Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Long Forgotten Virtue of Mistrust

The Russians have a saying: don’t do business with other Russians.  I learned of it when I talked with a Russian former co-worker of mine about how Hispanics will specifically request a Spanish-speaking salesman when doing business.

This is just one cultural difference really.  Most Westerners know that everyone has an angle of some kind and there is no loyalty among European-Americans.  I wonder if this is why Europe and the United States have excelled at building civilization: we simply don’t trust each other.

Think about it.  Most of the decisions we make are affected by how others will treat us.  If we always default to the assumption that everyone is out to screw us, we are much more cautious in how we deal with people.  In doing so, we protect ourselves from harm.

When dealing with a salesman, for example, it is important to remember that he or she doesn’t give a flip about you.  They are only interested in getting a big commission.  So they will try and navigate you into a more expensive sale as best they can.

Also, they probably didn’t wash their hands after they used the bathroom.  Don’t shake their hands.

The point is, one of the foundations of modern civilization was an inherent mistrust of other people.  This ensured private property rights and just about every other kind of right that we are naturally endowed with.  Because those rights are asserted on the assumption that other people wish to take them away from us.

Many other cultures do not recognize these rights precisely because many of them inherently trust each other, usually because of racial homogeny.  It is a call back to the tribal origins of their society where each tribe had to trust each other in order to bring about the survival of the tribe.

Mistrust, it seems to me, is a close virtue that modern men should embrace.  If you do not trust others, you can be better prepared for the worse case scenarios.

This goes beyond just business.  Do not trust anything that your government says, that your church says, that your news anchor says.  I’m not saying that they are lying, but I am saying that they could be.  The government especially lies nearly all the time.  Politicians have no concept of objective truth and are willing to sacrifice children if it means gaining power and prestige.

Mistrust is a virtue.  Always remember that.  Use it to protect yourself from the evil of others.