Thought for the Day - 08/03/2014 - Brian Draper

With news yesterday that the Lawrence family had been spied on by undercover officers during the Macpherson Inquiry, it’s little wonder that Neville, Stephen’s father, was sceptical about yet another inquiry being established as a result. “I will never be able to trust these people,” he said. And who would dare blame him?

But where does it leave the rest of us, who weren’t involved directly, but who care - and whose trust in institutions like the police is threatened by each new revelation like this? And for the police, read Parliament, Media, the Church, Big Business, and so on.

Of course, there are honest, brave and good people throughout the Met. I know, because I’ve been working with some recently. And it’s not to say, either, that undercover policing doesn’t achieve vital results on behalf of us all. Because it does.

But we need trust in all of our institutions, for society to flourish, don’t we? Honest scepticism leads to cynicism, without it; we might be as wise as serpents, but without the innocence of doves to go with it, we can start to look unkindly on strangers, and with suspicion at those in authority. We even resist being positively vulnerable, to our family and friends, if we are not careful.

Trust arrives, as they say, on foot but leaves on horseback. And that’s surely because it’s such a precious, pain-staking and above all personal thing to establish. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve asked my children to trust me, whether in the smaller stuff - "Your teacher won’t like that jewellery on you, trust me!" - or the bigger stuff, too: "Let go of the side of the pool and swim towards me; I won’t let you sink."

And so it’s surely when we depersonalise community that it feels less compelling to honour the trust that is nevertheless still required of us. When there’s a mask to hide behind, especially when it’s the face of a faceless institution - it’s easier to think it’s not my trust to protect anymore. Yet every action has a consequence; and each time we act without responsibility, trust breaks somewhere; and with it, trust in our society diminishes.

That’s why it’s surely so important for individuals to take responsibility, or to be brought to justice when it’s needed. But it’s also why it matters for each of us to take personal responsibility - to be trust worthy - wherever we find our self.

Jesus said, "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” Is it naive, I wonder, to aim for the kind of social integrity that means a stranger could trust me as much as the child I’m teaching to swim?

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