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18/06/2018, 18:45

well b eing, society, Grenoble


 Patrick Viveret is a French philosopher, former counselor at the Court of Audit and member of several citizens’ movements. In an exclusive interview for the Youth Press Agency, Viveret criticizes our current system and talks about well-being

Patrick Viveret is a French philosopher,former counselor at the Court of Audit and member of several citizens’movements. In an exclusive interview for the Youth Press Agency, Viveretcriticizes our current system and talks about well-being in practice: how canwe develop to well-being societies?  

YPA: Personally, what does well-being mean toyou ?   

PV: Personally, what I call well-being is theart of living at the right time. That is to say, it’s the art of being fullypresent to life. It’s the fact of saying I cannot live everything, I cannot doeverything, but the things I live, I am going to live it intensely. So at thismoment I am not seeking happiness in the sense that it has to be an ephemeralhappiness or a stroke of luck, or a capital one would be trying to conquer butalso afraid to lose. We are living at the wrong time all the same if we preventourselves from sorrow when losing a beloved one, for instance. It is really anart of full presence to life, to my mind, and in this respect living at theright time is in the end very synonymous with well-being.    

YPA: Considering that the current model ofdevelopment needs to be changed, on which philosophical bases could we refoundit ?   

PV: If I start from the great philosopher whoconsidered those issues, who is Spinoza, he highlighted that the big deal isthe alternative between, on the one hand Joy and on the other hand Fear, whichis at the heart of what he used to call ’sad passions’. Therefore, cultivatingthe energy of joy is to me the essential element because in the end we have asystem - that is the case today, of market capitalism but it is the case ofother regimes as well, despotism, religious fundamentalism - when we lookdeeply at what drives them, it is whether direct fear, whether entertainment inthe sense that Blaise Pascal explained, related to those same fears. Forinstance entertainment in relation to the fear of death, to sickness, togetting old, etc. The whole capitalist system is deeply an entertainmentsystem. And so the thing to do is to build, on the contrary, a type of movementin which the fundamental energy is  joy.It does not mean that this movement will renounce to anger, to indignation, toresistance, etc. But this resistance itself will be a creative resistance and nota desperate rebellion, because it is driven by the energy of joy.    

YPA: Among all that has been discussed here,what differences and what similarities do you see in the many ways to depict analternative - more desirable - global understanding of the world?  

PV: First of all something that seems veryinteresting to me, is that it is clear there is a meeting point between twogreat historical movements, now setting up a true dialogue of civilization.There are movements coming from modernity, so from the logics of emancipation,human rights and among those human rights for instance women rights, which isabsolutely fundamental. Then, we also have movements coming more from thetradition side: underlining the importance of native people, the importance insidethe "bien vivir" cosmovision of the relationships with Mother Earth, etc. Thebig deal is not to assume a pendulum movement and to say we should just give upon modernity and turn ourselves to the tradition side, which could indeed be atemptation... It is, on the contrary, to launch an open and demanding dialogue,allowing us to take what’s best in the so-called tradition as well as inmodernity, and at the same time to determine dark aspects. For instance, withinmodernity’s bright sides are the freedom of consciousness, emancipation,individuation - which is a whole different thing than individualism - and it isall along human rights and the essential cursor of women rights. Butsimultaneously the dark side is the process of ’thingification’, turning nature into a thing, turning the living into athing, and in the end turning human beings themselves into things throughmerchandising. Therefore, we need to keep the best, emancipation, freedom andso on, and at the same time to be critical of the worst. Same thing fortraditional societies’ cultures. We could say the best in it is binding,binding with nature, with others - social bonds - and binding spiritually - thequestion of meaning of life - those are the three points modernity no longerconsiders.Nonetheless there is also a blind spot withintraditional societies, and it is dependence! Because social bound may evolvetowards social control, and meaning as well when becoming identitary andexcluding, can lead to exclusion or war. Even the connection with nature maylead to a form of misanthropist ecology. So the big deal is to manage, throughthis open and demanding dialogue, such an alliance of the best of freedom andemancipation with the best of binding, and to be in a creative resistance to thecocktail of the worst. The idea is well expressed by an Indian friend who isoften present in the Dialogues in Humanity : "Coca-cola and excision",meaning on one hand ok, I open my markets, but in exchange you stop botheringme with the rights of women. So this is to my mind the big deal that is beingplayed now, and it is an opportunity through this International Forum forWell-being because, as a matter of fact, well-being forces us to consider thequestion of the criteria needed to spot what is bright and on the contrary whatis dark within those great historical movements.   

YPA: Civilsocieties all over the world try to rethink the democratic system as well. Yousay the main issue is to restore the ethical and political function ofindicators (so we don’t need very sophisticated indicators, only opportunitiesto debate). But how can we collectively guarantee the possibility to feelcompletely free to express all conflicts and questions?  

PV: First of all, it’s very important toinscribe at the heart of the democratic process itself the question of thosedebate spaces and to inscribe, therefore, the call for quality in thedemocratic process. Today, we have a form of democracy that is unsatisfactorybecause it is delegative and not participative, it is competitive, and it isquantitative. That is to say, basically, through the elections we consider thatthe person who won the competition has been given a blank check for x years.This process, first, is simplifying and binary... Moreover, when considering thecase of § whistleblower § whoseimportance today is very obvious to guarantee the democratic process. Whenthinking in quantitative terms in most cases they only represent a very smallminority. So we need to introduce quality concerns: for instance the issue ofdiscernment, the issue of wisdom which is a very ancient one and that says avery important thing to reach discernment is the emergence of a superiorquality of consciousness. This is what we call within our international networkfor Dialogues in Humanity, the qualitative mutation of democracy. And we needto reintroduce inside democratic structures spaces where the determiningcriteria is the quality of conscience and the quality of wisdom. Not to boreall other criterias but to have in this respect as well an articulation betweenwhat’s best in actual democracy - universal suffrage - and the best democraticquality structured around the call for discernment. Starting from here,obviously, deliberation and assessment become determining. Just like for oneperson the great ethical detour (how do one makes choice for his own life thatare complex choices, because situations are scarcely simple) and the quality ofdiscernment on the political scale (deliberation, assessment) also calls forparticipation. Nonetheless it is not a form of participation that drives oneinto collective passions or moody movements, because this could createregressive forms as well. It is participation but to serve a higher quality ofconscience.  

YPA: While trying to turn violence intoconflict, what about the emotional part of misunderstandings ? What can wedo to make sure that participants will feel entirely free to express allconflicts ?   

PV: One of the tools that we alreadyexperiment in citizen networks is called construction of disagreements. Thatworks from the hypothesis that what is toxic is not disagreeing but misunderstandings,in the strong sense of the word... including all collateral damages such assuspicion and trial of intent. The problem is that at some point part of agroup feels it hasn’t been heard and so it has the feeling of being despised,or even humiliated. This is what produce, afterwards, dangerous metastasis. Ina disagreement-building exercise, as we had spotted that most misunderstandingscome from the emotional rather than the intellectual sphere, we start withmoving debates techniques. We take keywords from a debate and we ask the groupto position in a four-edges play: if one feels good with the word he goes toone edge, if one feels bad he goes to the front, if in doubt he goes to thethird edge, if neutral or indifferent to the last... And to begin with, the ideais simply to listen to each other about the reasons of their feelings. And sohere we will see the group starting to move, in both literal and figurativemeanings. We will see that an important part of misunderstanding, because welisten to each other, are going to transform into potential disagreements - butthat we are going to build - or very often into agreements, that we will recordas such and it will allow groups that may be very divided to be ready to leadcommon actions about what they thought were disagreements but were really just misunderstandings.For instance during a disagreement-building about marriage for all in France, weobtained that people who were opposed to it - and suspected of homophobia bythe other group - declared ready to lead a common campaign against homophobia.So it will not only allow the debat to move ahead on disagreements now trulyidentified, but it will also allow actors who were at the first sightidentified as belonging to different sides, to act all together, to be a muchstronger and to multiplicate the action’s weight, compared to an action ledonly by the convinced ones. Concretely there are three periods of time: firstthe group gets out of misunderstandings, with an important work on emotionalintelligence; then the interactive part: we get to agree about the terms of thedebate. In the third part the participative assembly is very important becausedebaters are too deep in their contradictions to be able to make that exercise:we ask the participative assembly "what is there, within the position you donot share, that seems particularly receivable and important to consider ?"Not to change one’s mind, not to seek for compromise! Just to say: here I reckonthis is a strong point. For instance in a debate on civil nuclear power, thepro-nuclear people had been led to say: we recognize the question of accidentalrisks and the question of nuclear waste are trues issues; unlike pro-nuclearsfrom the 70s, after Chernobyl, after Fukushima, we can no longer consider thequestion of accidental risks is a purely theoretical statistical risk. We cannotkeep saying that concerning waste, we will eventually figure it out. So it doesnot change one’s mind, because for other fundamental reasons they stayed infavour of civil nuclear power, but we recognize that. And when we turned to theanti-nuclear side, they ended up saying "even if a government was to declarethe way out of nuclear power, we are aware that there will be a wholetransition period that will probably last several decades, and during suchperiod of time we know we will be in charge as well of those questions of risksand waste". So both sides did not look for compromise and even less forconsensus, both stayed on their positions but they had a huge common work: todo everything possible to reduce accidental risks, to do everything also tofind solutions for nuclear waste. This is just an example among others of whata qualitative mutation could enable. And it is true as well when seeking waysto turn violence into conflict, or ways to transform enemies into adversaries.   

YPA: Don’t you think getting to really listento each other takes a lot more time that what most people are currently willingto give, due to our conception of time-give?  

PV: It is very important to identify thequestion of addiction to speed as being one of the major diseases of oursocieties, and to understand that working on time is on the contrary one of themost powerful strategies of creative resistance and anticipatory emancipation.To stop mistaking the few real emergencies with precipitation. On the contrary,we start to consider true emergencies only when we are in a calm, cold-bloodedsituation, not when we are on the run... Just like if we want to learn to driveon the ice, it is essential not to feel stressed when approaching danger!  In the same fashion that workers movement hadled a struggle against hellish rates inside factories, nowadays it has to be -as an object of creative resistance - a struggle against hellish cadences oftensed flows societies. This is why all "slow-type" movements appeared: it wasfirst slow food as a reaction to fast food, and then slow cities in Italy... nowabout e-mails, and there is also a whole part of the movement that considersslow love, because relationships are also subjected to this logic ofperformance, excitation, etc. And this is indeed at the heart of well-being.The art of living at the right time is by excellence an art of the quality ofpresence to time. And this comes as much from personal transformation as fromsocial transformation. That is why it is important to help each other in thisrespect, for instance within a movement we could call "let’s cooperate to slowdown" - because it is often quite difficult to slow down alone, but if we getcollectively organized it is all more simple. Among the network l’Archipel desJours Heureux (Happy Days citizens’ archipelago) we also initiated a process oftime’s gift. We give each other dates but we cancel right before, and as wehaven’t had time to program something else, it is a gift of time. And the onlything we ask is that, if on that occasion you have discovered something, seen amovie, read a book, etc. and you feel particularly passionate about it andwilling to share, you can make us that gift too.   

YPA: One last question about the globalstructuration of global society : I read you are willing to open, for nextWorld Social Forum, a "humanity security council". Can you tell us more aboutthis idea and the forms it could assume?  

PV: It is indeed a project we discussed duringthe last World Social Forum in Salvador, Bahia, is part of a global project forworld citizenship. The idea is to say let’s stop making that gift to capitalismbut above all to big mafias, to the crime economy which is nowadays the truereality of world governance, let’s stop leaving them this gift ofglobalization. And start moving towards what Edouard Glissant called mondialité[worldality]. For instance for the coming Dialogues in Humanity, one of themain focuses is our country Earth, to say that our people is Humanity, and it doesnot prevent us from belonging to several people, but at the same time we areall members, all the people of Earth, where soil and nature as well need to bepreserved. So we offered to launch this great movement for the emergence ofworld citizenship, with approaches such as a Wisdom Council - to introducewisdom within all those debates - and a Security Council of Humanity. Saying"is Humanity threatened?" The answer is, unfortunately, yes. "Does the SecurityCouncil of the United Nations take care of it?" Unfortunately, no. So let’sinitiate with what Cornelius Castoriadis calls instituating procedures [...]:"What would happen if we were to create conditions for an actual SecurityCouncil, for instance, on topics like military nuclear power, by using the factthat there is a treaty for nuclear weapons’ abolition signed by 122 countriesmembers of the United Nations?" So this is an amazing opportunity, whilenuclear countries are doing all what is in their power to prevent it.Afterwards we are also willing to organize a great alliance between civilsocieties and moral and spiritual authorities on those topics. And we want tomake the most of the week of consciences that will be hosted at UNESCO duringthe month of march 2019, to launch the idea that this week should be a time forhigher conscience worldwide... During such an event, the question of the creationof Wisdom councils and Humanity Security Council will be brought into publicdebate. Right now we have also started exchanging with spiritual authorities,we have an audition with Pope François with an extremely positive feedback. Ofcourse we are going to meet other moral authorities, but it is not negligibleto see that ideas like this one are starting to move forward.  

By Oliana Quidoz

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