Published on 10 December 2005
Circulation of the Charter in France: Interview of an Elected Official of a Township in Auvergne
The interview of an elected official of a township in Auvergne starts with an immediate reaction to the idea of human responsibility: "For me it is the feeling of belonging to a group, the feeling that my attitude, my actions can act upon the way the current group and the future human group function.
For me, what is done today has repercussions on our world but also on tomorrow’s world, and is of importance for others and for me. Human responsibility makes me think of solidarity, freedom, and conscience. It has to do with awakening and curiosity. It is my public commitment as an elected official to undertake actions for the long term that are important. It is also my involvement in organizations. This way of assuming my responsibility is based on a position that consists in affirming my values and my ideas. I must be capable of saying that I do not agree because "I think that ... ."
Among the causes for not assuming responsibilities, this person pointed to a few important factors: selfishness, self-centeredness, and lack of information; he added the politically correct: "What I mean by that is refusing to affirm ideas so as not to generate conflict, which is close to another factor, group consensus, all so as not to disturb the same group."
In his development of non-assumption of responsibilities, he underscored irresponsible attitudes linked to selfishness, fear of others, the desire for self-assertion. "I will give as an example the proliferation of SUVs, which are voluminous, dangerous, expensive contraptions that consume a lot of energy and also project a certain image of oneself, an idea of protection and of power with those ’buffalo bumpers,’ they’re like army tanks !"
Finally, he mentions another factor, "the increase in the size of structures, which tends to dilute responsibilities. That is the problem with mandates. Someone becomes responsible for more things, but in a way, less responsible."
The reaction of this elected official to the example of orange juice (article contained in the questionnaire that we used) reveals different levels showing the complexity of the issue. This person says to himself: "... responsible, but it is necessarily diluted like a drop of water, this is precisely a problem of collective awareness and collective reaction. There could be boycotts, then the market would collapse. This being said, there are bad attitudes that are not deliberate, but it is the easy way, and it is fueled by advertising. And then we should not forget the cost. You shop with the means that you have. I would draw a parallel with issue of the Nile perch. In a way, the consumer is responsible for the market, but this is definitely a vicious circle. It is the consumption-society-advertisement circle. You could refuse to be part of the system, but there is often a feeling of helplessness. And then there is information that escapes us, there are not only technical problems and economic problems, there are also fights over influence, lobbies, and geo-political problems such as, for example, the arms market, and the issue of the Nile perch. There are also the laws of a supra-market that do not necessarily take into account local micro-structures."
The Charter is judged to be beautiful and interesting and elicits comments with a general feeling of helplessness and Utopia for this document, considered as necessary, as a world to be shared by all.
"For me, there are great values that are developed, these are basic values such as freedom, but rather on the passive side. On the other hand, more actively, in this text, the value of sharing is to be put in perspective with justice. For me, equity is different from sharing. In sharing, there is the idea of a little bit more, such as for example giving a little bit more to someone so that he or she can live. Another interesting idea is careful management, but I find the formula a bit timid and not sufficiently willful. The first idea that comes to my mind is that this is wishful thinking, that I don’t really see what this could be used for. It’s sort of like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Child Rights Charter, and the Charter of the United Nations. It is like a document to be added to the library of "good conscience" books. It is as if we were to build the League of Nations of Human Responsibilities! This being said, an interesting use for me would be the educational dimension at every level. This is relevant, but for me it is not efficient, it is a bit like the Kyoto process, the massacres in Bosnia, the Chinese and Human Rights, the U.N., and so on! For me, it is definitely a question of education, and I’m thinking in particular of my small daily actions."
With regard to the use and application of the Charter, the constrained dimension seems receivable provided that it is elaborated more precisely. This being said, for this elected official the Charter is criticizable as "one more charter." However, he highlights that this document can, in spite of it all, have a certain importance "in the decision-making process because what is decided today can weigh on the world of tomorrow. This is important for future generations, in particular with regard to the uncertainties that weigh in research for example, I’m thinking of nuclear research and GMOs. It should all the same be underscored that on this question, the Charter brings something new compared to the Declaration of Human Rights; by something new I mean precisely the fact that it is concerned with future generations."