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Geneva Forum May 6th 2017 – Feedback

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    The Times They Are A-Changin’

    Negotiating Changes in a Complex World


    My comments on the Reading: Everyman for our Times
    From Richard Sennett, The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism. © 1998 by Richard Sennett.
    “You can’t imagine how stupid I feel when I talk to my kids about commitment. It’s an abstract virtue to them; they don’t see it anywhere.”.

    I asked myself the question, did I miss something ?
    The word “commitment” has always been a sacred word for me, you commit, you are loyal, you “obey”, those were values that I thought could not be tampered.
    When reading the Rico Enrico story, I felt very much like the father. Is this bad?
    In this digital era, is there room for passion, commitment, the satisfaction of having a meaningful job, i.e. a job which serves the community, the pride that it gives? Or is this too late, are we being run over by a tide that we cannot control in a world that we cannot recognize.


    I missed your conversation, but I doubt if this is anything to do with it being a digital world. Is it not that we measure everything by the financial gain it is for ‘me and mine’ ? This has been our currency and we all slip in-perceptively into that way of measuring everything. the only capital we value is financial. Social, material/natural spiritual capital is not valued any more. So we dispose of things not any longer deemed of value, as measured by financial gain. It is this disposing of things and people and places that has resulted in the lack of commitment.
    For me we need to re calibrate our value system.



    The digital world dématérialise the world around us.
    Careers are replaced by projects, deep relationships are mostly replaced by the interactions on Social Networks
    We are told that we belong to the Global Local Village, implying that it is good.
    In my opinion, all it does is that it weakens our belief and values in order to conform.


    Dear Michel

    What an interesting set of comments!

    Could we explore them a bit further together?

    Let’s say that Ms X was born and brought up in a small village in the Pyrenees (let’s call that P1). She is in all likelihood going to conform to the norms of that village. Let’s call that CONFORMITY A. If she does rebel against village norms, it may simply be rebellion (let’s call that R1), or it may be a genuine search (let’s call that S1) for Truth. You will probably agree that the possibility of Ms X being either R1 or S1 is relatively smallin P1. (I am assuming that the norms of P1 may have some relationship to Truth but are not coterminus with it).

    In any case – for whatever reason, if Ms X moves from P1, say to Paris (let’s call that P2), she is going to be forced to reconsider her values, and indeed everything involved with S1, R1 or CONFORMITY A. That is for the simple reason that she will be confronted by many different ideas and values and beliefs and ways of life in P2. It could be that, if she was involved in CONFORMITY A, she affiliates with some group in the city and starts conforming with that group (let’s call this behaviour CONFORMITY B). Alternatively, it could be that, if she was R1, she continues to rebel against even all the new ideas, values, beliefs, etc which she comes across in P2! Let’s call this behaviour R2.

    For a moment, let’s consider, one by one, just the possibilities that we have mentioned (CONFORMITY B and R2) as a result of Ms X moving to the city.

    Could we say that CONFORMITY A equals CONFORMITY B? After all, they are both conformities! It would certainly be possible, with intellectual honesty, to take this view of the matter, wouldn’t it? But we couldn’t we also, with equal intellectual honesty, take the view that whereas CONFORMITY A is “natural” and “to be expected”, CONFORMITY B is a choice? IF so, one could argue that CONFORMITY B is a moral act of a higher order (I am not saying that it is morally better: it could be morally better or it could be morally worse; I am simply considering it of a different order, in that it is a result of choice between continuing CONFORMITY A and choosing CONFORMITY B – thoughboth come equally with the advantages of conformity in the two contexts).

    I recognise, of course, that in real life, many people may adopt some mixture of CONFORMITY A and CONFORMITY B, but I using binaries for simplicity.

    I recognise also that Ms X may choose to continue CONFORMITY A in P2; if so, should this be considered an act of rebellion against the new possibilities offered by P2 (if so, we would have to call this R3)? Or should it be considered a moral choice of the same order as choosing CONFORMITY B? Perhaps you will agree with me that choosing to continue with CONFORMITY A in P2 is superior even to choosing CONFORMITY B, because Ms X will be considered a “simpleton” or a “country bumpkin” by most people in P2, and will accordingly be marginalised; Ms X may or may not be aware of the cost she will have to pay for her choice at the initial moment she makes that choice; but it must be the case, unless she is indeed a simpleton, that she will sooner or later become aware of the price – and her dedication to continue to pay that price, if she does so, surely elevates her choice above that of choosing CONFORMITY B because that choice carries the advantages of possible popularity and preferment.)

    And how about R1 versus R2? Could we not say that the same considerations apply? On one hand, we could argue that, after all rebellion is rebellion! If we take this view, we are arguing that R1 equals R2. On the other hand, we could take the view, as we did in the case of the two CONFORMITIES, that while R2 could be considered a mere continuation of R1 it must, even so, be surely at least a richer version of R1, as it is based not merely on the situation in P1 but also on the additional factors in P2. (If Ms X gives up R1 and chooses instead CONFORMITY B, then the same considerations apply as mentioned above).

    Having remarked that there are at least some grounds for considering CONFORMITY B better than CONFORMITY A, and similar grounds for considering R2 better than R1, what are we to make of the possibility that Ms X, if she had been searcing for Truth (S1) in P1, gives up her search for Truth in P2, possibly as a result of being overwhelmed with the choices and resulting complications of thought and will? Surely, her situation is now worse, from an ethical point of view, than it was in P1? For she has abdicated the possibility of choice, with the resulting disadvantages in terms of meaningless, anomie, despondency, and so on.

    However, think also of the possibility that Ms X continues her search for Truth in P2. This surely is a most heroic choice?: Ms X was prepared to pay the cost of S1 in P1, and she is prepared to pay the additional cost of S2 in P2. It appears, from experience, that not many people go for this course of action. But it is not unknown, and the number of people involved may be larger than one imagines, principally because such people tend to be the most marginalised by the people around them, unless they become famous as artists or writers or something of that sort. In other words, the number of people who continue to S2 may be very much larger than appears, simply because they are made invisible by the loudness and buzz of everthing that is merely fashionable in P2.

    Dear Michel, my main point in the long series of considerations above is this: while P2 and other such modern contexts may indeed be more complicated than the apparent “naturalness” of P1, is it not possible that P2, by the very virtue of offering a greater range of choices, is more liberating and possibly even superior because it causes us to compare and contrast the ideas, values, lifestyle, etc of P1 and P2?

    Possibly, then, we might be more optimistic than when we started on this little train of thought?



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