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But He Said That, So It's Okay

Trust is important for each of us as individuals. It helps to remind us of the good in the world and the potentials inherent therein. It reminds us to reach out to one another and that our very survival and perhaps the ability to be something more than just animals making it through each day moment to moment is there as a possibility waiting for us. It is what we have relied on throughout the ages to become strong as a species. It is how we built civilizations and still do today. We rely on each other and for more than just to know each member of the team is functioning correctly, but that there are people we rely on for more than work or to get a job done. There are people that help us grow as individuals and to do so we rely a great deal on trust to help the spark of human potential ignite.

Unfortunately there is a flip side to that coin. There are those that rely on our willingness to trust, and the vulnerability that can sometimes put us in (in terms of less developed individuals that predate on other humans using trust to do so), to cause harm and destruction. Those people can come into an individual's life and prey on their trusting instincts to extract whatever it is they want from the unwitting person - unwitting because of the innocence of their trust - are what we would think of as being on the bottom of society when described in such plain terms, but they can be people that are respected pillars of society or a group also.

For instance, when I was a student at the University of Connecticut's landscape architecture department I experienced harassment and discrimination. The behavior was directed at me from certain people in positions of authority, like certain professors, that then directed certain students to participate also. The authority figures used certain triggers to get these people to act for them. They used the two facts of my race and a political protest I had been involved in thirteen years prior to my entering UConn as the grounds to say, "hey this guy is a Middle Eastern terrorist and we need to rid ourselves of him from the program."

It was 2003, just two years after the events of 9/11. The whole country was on alert. We were all scared by what we witnessed on the TV that day and I was included in that group of scared Americans. The folks in positions of authority trying to harass me out of the program if not the school made no mention of that to other students. At times they almost made it out to seem as if they were claiming I was born in another country. They also failed to mention the protest I was involved in thirteen years prior was involving issues of people of color - minorities and civil rights - and the system of oppression known as apartheid used by the South African government at the time to oppress people in that country, not anything related to the kinds of issues the people that attacked the World Trade center were believers in or espousers of.

They also failed to mention that I was Indian, not Middle Eastern - India of course is not located in the Middle East. They also failed to mention the fact that my father was a Hindu and my mother was a Christian. They also failed to mention that I am a Buddhist - not that Muslims should be targeted, but that's how they were painting me. That was part of the lie.

The people in authority at the landscape architecture program also used trust as a trigger. They were successful at first especially due to the fact that they were in positions of authority, and people trusted them a certain measure just based on that alone. They were able to use that authority to remind people that began to question whether what was said was true or not about me as they got to know me, that they were to be trusted. They were able to remind people about what happened on 9/11 as if to say "don't forget about that." Of course it related to me in no way at all, but their reminders were meant to serve as guides that bumped people back on track once they got off track to do what they wanted them to do.

They would merely remind them of the lies they were spreading and had laid a foundation of out of my earshot. So they could used subtle cues and codes to remind people of what they had earlier said and then kind of direct it at me as if to say, "don't forget who we have in our midst." This was very effective. The hair on their necks would stand up when they looked at me now just based on that false information fed to them previously. Once people in any group get themselves into a leadership position they command serious power whether that position be one they get appointed to or one they win through influence.

They can even be people that gain such power through winning the favor of a section of a group and cutting out their own swath of influence within a group making them powerful and able to influence things that way. Once such people begin to deride another person by doing things like detracting from their character behind their backs without the person being able to hear the charges levied against them as happened to me, by the time they figure out what is happening they are essentially trying to come from behind and defend themselves against whatever allegations have been thrown at them and the source of those allegations.

In such instances the person being subtly and slowly discredited before they have even begun to build up any credit to begin with is coming from behind and working their way backwards. This can be extremely difficult especially when the person is not in a position of authority and was for a long time unaware of what was being said. So the person being derided may be doing something and have a certain expression on their face, and the person casting the aspersions merely nods in that person's direction and then gives a look as if to say "see what I mean?"

But that look on the face of the person being discredited could be anything. It could be coming from anywhere - a bad day, a flu, a fight with their significant other - but because that person in the position of authority has the trust of those listening to them it automatically gets filed into the 'more proof' folder against the person being discredited.

In this way the dark side of the way trust can work between people can rear its ugly head as it did with me. Both the other students in my program being manipulated and lied to and I were having our trust bent against us. I started out trusting those people in positions of authority, and so did the other students. I had no reason to think they would do that to me out of essentially nowhere as did those other students. They used our trust to get what they wanted, and they used it to get us to do as they wished without question.

Also by being cordial, nice and even friendly at times with me those people in positions of authority behaving that way broke rust. That breach actually worked to dishearten me at times further moving things in the direction those people wishing to have me out of the program wanted things to go, as I would begin to feel a little hurt and it would distract from my work. The people that were my fellow students trusted these people too and were lied to by them. It was a sham pulled off essentially through trust and preying on other people's trust when they were most vulnerable.

When I see the Occupy Movement, which I support, I worry for them sometimes about how easy it would be for intelligence operatives, law enforcement operatives and operatives from the two main political parties to infiltrate the group and prey on people's trust the way they did to me and my classmates when I was at UConn. How easy would it be for experienced undercover police detectives that were young and had worked political groups before to walk into camp and start hanging out to gather intelligence so they could learn how to take them down most easily?

How easy would it be to plant others that would convince people - via their trust of course - that they should just pack up and leave when a raid comes? These would not be fools of course but veterans of such things. People like those that infiltrated political peaceful groups that wanted to change the system back in the 1960's and 1970's and beyond that used the strategic gaining of people's trust to sow disharmony, create internal chaos and splits, find weak spots and exploit them and tear them down. Or political operatives like those that infiltrated then hijacked the Tea Party which we all saw happen, whether we agreed with their original platform or not.

This is not to say Occupy people are na?ve, but such forces have among them old hats that have been doing it for years and even enjoy it. They either don't care about others and want the money, they get some kind of kick out of it and are thrilled to get paid for what they enjoy doing, are perhaps a bit emotionally challenged or psychologically impaired and unable to feel like most people or really believe things need to stay as they are and that change not sanctioned by big money and big government is dangerous and needs to be stopped and squashed.

So they do those most un-American things and try and undermine the constitutional freedoms of freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and political freedom. Those things President Obama supported when he spoke about protesters in the Middle East but failed to support in protesters here. It's funny how that region is so easily and often used to manipulate our collective trust. All you have to do is mention it and say you're a good guy and you're in - whether you are or not. It's just trust. Strange.

To read about my inspiration for this article go to www.lawsuitagainstuconn.com.

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