No matter which country you live in some things stay the same – the professions that top off the lists of most distrusted professions. Across the board it is politicians and journalists that take top spots (or bottom spots) in polls regarding trust and reputation.

While we are now in the world where alternative truths are supposedly more important than actual truth and the idea of ‘fake media’ is used as a handy weapon to silence dissent or valid questioning, it seems as if the notion of personal reputation itself is in crisis.

Reputations are all about perception and their substance is key. You can’t speak of a great personal reputation unless it is backed up by truths, realities, occurrences, deeds, and words.

“Without question, Hillary’s reputation stood up – it wasn’t self-promoted, it was made by our perceptions of what he did – and that counted for a lot.”

Sir Edmund Hillary is great Kiwi example, a humble man whose solid reputation was not only forged on the slopes of Mount Everest in 1953 but a life time commitment to helping the people of Nepal. Without question, Hillary’s reputation stood up – it wasn’t self-promoted, it was made by our perceptions of what he did – and that counted for a lot.

Personal reputation is however fluid in some elements of life – held to different standards depending on professions, for example. Take a rock star. Sleeping around, biting the heads of chickens, getting drugged to oblivion or drunk beyond comprehension does not hurt their reputation – it enhances it. The same things would not be acceptable for other vocations.

“In fact today, the office of the president of the United States has undergone a transition where personal reputation and comportment is in another sphere.”

Politics is an interesting example. Candidates hoping to seek presidential office in the US, for example, could lose everything if an extra-marital affair was publicised. Bill Clinton narrowly avoided impeachment for lying about a consensual sexual liaison. Richard Nixon resigned before being impeached for a litany of disreputable actions. Today? Well, those things don’t seem to matter as much. In fact today, the office of the president of the United States has undergone a transition where personal reputation and comportment is in another sphere. Substance no longer guides consequence and that’s a shame.

It’s a shame that politicians are held in such low regard. It should be the opposite because the reality is that they are our representatives. They are elected in our stead to govern and enact laws on our behalf.

“Without truth, or trust we are without foundation.”

What does it say about us if our representatives’ reputations don’t matter any longer? Politicians aren’t rock stars, they are not meant to entertain us, they are meant to lead us, to negotiate, to listen, to act out the best of us, not the worst. While actors are being made accountable for historical criminal acts – even alleged ones – then why do we let elected representatives get away with the same things?

We really can’t let truth become so warped that it loses its value and importance. The notion of ‘alternative truths’ or ‘alternative facts’ should have no place in our language. Without truth, or trust we are without foundation. Human beings have debated the search for meaning, for truth, for millennia. It is one of our guiding principles. Even that other maligned profession, journalism, used to have the search for truth as its cornerstone – before the news became entertainment and open to manipulation.

We certainly do live in interesting times.