Last year we were told by a piece of NatCen research that we are taking more responsibility for our lives. Today we are told that Britain has an ‘integrity crisis’ as we (especially the young) are less honest than we were 10 years ago.
To what do we owe this emerging ‘dishonestly self-reliant’ behaviour? How do these two facets merge? The NatCen study inferred that we are becoming more self-reliant as a result of struggling with the recession and financial difficulties, feeling less able to trust those who make decisions for us i.e. the Government. The author of the University of Essex study suggested that we were becoming more dishonest because we have poor role models. Who are we talking about here? Celebrities, footballers, politicians?
In any time of difficulty there is a tendency to build defences, to self-protect, to question and mistrust. But there is also a welcome tendency amongst some of us towards selflessness and the general good, echo those who came out and joined together after the summer riots last year to clean up their neighbourhoods.
Whatever your lines of morality are about whether to keep the overpayment you receive from the shop cashier (does it depend on whether it is an independent or a chain?), keeping a perspective on how your actions affect others might be the issue. Contextually it might make no sense at all to be rigidly honest and ‘good’ if someone is going to be hurt or damaged. Mavis Cheek’s heroine Nina Porter in her book ‘Truth to Tell’ comes a cropper with the truth. On the other hand, truth and honesty are the basis of trust and that is what we need to feel sure of when we are battling adversity. It seems this whole business about self-reliance and honesty is more about being understanding of others and how what we do affects them, as ‘they’ are our society and what happens to them affects us. And sometimes we need to be able to trust those we don’t know particularly well.
So..easy solution. Roll up all you celebs and footballers and politicians and famous folk and dust down your behaviours and be seen to care about real stuff that matters! Show us you’ve got the right perspective and can add some social capital gloss! After all, it’s evident we can’t seem to run our own lives without you!