Politics of Trust: Beyond the State, Towards Each Other
When states lack social legitimacy, a widespread lack of trust in politicians or political parties is merely a symptom of this. Who then do we turn to?
By Carlos Delclós / roarmag.org

On Saturday, October 10, over one hundred people were killed at a peace rally in Ankara by suicide bombers. It was the worst terrorist attack ever recorded on Turkish soil. The rally had been organized by trade unions in favor of peace between Turkish state authorities and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), with support from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

In the aftermath of the attack, the Turkish prime minister’s office banned media coverage, citing “security reasons”. Meanwhile, Twitter and other social media went down. Despite these obstacles, some local media groups disobeyed the ministry’s orders and many people accessed social media through virtual private networks (VPN).

As reported in The Guardian, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu first claimed that the attacks could have been carried out by ISIS, Kurdish militants or far-leftist militants. At the same time, the Turkish Minister for Forestry and Water Veysel Eroglu put blame on the peace rally’s organizers, saying: “Our people need to be careful of such provocateurs that organize terrorist demonstrations in order to incite discord in social harmony.”

But this post is not about the terrorist attacks in Ankara. It is about a concept people are calling “political trust”. It’s the kind of thing that gets undermined when politicians routinely refer to their opponents as “terrorists” to score political points, or when the state’s initial response to an atrocity is to do its best to restrict access to information, citing a vague logic of security.

It is tempting for Europeans to believe that this response is specific to Turkey’s singularly authoritarian regime, that such a heavy-handed approach is unlikely in EU member states. This is not only racist, but false.

After the Madrid train bombings on March 11, 2004, which killed 193 people and injured 1,858, the Spanish government, led by José María Aznar’s Popular Party, lied to the Spanish people to make them believe that the attacks had been perpetrated by Basque Country and Freedom (ETA), when they knew it had been carried out by Al Qaeda. Like the attack in Turkey, these took place in the build-up to general elections. The Aznar government’s story was intended to maximize electoral profit.

This was not even the most recent case of the Popular Party referring to its opponents as terrorists. When the remarkably successful Spanish Mortgage Victims’ Platform (PAH)—a social movement known for its peaceful civil disobedience—responded to the Popular Party’s rejection of its massively supported citizen-initiated legislation by holding protests outside the homes of politicians, several Popular Party officials repeatedly referred to protesters and their spokespeople as “terrorists” or “Nazis” in the media. They have taken a similar approach in their dealings with the upstart leftist party Podemos, constantly accusing them of harboring sympathy for ETA.

Interest in the concept of “political trust” is likely rising as a result of the wave of protests that have taken place over recent years in Tunisia, Egypt, Greece, Spain, Turkey or Brazil, which are usually linked to some form of disaffection resulting from a combination of unpopular legislation and corruption. In the light of these protests, the question that is often posed is that of what might be done to restore political trust…?

But, posed in this context, doesn’t the question assume a narrow definition of political trust, one that equates it with trust in political institutions that are unable to confront the material realities they are embedded in? What if we consider political action—and trust is very much an action—as something that exists beyond the reach of formal institutions?

In most of the countries that saw large-scale protests, broad movements generated a considerable amount of political trust between ordinary people who organized themselves around a common set of needs that were not only left unmet by the state and supranational institutions, but sold off for the benefit of private interests.

Since late 2010 we have seen streets fill with acts of mutual aid and solidarity around these common needs, which include housing, public space, water, health care, education, culture, information and so on. And they have done so under conditions that frequently required people to take risks for one another.

On many occasions, states have responded by trying to destabilize these bonds through slander and coercion. But these efforts should be seen as a sign of states’ lack of social legitimacy; a lack of trust in politicians or political parties is merely a symptom of this.

To illustrate this point, let us return to Ankara. According to eyewitnesses cited in the above mentioned article in The Guardian, ambulances could not immediately reach the scene of the attack because police were obstructing the quick evacuation of the wounded from the square.

The video below appears to support those accounts, showing protesters confronting police to open up a corridor for the ambulance to go through. Again, the people demonstrate a trust in one another that, in their opposition to state security forces, is profoundly political.

Perhaps it would be wise to build on the bonds emerging there, among the people in the “swarm”, between those people and the workers in the ambulance, rather than rely on the bonds being broken by the retreating police. It could very well be that the question is not why people trust formal institutions less, but why those institutions don’t trust them more?

Carlos Delclós​ is a sociologist, researcher and editor for ROAR Magazine. He currently collaborates with the Health Inequalities Research Group at Pompeu Fabra University and the Barcelona Institute of Metropolitan and Regional Studies at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

This article was originally published on Open Democracy.

0.0 ·
0
What's Next
Trending Today
Ten Ways We Misunderstand Children
Jan Hunt · 10,446 views today · 1. We expect children to be able to do things before they are ready. We ask an infant to keep quiet. We ask a 2-year-old to sit still. We ask a 3-year-old to clean his room...
The Problem with Hating Our Enemies
Charles Eisenstein · 9,364 views today · He who fights too long against dragons becomes a dragon himself; and if thou gaze too long into the abyss, the abyss will gaze into thee. —Nietzsche
Van Jones: Only a 'Love Army' Will Conquer Trump
Tim Dickinson · 7,946 views today · Though it's important to fight Trump's policies, "it's at the values level that we need to do a reset," says Jones
How to Expose Trump's Dastardly Bait-And-Switch
Robert Borosage · 7,265 views today · Trump is not an economic populist, he’s just playing one on TV.
This Polish Ad Will Give You The Feels, For Reals
3 min · 7,236 views today · This is an ad for Allegro, a Polish company similar to eBay, and it's heartwarmingly lovely.
Have You Heard of The Great Forgetting? It Happened 10,000 Years Ago & Completely Affects Your Life
Daniel Quinn · 6,378 views today · (Excerpted from the book, The Story of B) With every audience and every individual, I have to begin by making them see that the cultural self-awareness we inherit from our...
The Myth of Positivity: Why Your Pain Holds a Mighty Purpose
umair haque · 4,754 views today · Of all the great myths of contemporary life, one of the most toxic is positivity. It says: there are negative and positive emotions, and only the positive ones are worth...
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 4,256 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
10 Stunning Images from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People's Choice Award
Natural History Museum · 3,335 views today · These incredible images are a selection from of the 25 shortlisted by The Natural History Museum for the People's Choice Award from this year's Wildlife Photographer of the...
Why You Should Stop Apologizing for Doing All That You Can
Kelly Hayes · 3,307 views today · I’ve noticed lately that a lot of allies and accomplices I talk to about NoDAPL and other struggles will name what they are trying to contribute to the cause, and then promptly...
David Graeber: We Need a Revolution in the Way We Think about "Work"
4 min · 3,108 views today · David Graeber on the Value of Work. Does the world really need neuroadvertisers, PR researchers and branding consultants? Renowned academic and coiner of the ‘we are the 99%’...
Trump: The Illusion of Change
Helena Norberg-Hodge · 2,019 views today · “Only by restoring the broken connections can we be healed.” — Wendell Berry
Black on Black Crime Isn't a Myth
Donyae Coles · 1,793 views today · Let’s talk about Black on Black crime. Maybe you’ve heard about it on the news, specifically likely in regards to Black people murdered by other Black people. Perhaps you’ve...
15 Easy Things You Can Do to Help When You Feel Like Shit
Maritsa Patrinos · 1,600 views today · You don’t have to tackle it all at once.
Swanage Protectors Camp - Campaigning to Stop New Oil and Gas Exploration in Dorset, UK
7 min · 1,482 views today · The planning permission for an exploratory oil rig near Swanage ran out on 3rd December 2016. A good day all round for those campaigning against the fossil fuel industry. Hear...
Time-Lapse Satellite Images Give a Startling Snapshot of Past 30 Years on Earth
2 min · 1,389 views today · Working with satellite images from NASA and the US Geological Survey, Google has created a searchable snapshot of the past 3 decades on Earth, creating startling time-lapses of...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,310 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
It's The Damn Police
Walter Fields · 1,298 views today · From an early age Blacks are socialized to live defensively and to absorb the mental body blows that come from the day-to-day indignities that are hoisted upon us by the very...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,275 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
A New History for Humanity - the Human Era
8 min · 1,217 views today · It is time to reframe how we think about our past. We need a new year 0 for humanity. But which one should we choose and why?
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Politics of Trust: Beyond the State, Towards Each Other