The question of care, under the name of care across the Channel, has experienced great development in recent decades, and an obvious topicality with the Covid epidemic. I admit that I have not read this abundant literature, from Judith Butler (USA) to Sandra Laugier with us, but the subject, as we say, is rich and stimulating; it touches on points of pragmatics, psychology of attention or relation to work which have deep roots on the side of morality, and method. Let’s try to clarify.
I pointed out in a previous post, “Take care of yourself”, how reflexive or better recursive : taking care of someone is enriching my relationship with him, so taking care of myself. The care or concern (well understood) of self and the care of the other turns in a circle. To heal is to heal.
Escher, the recursion
This loop of great societal or moral power answers the question, which obsessed Rousseau, for example, of why men force themselves. Kindness substituted for violence or arrogance, confidence rather than distrust or systematic suspicion, realize the virtuous circle of a well understood narcissism: given the reverberation of our pragmatic relationships (those which run from subject to subject ), I find sympathetic the one who finds me sympathetic, amiable the one or the one who loves me, detestable the face which looks at me askance, etc. The good of benevolence comes back to me; a relationship of trust, or reciprocal care, works like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This reflexivity is not limited to the framework pragmatic of our interactions, it also extends to relationships between the subject and the object: building a piece of furniture, repairing or carefully maintaining your bike (rather than throwing it away at the first opportunity, or calling on a specialist) are part of ” a caring or restorative attitude towards the world in general. Our attention to prolonging the existence of dear old things (rather than driving them to landfill) treats the world as a whole as an ever-suffering subject, well worthy of our care in its tiniest manifestations. The opposite of this attitude, or ethics, stems from greedy consumerism, or neglect.
Neglect, etymologically, it is not to collect, or not to feel connected: the opposite of religion, in its double etymology of religare (link) and religere (collect a message or know how to welcome it). The figures of contemporary neglect, alas innumerable, obey various factors that we can try to enumerate: the increasing specialization of tasks persuades us, faced with a water leak, a fridge breakdown or the puncture of a wheel, than this is not my business since there are people out there to fix it. Attitude justified quite often, insofar as the time spent by the amateur to repair exceeds the rules of economic calculation. “It is not worth it”, whereby our landfills accumulate barely damaged objects, which the whim, incompetence or impatience of their owners have prematurely relegated (for the benefit, hopefully, bargain hunters, recyclers and DIY enthusiasts of all kinds who haunt these garbage cans with too rushed consumption).
I had a grandfather who repaired everything (or very little); this inveterate handyman led me into his cellar transformed into a workshop, where by the chicky day of the basement there was a whole panoply of tools for wood, iron, electricity or painting, and from which came out to Christmas occasion gifts as fabulous as a puppet puppet (with its puppets) or a farm whose roof was raised, with all its animals carefully individualized and its couple of peasants, in work clothes. Such presents, needless to say, had a different look than those taken from the shiny windows of some Galeries Lafayette; René’s soul, his long patience had settled in the smell of glue or his brushstrokes, still perceptible to me if, sixty years later, I lean on the relics that have remained of his art. By entrusting us with such masterpieces, it is a bit of his ingenuity, and his love of beautiful work, that René (graduated from the Boulle school in 1912) transmitted to us. To give such gifts was to bequeath to one’s grandchildren a part of oneself.
Fashion is a particularly glaring variant of this pervasive consumerism, it also pushes us to prematurely discard, out of sheer frivolity, clothes or objects that are still entirely viable, but that their simple use value is not enough to maintain in existence. Fashion in all areas acts as an accelerator of obsolescence, or devaluation.
But it is fundamentally this notion of value that should be carefully examined, when its monetary form prevails over all other considerations. It’s not easy to calculate the value, what is an endangered species worth? One hectare of pack ice, or forest? A day of DIY, or gardening? A pollution-free lake? Our economic and political choices, by aligning the calculation of value with its market form, crush or neglect here again a quantity of vital or primary values, which we must constantly remember, or justify in the eyes of our leaders careless.
Healing, we repeat, is priceless; health is not a commodity, and should not be subject to strict profitability calculations. Very good. Except that, in the hierarchy of salaries that we use as a compass, the professions (largely female) that are dedicated to vital care, and that we saw mobilized in the front line during our health crisis, are also the lowest paid , or socially treated: the last of the team, to use the Macron metaphor, are also the first of the chore! It is urgent that those who are applauded every evening receive not a medal next July 14, but a serious upgrade of their services.
Wherever the service of care extends, I said above, a disturbing continuity of the subject is revealed with the object, or with the subject opposite. Healing requires empathy, and empathy makes us close, even similar. The care relationship therefore implies, under the always superficial knowledge effects, a form of connivance, or deep solidarity. Paying attention, likewise, remains an elementary condition of care, and this gift of attention prevents neglect. Empathy, proximity, attention, contact: these values are abused by the increasing abstraction of tasks, or even by their simplification when the work is analyzed and broken down on the assembly line.
We know the ravages caused by Taylorism, and the considerable profits made by the bosses of industry whenever it has been possible to dissociate the to doof thinkor design. A certain capitalist logic was bent on simplifying workers’ work, in order to underpay it better – and the Soviets were quick to envy the invention of the chain at Ford factories, and to import it. The white-collar workers have the tasks of conception (or as the Soviet officials say of the “plan”), the blue ones the tasks of simple execution, which can turn out to be deadly, decerebrating or dehumanizing. With these skills that we neglect to seek or maintain, it is whole generations of O.S., Treated in simple machines, that we have thrown away. But the negligence or the mess are not the least when the same operating system, and of unrestrained consumption of the world, treats this one as simple commodity, by sacrificing to the laws of monetary exchange and short-term profitability the treasures of ecosystems and in general of life.
We are numerous I think, out of the sanitary confinement (far from being finished), to have taken a better awareness, and measure, of the necessary hierarchy of care, or of the chasm that separates, between us, the caregivers of careless. Given the importance of this topic, more in the next post.
And in the meantime, take care of the world, so of yourself!