Press ´1´ for Trust

Sunday night at Tampere station. And someone´s sitting on my seat. He moves kindly to the seat opposite as we enter the compartment. He moves his stuff to the rack above his seat. Another man comes in. It becomes evident that a) he does not have a seat reservation and b) this train is going to booked to the last seat. His friend comes by and they head out – presumably to the restaurant car. He leaves his stuff on the rack and heads out apologising for the inconvenience. The train starts moving towards Helsinki.

Or we could write the situation completely differently:

Sunday night at Tampere station. A suspicious looking man in a Harley-Davidson vest is sitting on my seat in the working compartment. This guy definitely does not look like someone heading to a meeting. As I kindly ask him to move, he moves to the seat opposite and moves his stuff on the rack on top of that seat. There´s something odd in this situation. Another guy comes in and it is clear this guy does not have a seat. Who does not buy a seat to a rush hour train? His friend, another bearded man, comes in, they head out. His big black bag remains in the compartment. We exchange glances with the other passengers. The train is not even moving yet so the guys could have left the train. Why did he leave his bag? Should we call someone?

I often feel the strongest case for Nordic welfare state is just this. To trust is our default. We do not feel that every single stranger is out to get us. We ask a stranger to watch our laptop when we go to the restroom in a cafe. We sometimes end up in terrible problems abroad due to sincerity. But simultaneously, I am willing to pay a couple of stolen wallets for the benefit of not having every single surface plastered with an “If you see something, say something” sticker. I feel privileged that our train ride is not interrupted every ten minutes by a “Please notify staff of any suspicious activity” announcement. As is pointed out for instance in Spirit Level, in equal societies EVERYONE does better.

Equality comes into play when we think about our future. If we want to decrease our dependency on fossil fuels and reduce our use of natural resources, we can´t all own all things ourselves. A low-carbon lifestyle is a sharing lifestyle. It´s one where we need to feel comfortable to carpool and ask neighbourly help.

And that requires trust.