Editorial

Trust has never been so hard-won

April 11th, 2021 5:05 PM

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THE wonderful orator, Sligo native Dr Mike Ryan of the WHO has spoken at length about human behaviour during the course of this pandemic.

Even a cursory examination of his many speeches on the topic will reveal one word coming up time and time again: trust.

A year ago he spoke of Sweden’s unusual strategy in ‘trusting’ in its own citizens to maintain social distance, without implementing any strict guidelines.

In September, he feared that global divisions over treatment for Covid would risk ‘eroding public trust’.

And just last week he noted that those engaging in vaccine ‘queue-jumping’ were ‘damaging everyone’s trust’.

Trust, the small word with a big heart, is something that has become increasingly more important in our world.

In an era of ‘fake news’, whether real or perceived, more and more people are searching for the truth, and hoping that they can trust what they find.

Entire social media companies have sprung up to ‘truth-test’ stories and dispel conspiracy theories.

In a pandemic those same conspiracy theorists have the perfect breeding ground to peddle their untruths. Fear loves conspiracy and there is nothing like a global pandemic to spread fear.

Dubliner Jonathan Swift wrote in 1710 that ‘Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it’. If Swift had foreseen how quickly social media can propel a falsehood, even he would have been shocked at the speed and the damage that can be caused in seconds.

Truth has never been so precious, or so rare.

And trust, its close relative, is even more difficult to pin down.

But now, more than ever, we must try to put our trust in those who are helping to guide us out of the most frightening episode of our lifetimes.

We must try and not lose faith, no matter how many unfair obstacles are put in our pathway.

Trust is a priceless commodity that nobody should take for granted: not governments, not journalists, not medics.

But sometimes we need to add a little faith into the mix, too.

To quote the executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies programme once more, this time from last September: ‘We are at that point where the levels of frustration, and the levels of disappointment and exhaustion are such that the danger is we turn on each other, not on the virus.’

Public trust is ‘at the centre’ of successful action against the virus, he added, as he encouraged us all to battle on for a just a little while longer.

Let’s add a little faith to the trust, and finally win this battle.

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