Kairos N°37


Beyond their preferences, tastes and habits, individuals vote and consume. This is their lowest common denominator. Are they being responsible or irresponsible? More than antonyms, let’s see them as a dialectic couple. Because having a share of responsibility in what happens does not prevent one from also acting irresponsibly. There are visible hierarchies (bureaucracy, labor, politics) and less visible ones(lobbiesIn short, all kinds of burdens that, on the one hand, make us give up and, on the other hand, exonerate us from our responsibility towards social life and ecology. While many of these projects are beyond our reach, there are areas where we could do things differently without great sacrifice. It would be enough to decide it. Recent events shed light on this.

  • The voters (consumers) are directly responsible for the return of the extreme right in Brazil. Jair Bolsonaro, a madman apologist for dictatorship, torture, the murder of political opponents and the deforestation of the Amazon (among other things) has just been widely elected, with 55%. A shame.  » What right do you have, you Belgian, to judge the choice of the Brazilian voters?  » would retort a provocateur of my acquaintance. I, the Belgian, only denounce the present and future damage of the phenomenon, and say it out loud; I, the not-Brazilian, believe that I am able to understand, to a certain extent, the affairs of Brazil. Who said that voting is useless, that it doesn’t change anything? Ask the 45% of voters who did not choose Bolsonaro.
  • The (electorate) consumers, by their impulse of holiday mobility, are indirectly responsible for the construction, in calamitous social and ecological conditions, of the largest airport of the world in Istanbul (76,5 km²). This pharaonic work does not fall from the sky, so to speak. We are no longer in the days when communist leaders in Eastern Europe built huge and useless palaces (except for the glory of the said communism). In liberal market democracies, major works respond to a demand — possibly forced by marketing - and call for a return on investment. Thus, Erdogan’s « crazy project » — in his own words — is planned for a traffic of 200 million passengers per year from 2028. This time, there were no zadists to torpedo this crap.

Let’s get our ideas together. To be anti-capitalist is to avoid as much as possible giving one’s money or one’s voice to capitalists. This seems obvious, but opinion is far from unanimous. It seems that the « right » to travel is not debatable, nor is the « free choice » in the voting booth, unless one shows a  » hatred of democracy « , as the demagogic philosopher Jacques Rancière would say. Calling for everyone to take responsibility would also show a right-wing bias, and a useless one at that. The left will eternally remind us that there are economic determinisms that must first be dealt with. Only then will manners change. The company will forever remain co-responsible for what happens. Let’s leave the irresponsibility to the pilots of globalization who lead us to chaos.

Before thinking about our emancipation, let’s first talk about our responsibility, but not in any way: it will not look at our navel — let’s leave that to the devotees of « personal development » — but at the community; it will be associated with common decency and vergony. In a posthumous work published in 1994, Christopher Lasch wrote:  » The political philosophy of the 21st century will have to give more weight to the community than to the right to decide personally. It will need to focus on responsibilities rather than rights. It will have to find a better expression of the community than state assistance. It will have to limit the scope of the market and the power of large companies without replacing them with a centralized state bureaucracy.  »

Bernard Legros

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