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Fides, Goddess of Trust

August 17, 2014 , , ,



The Roman goddess of trust was known in the later years of the Roman Empire as Fides Publica, or public trust.  Her temple was used for ceremonies of public treaties and agreements.  Her role was to oversee the honor and honesty of the Roman people.  Trust is essential for all other elements of society to function well.  When the public does not trust the authority figures society begins to crumble.  Romans were interested in democracy, even though they owned slaves and had some tragic foreign policies. The importance of public trust merited a temple in the center of the city close to Jupiter’s temple.  The meaning of the word, as well as the goddess was the elemental and mutual trust or faith that must exist for fair trade and governance.  It can not exist on only one side because it implies a level of commitment to integrity that holds up under social pressure.  It is like magnetism, both parties are always participating in the action. Gifts and offerings brought to Fides at her temple were given with hands that were covered in cloth, to keep the gift a secret.  This symbol was the privacy statement of the time, meaning that the invisible trust between humans and gods was secret as well as sacred.

In our modern world we have nothing that resembles Fides Publica.   We can’t reverse history or erase technology, but we must somehow regain the respect for integrity that it once had.  Trust is earned and also constantly in flux.  Facts or impressions can radically alter  faith in institutions when they fail to live up to ethical standards.  Rather than working to increase levels of trust our factions and media dramatists like to build separate camps that take pot shots at the trustworthiness of the other camps.  The cops in the United States are one of the contentious camps that are forced to deal with dwindling levels of faith from the communities they serve.  Many citizens now believe the cops serve and protect themselves but not the public.  The advanced incarceration rates and military stye heavily armored local police forces are working against a positive future outcome.  I am in favor of having every minute of every cop’s duty recorded on video cameras.  This would substitute some evidence for some of the untrustworthy statements we have heard from police.  I would think cops would welcome such monitoring because in cities where it is being used complaints against the law enforcement officers have dramatically decreased.  That is a good example of Fides Publica…..the camera may change the cops’ attitude since it can and will be used as evidence, and the citizen might feel more secure interacting with a cop if that interaction was being recorded.  Our goddess of trust will be called GoPro.

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