(This is the full version of the interview published in Al Bayane this weekend)
When I was little, my mother often told me about the sandman, that fabulous character who drops sand in our eyes to put us to sleep. And each time, this story puzzled me, failing to understand its meaning. Now, looking back, I interpret this gesture as covering our reality with illusions. The illusion of being happy, of managing, of being important, of being free …
And like everyone else, I have lived much of my life in semi-automatic mode. Busy, often in a rush, running around all the time, until I realized that I could never get everything I dreamed of. The post-industrial era does not seem ideal for making dreams come true…
So I had to make choices, especially in my free time, which I spent looking for the means to live, “alive”. At the age of 26, I arrived in Brussels from Paris with a cardboard suitcase (that is, “with almost nothing”, my Belgian roommate laughed at) to work at the European Commission. I was eager to contribute and I have to say that I fell head over heels in love with the project and my colleagues, coming from all parts of Europe and the world. Everything fascinated me in this multicultural environment and from the first nights, I began to dream of how I too could be of service. I really knew how lucky I was to work for something bigger than myself.
This desire intensified in 2014 with the referendum on Brexit which was a great trauma for all Europeans but also somewhere the ideal storm, paving the way for a more ambitious Europe, which would be the protagonist of a major change. in the way we live.
So gradually, at my humble level, I sought to act in different ways and it is in terms of bottom-up engagement that I have invested myself, in particular the commitment of most vulnerable, of those who are currently the furthest from it. I developed this belief that the power for change is in the periphery. So I put my energy into it to develop our institutions.
Imagination is even more important than knowledge. The only thing that matters in our actions is the impact on society. That’s why it’s pointless to hold back dreams. They will catch up with us the moment we finally let go and anyway they have so much to tell us about ourselves.
If I can allow myself one piece of advice, it’s to stop looking for our dreams “elsewhere”, when they only have meaning “here”. I invite to read or reread Paolo Coelho’s Alchemist to be convinced, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Weber’s books or watch those films that navigate between reality and dreams, like those of Kubrik or the famous Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind by Michel Gondry.
Concretely, the current demonstrations in France against the health pass remind us how little room for our common dream there is today. The COVID crisis is creating a form of disillusionment. There is a sort of desperation that we will never have a better life. But as with Brexit, I rather feel an urgency to act. There seems to be a lack of a key virtue right now We lost sight of the collective human dream, because we wanted to reinvent our own every day. This is a bit the reason for our births, to want to start something with our existence, only, as René Char told us, we missed the will with the inheritance that we received and we made a lot of mistakes and fell into a lot of traps.
So we had the arrogance to think that we knew better than our ancestors what we needed. And we mark everything with the seal of freedom… but since we no longer respect anything, neither ourselves, nor our fellows, nor other species, or the planet, don’t you read a bit of hypocrisy here? However, I do not want to give in to the ambient pessimism and we have simply removed the sand from our reality and undone the work of the sandman. This period of crisis opens the way for us to the promised lands. We still have to understand the signs. And therefore listen to them.
A first very strong signal came from a speech by Mrs Parly, French Minister, when she spoke in 2014, of Europe as a Club Med of the bureaucracy whose processes she told us are suffocating and in come to deprive her of her dream and her ambition. What was she telling us? That bureaucracy is the sand on Europe. Yet Max Weber also believed it was the ideal form for any organization. It is not dramatic, but a pity …
To pave the way for the common dream, Europe must simplify at all levels (and not standardize!), put the human back at the heart, and stop maintaining a system of uneven and inefficient nature.
Kierkegaard reminds us that the self is just that part that is becoming, so we should not put energy into the processes! It is time to focus on the part of Europe which is its emerging part, in the process of emancipation and, it is about partnerships, collaboration and decentralization. I understood that by wanting to do well, we tend to look at ourselves a little too much…
And neither is a new utopia we need, nor a band-aid, but something to fully commit to. The idea is that if we have not succeeded by law in making Europe, then we must do it by culture. Above all, I see that the culture of judgment and competition must give way to a culture of care and regeneration, which encourages us, without any injunction. And as Saint-Exupéry reminds us in The Little Prince, we can only see well with the heart, so let’s put the heart in it, even if it is the brain that is the seat of dreams.
An example: Isn’t it true that today the citizen no longer really experiences democracy? Except in this voting booth which isolates her. In this context, Europe must help to intelligently engage citizens through the tools of liquid democracy, and not only, there is also a need to set up a program of development of universal skills, to equip people to thrive in these challenging times.
These new initiatives would reflect a society that has evolved a lot, especially with social networks. A program intended mainly for the periphery. Because basically, if we adults see ourselves as adults, we will find it more interesting to co-construct the future than to continue to destroy it with, for example, consumption or always more exhaustion (which almost systematically precedes a form of ‘self-destruction).
Humanity is emerging in all of us and we are all better humans in the making. Post-homosapiens, who can understand much better through the many evidence at our disposal where the real dream is, the one that has the power to keep us “alive”. There is a new story that needs to be told to our children. After all, isn’t it love that makes mountains rise? So if the agenda is to grow wings, with our new reality of climate change, it’s going to take a lot, a lot of love, to fix the causes together rather than the symptoms.
I had a dream as a child, that the musical notes organize themselves almost on their own to bring about a harmony, which would be the common foundation of his values and principles. The sheet music would be the place of the dream which would give hope and which would detach us from our learned helplessness (as Martin Seligman tells us). And each of the notes would remember that it was part of the same condition, quarter note or sixteenth note, and would not be afraid of conflict at the source of harmony. Everyone has a clear role, the desire to do away with hypocrisy and limits, a real mastery of what they are or are not. It’s because musical notes know they don’t work miracles on their own, that they embrace their inherent need for inclusion and collaboration. It is also this fact of contributing that makes them most happy. Yes, very different but useful musical notes. Behind all this, the musician, in all humility, would present a work that would move, from the heart to the head and including the hands, all species on the planet. I share this vision, like many others around me, that there are so many beauties to be discovered in sharing, being together and being open. And the adult that I am reassures the child in me: “If we have to start somewhere, then I am in the right place”.