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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, December 1, 2023
HomeNewsLocal newsA Happiness Poll — Public Trust

A Happiness Poll — Public Trust

How happy are you economically on a scale of 0 (awful) to 10 (ecstatic)? (Submitted photo)

Nothing changes a relationship like a lie. The bigger the lie, the bigger the change. Trusted relations can continue after a big ole lie but they are never the same.

Professional, personal, institutional — romantic, or transactional — all relationships are based on a degree of trust or lack thereof.

The indictments of Donald Trump on both state and federal charges may not come as a huge surprise to most. It seems truth avoidance is a fundamental pillar of the man’s character. And to a degree, I expect the U.S. President to lie to me. Deep down, I tell myself it’s for my own good. Suspension of disbelief, they call it.

The economy is in great shape. We had no idea Emperor Hirohito would attack Pearl Harbor. Alien spaceship? What alien spaceship?

It’s part of my job to help expose these lies, to strip away varnish and expose the true grain of what’s going on. And usually it’s benign, to mix a metaphor. But when it isn’t — when the cancer of self service has set in, when the deception isn’t for the greater good but for the benefit of a select few — that’s what we call corruption.

It doesn’t have to be specular corruption, like the allegations against former British Virgin Islands Premier Andrew Fahie and former Ports Authority Director Oleanvine Pickering Maynard. Little sleight-of-hand corruption counts as a negative too.

Trust in public institutions is one of the six criteria used to evaluate the happiest countries on Earth, along with generosity, freedom to make life choices, healthy life expectancy, social support, and a country’s gross domestic product.

Last week I asked you to send in your sense of financial well being, along with your island of residence. In an informal, thoroughly unscientific way, we hoped to measure where the U.S. Virgin Islands sits on the global happiness list, having been thus far excluded.

A few brave souls wrote in, honestly ranking their income on a scale of zero (hopeless, destitute) to 10 (lazing in the lap of opulence). By contrast, all last summer the localtourist340@gmail.com inbox was flooded with ideas on improving the V.I.

Disclosing your personal financial information — even if we’re not publishing your name, and even if it’s just your gut feeling, not your salary — is a lot. It struck me in reading those responses that I was not really asking how much you make but your level of satisfaction, your happiness based on income. We’ll publish results later this summer.

Let’s do the same thing here with public corruption. On a scale of zero to 10, with zero being something like “I have no faith in my public institutions; I have to bribe my softball coach to let me swing” — and 5 maybe being, “The police park their personal cars in front of fire hydrants” — and 10 being something like, “After the election the senator returned the unused portion of my donation” — I ask, where do you see our community? Are we desperately corrupt, where, like a former president, the lie is the norm? Are we unimpeachable saints, where a penny on the courthouse floor goes in the lost and found? Or do we fall somewhere in the 1-to-9 range?

Send your answers to localtourist340@gmail.com along with your island of residence or if you are part of the Virgin Islands diaspora off-island. Hey, BVI, this is for you too!

The Virgin Islands, like many places, is no stranger to scandal. We’ve had plenty of public officials go on trial. I won’t even start to list them except to say there are some darn good defense lawyers in the territory.

The Jeffery Epstein affair has cast so many in an unfavorable light, globally, and now at home. Who knew what and when and how many of us ignored it?

Knowing and proving are two very different things, of course. No one is guilty of anything until the judge or jury says so.

That said, for our happiness survey, I’m not asking what you can prove. I’m asking about your perception of corruption in the territory. Maybe you’re right about some covert graft or overt influence peddling. Maybe you are dead wrong and giving in to rumors. It doesn’t really matter for this survey.

That shoulder-shrugging resignation, sigh, that everyone knows some level of impropriety is afoot but, because it’s baked into the system, there’s nothing to be done. That’s what kneecaps public trust in institutions.

And we’re not talking about incompetence. So-and-so is a fool is different than so-and-so is a crook. Although, the two are not mutually exclusive.

Send your answers to localtourist340@gmail.com along with your island of residence or if you a Virgin Islander living abroad.

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