Monday, November 5, 2012

Why humans don't trust each other

We can’t trust each other because we suck.

I don’t mean as a species, although that also holds. I mean you. Personally. You suck.

And me. And my grandma and Mother Teresa and everyone ever. Somewhere, somehow, hidden or visible, despised or embraced, each one of us sucks in our own special way.

But it gets better.

Not only do we suck, but we also judge.

I don’t mean as a species. You. Judge. You judge. Yes you do. Me, too. Even the judgment that you are not judgmental is a judgement. Even my judgment that you are, and your judgment of my judgment.

We are a judging species. It’s one of our keys to survival.

We judge every single input our brain receives, the first and largely unconscious judgement being to notice or not notice something, someone or somesense. Every time someone tells us, shows us or accidentally lets us see a little of how they suck, we judge them. Yes, you do. Yes, I do. Our judgement happens like a reflex. We can decide to ignore that unfair judgment, act on that wise judgment, pretend we never judged and move on. We do that all the time. But that doesn’t mean there was no judge. Somewhere, somehow, every single day each of us judges other people.

Judging is our fundamental process of living – taking in data, categorizing and prioritizing it, and responding to it to ensure our continued survival. We judge that data against an every-growing, ever-blending, ever-foggy memory database of experiences, trying to determine whether whatever we’ve noticed will harm us, help us, or leave us unchanged. Driving too fast, too slow, at the limit. Coffee too strong, too mild, just right. Clothes too skanky, too fancy, too worn, not matching, ill-fitting, out-of-style, plain. Liar. Bitch. Classy. Friendly. Trustworthy. Hot. Fat. Gay. Religious. Teacher. Vetran. Dangerous. Safe. Stupid. Right. Wrong. Judge judge judge judge judge.

Even if we notice, dismiss and get beyond our unhelpful judgments in relation to other people, most of us will live this whole lifetime maintaining a constant, running tally of how much we suck in relation to the rest of the people in our vicinity. We use myriad unconscious and conscious rating scales. Prettier than me or not. Fatter than me or not. Smarter than me or not. More accomplished? Less learned? Taller? Richer? No matter how we try to turn it off, no matter how low we get that volume, there’s always at least a little squeak of knowing that I suck and hoping I don’t suck more than other people, since that would threaten my very acceptance in the tribe if I ever let my guard down and let anyone see how I suck. Which I won't do.

We all want to believe maybe it’s okay that we suck, since everyone sucks, but we know it’s only okay with judgey humans if we don’t suck a lot more or less than them.

So anyway, you just KNOW that SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE is going to judge you, since not everyone is enlightened. Thus, we can’t trust anyone until we know how they suck, and we can’t let them see how we suck until we trust them. You can see why we go so slowly, most of the time. You can see why relationships are hard. We so often let each other down, because we suck and we judge.

Combine judgement with sucking and we get insecurity. Insecurity is a root cause for many of society's ills.

Combine insecurity with power and we grow cruelty.
Combine insecurity with loss and we grow despair.
Combine insecurity with winning and we grow egotism.
Combine insecurity with fear and we grow desperation.
Combine insecurity with outrage and we grow radicalism.
Combine insecurity with spirituality and we grow religion.
Combine insecurity with love and we grow trust.

Trust. We can’t trust each other. We test each other constantly because deeply we long to trust and be trusted, though we know (you know, I know, she knows, they know) that we don’t deserve trust since we SUCK, and we can’t trust even the best person because they will JUDGE US and plus, being untrustworthy may actually be the way they SUCK.

But we can try to love each other in spite of the judgement, in spite of not quite trusting them or ourselves. Maybe someday even instead of. We will fail, because we suck, but we can try, because we don't JUST suck. We also shine with the beauty that is humanity encompassed in our singular, unrepeatable, utterly unique experience and perspective. So we can try, every day, to love each other and to shine, and maybe to suck a bit less. That's what we can do.

Because friends, the alternative sucks. Trust me.