there), can bring a person to a place of not being able to trust. There was a time for me that through circumstances in my life, that I came to a point that I decided I would never trust anyone outside my small inner circle of trust (actually this is not a good place for a person to be in).
Over the last several weeks the people of the world were put in a situation in which they had to trust. We needed to trust the governing leadership of our countries that social distancing and isolation was required to stop the spread of the virus, ease the strain on our health systems and to save lives. We had to trust that scientists, researchers, medical professionals, the WHO (not the band, the World Health Organization…. I must be honest, until a few weeks ago, I have never heard WHO before) all have a lot more information than us and that they are working toward a cure or vaccine and if they are telling our leaders we need to stay home…..then we will stay at home.
Trust is actually a big part of our lives in areas we do not give a lot of thought to. We trust that when we get on a 90,000-pound (41,000 kilos) airplane to fly somewhere, that the airline has ensured the plane is working properly. We trust that the pilot is properly trained (and not drunk). (Side note: I remember years ago when I would fly, at a time the cockpit door was allowed to be open when we were boarding, that I would look to see who the pilot was….ah ha, he is a grey-haired older man…..”hmmm, he must have flown in the Vietnam war or desert storm….I’m good!”)
We trust that if we have to have surgery, the doctor will not cut something off he is not supposed to. We trust that when we go to a restaurant the food is not full of salmonella or an angry cook has decided to season our food with rat poisoning. We trust that when we drive our cars down the road, the wheels are not going to fall off and that the people driving their vehicles will follow the rules of the road.
Okay, I think you get the point. There are tons of examples of blind trust in our lives (trusting in people, things or situations without question). In life, there are a set of expectations, as well as rules that govern us all and this helps us to be able to go about our lives with trust. However, in my lifetime (and likely yours) I do not think we have ever been put into a position to trust to a point that we should not leave our homes other than for the necessities of life.
But, HOLD ON…….the real test of trust is yet to come. It will come in the days, weeks and months ahead. The fact of the matter is that governments will have to relax and eventually dissolve the containment orders at some point. The economy and society cannot sustain prolonged isolation. This will happen despite the fact the virus is still out there and there is not a vaccine available. The people will come to a point, they will no longer tolerate or adhere to these restrictions, as many lives are likely being destroyed financially because they cannot work, and people are simply getting crazy. Major protests have started in the U.S. and this will likely continue.
It is very probable that we will be dealing with the virus for a while and it will bring a new way of living that will invoke the Trust Factor. Hence, as we begin to disembark into the world again, rising up from these weeks of isolation and social distancing, we are going to have to trust in our fellow man. We will not only need to trust people who are a part of our lives (family, friends, colleagues, neighbors), but we will need to trust people we do not even know; the person passing you on the street, the person serving you your food, the person you are sitting next to on the bus, train or airplane, the person at the cashier's desk, and on and on.
As we begin to return to some level of normalcy and are allowed to slowly integrate with society, we will need to trust that all the people we engage or interact with, are responsible, aware, and care enough to not put themselves or others at risk.
I am not going to list the suggested guidelines for good hygiene and social behavior related to the spread of germs or this virus, the government and news have this handled. But, one key point……….if you are feeling or sick in any way or if have been in contact with someone who has been sick – STAY HOME!
While talking with family and friends during the last few weeks, I have said on several occasions, “life as we know it will be forever changed after this”. We all saw and live with the aftereffects of 9/11. One city in this great big world was attacked by terrorists. An attack that killed many less than the COVID-19 has. However, the imposed security measures and the way that the entire world travels by air has forever changed. Thus, I predict that how will we socially interact in the future will change not only now, but perhaps for a long time.
I do trust that this will all be over with soon, I trust that our lives will get back to some resemblance of the time before the pandemic and I trust that all of us will do our part in being responsible in our actions and behavior while we live with this. Remember we’re all trusting you!!!