Paul Andersen: Fair Game
July 16, 2012
The trust fall is an old technique in team building. Someone stands behind you, and with eyes closed, you tip backward and fall into their arms. The positions are then reversed in an act of blind trust designed to enhance one’s faith in humanity.
As the general election rears up with campaign platitudes and witty sound bites, politicians open their arms and ask voters to close their eyes and tip over backward. This trust fall is called democracy. “Trust me,” soothe the candidates as they pledge to improve your future and that of your children’s children.
If you’ve ever done a trust fall, you know there is a dramatic tipping point. You lean and tip, and suddenly gravity takes over. If not for the comforting arms of your trust-fall partner, you would end up on your ass. Once dropped, twice cautious. Such is the lesson of democracy.
The big trust fall this year will occur on Nov. 6, that moment when you are no longer in control, having surrendered your trust to whatever choices you make on your ballot. Voting is an act of faith, a belief that those you elect will be people of trust who will catch you at the last moment.
Barrack Obama and Mitt Romney are campaigning to be your primary trust-fall partner. They want you to close your eyes, tip back and feel the comfort of their capable and comforting hands. It’s a nice picture, like the hands of Prudential Insurance cupped to contain your life. “Trust me,” they vow, “and I will keep you from falling on your ass.”
Not all trust falls are political, and not all trust falls are left to capable arms. How many marriages have begun with trust and ended with betrayal? Falling in love can lead to a headlong tumble with no safety net. A love fall hurts worst of all.
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Eventually we all fall with a hard thump on Mother Earth, a shock that’s akin to having a chair pulled out from under you. Policymakers, congressmen, educators, advertisers – all have failed us in the trust fall, even while asking us to fall again.
Consider the trust fall into the arms of the medical establishment, where we are expected to trust everyone from the friendly family doctor to the always-helpful health-insurance agent. The hard landing occurs with high premiums, costly cures and personal bankruptcy.
Consider the trust fall of science where we drop into the open arms of white-coated lab technicians, climatologists, biologists, chemists, etc., whom we trust to give us an accurate picture of the world. As respected scientists argue at the behest of their underwriters, we wilt in unprecedented heat waves, suffer through global droughts, witness ecosystem collapses, spawn super-bacteria and mark alarming rates of species extinctions.
Consider the economic trust fall as bankers, brokers, economists and investment experts counsel us on sound economic opportunities while bilking us with subprime mortgages and toxic debts. We are told to fall back into their arms even as our friends and neighbors land hard with no bounce-back.
Advertisers have long told us to spend our earnings on the goods of the material world. Flashy advertising campaigns convince us that if we buy the right gadgets from the right companies, our lives will be easy, safe and secure.
So we buy the right gadgets from the right companies, and we apply them to our lives and foment a consumer culture that is obese, depressed, enervated and unfulfilled. For the average American consumer, the letdowns are deep and the results befuddling. Remorse is universal when the credit-card bills come due.
“Trust us!” urge lawmakers, captains of industry, school administrators, MBAs, priests, doctors, generals and, of course, the politicians, whose outstretched arms beckon us to close our eyes and tip backward at every election cycle.
Trust us because we know what’s best for you, and certainly we know what’s best for us. Trust us to catch you at the last moment but only when it’s in our best interests to do so. Trust us because, of course, you cannot trust yourself.