Connections. The connections I see when I drive over a newly constructed bridge in the United States have to do with pride in workmanship, integrity in professionalism—no matter where one stands on the socio-economic ladder—and an adherence to values as a culture that we, in general, strive to live, build, create and sustain not only for ourselves and our immediate needs but for the greater good of our posterity. This is why the newer bridges I drive over are higher, wider and stronger. We are thinking not only about ourselves and our immediate needs, but also about what is best in the long-term.
In contrast, when an economy is fractured by corruption and moves into a state of duality—or another more complex configuration—(and I am unsure of the cause-effect relationships here) the very nature of base-line social connections at work, to one another and our concepts of integrity begin to change radically. And, when an economy continues to function with a shrug or a nod toward petty theft and corruption, ethical numbness sets in. In my experience, trust is lost in these cultures—trust in the economy and trust in social relationships. Social connections in cultural contexts with active black markets are about making “friends” for purposes of personal economic survival or gain because what is needed–on a material level—cannot be procured reliably at a store or through official means of work.
Ethical numbness is a disquieting set of two words. As things stand now, in the context of my regional backyard, I still hold trust that you and I will both stop at the next red light, follow safety codes governing new construction, that the large collection of library materials, we hold in common, will be available for check-out and that the average person remains steady in honoring the principles of pride in workmanship, integrity to use work materials for and at work and that our commitment to service is genuine. This is why I feel safe driving across a new bridge.
Ultimately, the only thing we as individuals may truly safeguard in any market is our personal integrity. And, personal integrity has the opportunity to travel to work with us in our lunch pails every day. Integrity means that the sausage, should I choose to purchase meat, is made of up of what is on an accurately labeled product. Integrity means that the requisite cement bags and steel at a work site remain at the assigned location to be used in the designated building project. Integrity means performing with professionalism for the hours we have clocked in to work.
Functioning in this way, with attentiveness to professionalism and integrity, often produces spontaneous purple waves of gratitude and amber waves of awe while driving down some new and beautiful stretch of road.