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Perversions of Trust and Loyalty

By Carl S ~

If you have been a member of any social unit or culture, you understand what these words “trust” and “loyalty” mean. You also understand that trust and loyalty are held in the highest regard in all cultures. They are rewarded, praised, demanded. Yet, blind trust and loyalty have been the causes of some of the most evil crimes committed. How, why, and when do trust and loyalty begin, and continue on?

Trust begins at infancy, obviously, with dependency. The child has no choice Trust is transferred from parent to guardian, teacher, pastor, etc. This is because the parents themselves trust those figures. If the parents are gullible and deceived, the child will inherit their decisions and trusts, their loyalties. If the parent or guardian believes authority figures with unquestioning trust, the child is taught to do likewise. Trust and loyalty become traditions. Is this really good for the child, the individual, society?

The trouble with loyalty is that it can be very easily misplaced and exploited. Kings, tzars, and other rulers depend on the loyalties of their subjects. Even if those rulers are corrupt and evil and may not be trustworthy themselves. Who else demands trust and loyalty?

Governments demand loyalty; likewise, religious sects and cults, secret societies, families, and cultures. There is a saying concerning patriotism: “My country, right or wrong,” which could easily apply to religions. (”Our beliefs, right or wrong,” for example.) Loyalty is often enforced by oaths, threats, and penalties for disloyalty such as torture, seizure of property, banishment, death, and threats of hellfire, through the loyal agents of those in power. Essentially, though, the powers that be got to be where they are by trust invested in them. Isn’t this an indication, even a warning, that we should be very careful who we trust and believe?

Loyalty to authority figures and tradition can have tragic consequences. Sons slay their sisters, mothers their daughters, families slay one another, because of loyalties to Sharia laws and beliefs in “family honor.” Mafia “family honor” traditions, likewise. Consider all those who killed and were killed because of their loyalty to the Catholic and Protestant and Islamic faiths which, after all, are nothing but opinion traditions of trusting in authority figures who reward loyalty.

Who are these authorities? To name of the well-known: The spokesmen of all religions, but also Henry VIII, Stalin, Lenin, and Hitler, whose soldiers swore their oath to him, not to their country. We might add the Popes who led the Crusades, Jerry Sandusky, Bernie Madoff, Bishops and priests in their positions as “authorities,” entrusted with the well-being of children. Then there are all cult leaders, abusive spouses, relatives, and parents. Other authorities include those trusted “experts” on turning gays into straights, shaming girls into staying virgins, and denying civil rights to non-believers. Notice that loyalty to these authorities always begins, like briberies, as small investments, and build up to ever-increasing demands and sacrifices. Realizing this fact is of the utmost importance. Why?

The more a person invests in trusting, the more involved and loyal that person is apt to be. This investment is pure power for controllers. The more gullible that person is, the more willing is that person to follow and trust blindly. It is in the best interests of the authority figures to “keep them like mushrooms; in the dark, and fed bullshit.” Hence propaganda. And dogrna. And urging them not to listen to anyone disagreeing with their own b.s. In other words, to obey. Why should we make a big deal about this, and what effect does it have on all of us?

Once upon a time, very religious relatives vacationed at my house. One of them read the bible every morning. One day I couldn't resist asking him this question: “Don‘t you think that if someone tells you to slaughter innocent human beings because God says so, this is wrong?” He looked at me in an odd way, and didn’t answer, but I got the message, as I do whenever I bring up this biblical subject. It isn’t wrong if “God's authorities” tell us this is what we must do. It's a matter of faith and trust and obedience, but most of all, loyalty. The original small investment of trust has become so powerful as to demand and require genocide. Loyalty replaces compassion, justice, mercy, the confronting of falsehood and shame, and personal responsibility for one's own actions. Following orders becomes virtuous. Shouldn't this tell them it's gone too far and that they should instead listen to conscience and reason? Shouldn’t they at least suspect that the emperor might be naked?

If you‘re a member of a faith, having opposing, or even entertaining “heretical” thoughts, has been drummed into you as being traitorous to your religion and community. So, disloyalty extends to thought control so insidious that you are brought up to believe you must be your own thought-control police agent. Thinking for yourself is damned by the unthinking, unquestioning faithful, as being disloyal.But, the penalties for disloyalty can be severe (the label “traitor” comes to mind.) Disloyalty can get you killed if you‘re raised in the Islamic faith - as was the case for centuries in other faiths. Disloyalty can get you jailed, abused both physically and emotionally, and can bring you to doubt your own conscience. If you‘re a member of a faith, having opposing, or even entertaining “heretical” thoughts, has been drummed into you as being traitorous to your religion and community. So, disloyalty extends to thought control so insidious that you are brought up to believe you must be your own thought-control police agent. Thinking for yourself is damned by the unthinking, unquestioning faithful, as being disloyal.

But, what have been the benefits of being disloyal? Think: civil disobedience acts such as the American Revolution, which was a civil war pitting Loyalists against Revolutionaries, the Protestant revolution, civil rights marches, and resistance to the Vietnam War. And, perhaps the greatest example, the Enlightenment, which taught us to question and even resist authority. What if the Stalins and Maos and Popes of this world are questioned and their followers become disloyal? What will happen if Sharia traditions are rejected whenever conscience and reason refuse to be displaced by loyalty to onerous dogma? Will religious leaders of all faiths fall under the microscope of doubt and their faithful followers lose trust in them?

Surely, you yourself are a threat to the loyal followers merely by questioning their belief traditions. We understand what keeps the loyal loyal: chasing the dangling billion dollar carrot, the heavenly reward promises, intellectual laziness, willing ignorance, fear of finding out the truth, and the security of being a member of the group. Your resistance upsets the applecart, rocks the boat, at the least. (Fortunately, they can't burn you at the stake.) Putting conscience at odds with the powers that be, you are in good company by following reason, logic, evidence, even when you feel most alone in doing so. Non-rational dogmatists claim they should be respected. They do not deserve loyalty. More people are realizing these things; they don’t even want to invest the minimum amount of trust.

Welcome to the freedom of being true to oneself. Now, don't you think that trust and loyalty are way, way, overrated, and should always be questioned?


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