A world of distrust

by on Thursday, 25 February 2010 Comments
Global economic indicators are mixed at best; the aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake has been the occasion of much generosity but has also been marred by painful polemics; war is still raging in Afghanistan; Iran’s nuclear program remains one of the main worries of the Western world; and - more generally - commercial rivalries, disputes on currencies levels, sharing of global duties or internet piracy nurture a new climate of distrust among the nations of the globe. Rising tension between the US and China is the most obvious example of this state of affairs. But distrust is gaining ground in all areas and on every level. The quarrel brewing between Northern and Southern Europe on public debt or increased tensions on the Indian subcontinent constitute other examples.
 
This is just a ‘feeling’ of course, but the rise of distrust is also a logical consequence of a number of factors: the failure of the Copenhagen summit to agree on goals and duties and current polemics on global warming; uncertainties linked to economic imbalances; the continuous shift in the balance of power between the US, China and Japan; the failure of Europe to convert its political achievements into economic impetus; the near impossibility to answer adequately the twin challenges of fundamentalism and terrorism; finally, the lack of willingness shown by developed nations to challenge effectively their way of life and the subsequent resentment felt in the rest of the world. We could hope at some point that the very magnitude of the crisis, the presidency of Barak Obama or even the entry into a new decade would generate a new spirit of cooperation. Rather, it seems that governments and public opinions have entrenched themselves into a new world of distrust.
 
Public mood is versatile, and new developments may well generate a new spirit of cooperation and confidence. A gradual shift in our growth model fostered by a steady urge in green industries and renewable energies would certainly prove to be the most auspicious factor for heading in such a direction. But, in the short term, the rise of distrust might well be the main characteristic of international relations in 2010. If this is indeed the case, the changing trends must be monitored carefully, for distrust is a cause for irrational behaviours and unexpected crises. Political and spiritual leaders would be well inspired to find the words that will ignite accrued goodwill and confidence among national opinions. Today, more than ever, faith in the Other as well as plain ‘good faith’ when dealing with partners and competitors remain the main virtues to rely upon for building up positive interactions among the various nations, regions and interest groups. For the time being, relying on faith and good faith certainly means to go resolutely against the tide of distrust...
 
 
Benoit Vermander (魏明德)

Benoit Vermander lives in Shanghai. He teaches philosophy and religious anthropology at the University of Fudan.

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