On August 14, a major earthquake has more than ever placed the populations of the Great South of Haiti in the hope of a relief aid from Haiti and elsewhere. I am very happy that people from here donated to people from there. But I am not deluding myself: the aid provided is still very far from sufficient for the most essential needs of these populations.
A Haitian friend told me that this kind of help awakens in him the idea of a united world, an idea that I also love deeply. Unfortunately, we are far from it.
Generosity and solidarity: are they all the same? The philosopher André Comte-Sponville helped me to think about it by distinguishing these two concepts which have in common to take into account the interests of the other. However, even if they are often confused and they can go hand in hand, generosity and solidarity, it is not quite the same thing.
Generosity is great
Generosity, says Comte-Sponville, is the virtue of giving, it is taking into account the interests of the other and doing him good in a disinterested way, without seeking to do good to oneself. Here, we are not talking about giving Christmas gifts to those we love, but giving to those with whom, apparently, we do not share an objective interest. Fundamentally, the generous gives because he is sensitive to the needs of the other.
This is why generosity is morally laudable. But it is not enough to build a more just world. Quite simply because, being essentially a matter of the private sphere, it only takes effect one gesture at a time. The observation is sad, but relentless: generosity did not come and will never overcome misery.
This observation does not detract from the admirable gesture of the generous who, as the philosopher suggests, overcome their littleness, their egoism, their greed or their fear and act freely by giving time and money to do good to others.
Solidarity is even better
Solidarity is different. To act in solidarity, it is to take into account the interests of the other, yes, but provided that they are shared with mine. It is therefore recognizing a common interest with others and doing good mutually, together, in an intelligent and organized way.
Across the region and across the country, to a certain extent, we understand this when, for example, we buy locally, pay our fair share of taxes, join a union or comply with health measures. When Comte-Sponville talks about health insurance as one of the most fantastic social advances of decades, I remember my father’s relief that he wouldn’t have to foot the hospital bill for the disease. birth of his Xe child. These days, we are beginning to understand our collective interest in investing in accessible and quality childcare services. As Quebeckers and Canadians, we know from experience: real socioeconomic progress is in the direction of solidarity, not “every man for himself”.
Globally, it seems much more difficult to act on the faith of our converging interests, in the first place by failing to recognize them. Yet most of the global challenges we face go through this. It was undoubtedly understood a little better, at the end of the Second World War, with regard to international peace and security. Perhaps we are progressing a little (but so slowly) in the face of the environmental emergency; We know, however: if the inhabitants of this planet one day overcome the climate crisis, it is because they will finally have understood their interest in acting in solidarity. In terms of health, if we think about it a little, we quickly realize that we will come to the end of the pandemic that afflicts us more quickly and more effectively if we act in solidarity with the other countries of the world. Let it be said: Canada does not offer vaccines to underprivileged countries out of pure generosity, but because it is in our interest to prevent the emergence of variants like Omicron in different corners of the world. In terms of human development, unfortunately, progress promises to be much more difficult, despite the fact that we can no longer ignore the difficult living conditions of people in different corners of the world, such as Haiti. Equity and social justice, however, require that we care about the disadvantaged, both globally and nationally.
What is certain is that solidarity is proving to be much more effective than generosity in building a more just, less unequal, more progressive world. With united solutions to problems, we can go much further and more sustainably. It is solidarity, and not generosity, that makes us move forward socially and economically. This is why it is essential.
To build the united world that my Haitian friend dreams of and which inspires us, let’s mobilize to counter the polarization of citizens on the basis of small particular interests and work instead to bring out broad converging interests. We have every interest in understanding our interdependence, what unites us, not what divides us. While acting in the interest of others, one acts at the same time in his own interest. The pandemic is teaching us a good lesson.