Boris Cyrulnik: “Undoubtedly is happiness in bondage”

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Your book explains why some of us become “plowers” ​​(who accept doubt and seek the truth) and others are “wind-eaters” (who sink into baseless narratives). . Are we in the era of wind eaters?

Yes and no. No, because people have always liked rooted knowledge, whether they are mothers, farmers or scientists. And since time immemorial, there have been people who can easily swallow speeches without visible truth, because they are easy and comfortable. The air eaters are in a “logical delirium”, which I describe in the example of slavery. Its supporters justified it at the risk of rising sugar prices when exploitation of blacks disappeared. Their reasoning is logical, deductive, it is less delusional, based on nothing but the skin color of millions of male and female slaves.

But yes, this tendency to be wind eaters is currently alive, especially as we live in a time of pandemic and in the turmoil of a war in Europe. We have more ways to know the truth than happened in the Middle Ages, to draw clear comparisons, or even in other recent times. The media informs us, travel allows us to go and see, to get to know, novels and movies offer us inner journeys … In other words, we have everything to understand and compare and workers today should have more to say. Unfortunately, those who eat the air and what they listen to-the authoritarian leaders-are the most present and most followed in our societies.

How would you explain this?

Because this lazy, simple and soothing mind has many beneficial effects for those who indulge in it. It gives him the illusion of understanding and knowing, in a context of unity between wind guzzlers and shared euphoria. Undoubtedly is happiness in bondage. And it is a posture that brings about wars, wars of belief (religious or economic), wars of territory or wars of ideology. When each group no longer defends the truth, but the truth of its belief, we are in a paradox that can be called a bad work of democracy.

Obviously, the absolute truth does not exist, each has its own, the fruit of their development, their history, their family and cultural context … But workers have a mindset of workers, they are gradually shaping it, and it is not a dogmatic fact. Scientists are plowmen: they propose a hypothesis, submit it to the test courts and to the clinic and abandon it or change it if it doesn’t work. Moreover, even if the hypothesis holds, they know that it is only temporary, because the environment is constantly changing, what is true today does not necessarily mean tomorrow. This is an approach that is highly unsatisfactory to those in need of immediate reassurance and who are attracted to top gurus. The latter are also often people with great intelligence and know how to manipulate people without them knowing.

Even with the best of moods in the world, aren’t we all, at one point in our lives, both air -eaters and workers?

Yes, of course, we are one and the other. When we are safe, when we have enough self-esteem, we agree to doubt, to hesitate between two approaches, two theories, or more. We know how to take time, step back, meet new people … But even the most stable people can, in a context of extreme difficulty or extreme stress, put themselves in a situation of control. In the book, I cite the example of the recluses of Monflanquin, a family of prominent Bordeaux, who fell victim to an incredible influence on the mind of a “cleaner” (Editor’s note: forced by the manager of this cleaning company to cut themselves off from the world.and sell his assets worth more than 4 million euros).

The holders of Wind Eaters deliver to them the reassuring story they hope to hear. Dictators were also often elected by the people they believed in in times of wealth, peace, greatness … It was enough, some say, to expel immigrants, Jews, the rich … Speeches still heard we did in one way or another during the last presidential election. A confused person submits.

What can the school do to cultivate what we can call “significant doubt”, since we also know that doubt for the sake of doubt leads to conspiracy?

In fact, excessive skepticism is nihilism. The school, like art, has a duty to teach the pleasure of doubt in technique and Cartesian meaning of the term. The other day, before the confinement was completely removed, I took a taxi to Nice and was surprised that the driver was not wearing a mask and that he had not yet installed a plastic window between him and his passengers. “Aren’t you afraid of Covid-19? I asked him. “Ah, but to me, they don’t do it to me,” he replied. I doubt the existence of this virus. For me, it is the government that makes us believe here to make money for pharmaceutical companies ”. He used the word doubt, but that was not doubt, just suspicion. The doubt I am defending is what makes me think. Theater, literature, cinema and of course the school play a major role in instilling in us this pleasure of doubt. This is often a difficult path, as opposition to doxa puts us at risk of losing our friends. This is the case for Hannah Arendt, whom I quoted in the book, or Germaine Tillion who, although an Algerian freedom supporter, called her own friends murderers when she realized that the FLN was doing crimes targeting -mothers and children.

To maintain, like them, this freedom of the spirit in the face of religious, financial, ideological, etc. influences. you need the inner strength that comes through education: parental education, school education, but also education through art, culture, media … However, I have a fairly critical view on the way how National Education responded to it. mission. The school today, in my opinion, is too focused on cramming, the accumulation of knowledge. He forgot to learn the “eroticization of doubt”, this pleasure of doubt I say.

You also defended the idea of ​​“slowing down” a child’s development, especially in school, why?

Society pushes kids to do a lot of things, all the time, and mandating “academic success” can be very stressful for some of them. True, school in France is not the abusive institution we know of in China, Japan or South Korea. In the latter country, children of the richest classes in society are doing, on their return from school, a kind of second day of schooling with great support from private teachers. PISA’s analysis puts South Korea at the top of the rankings, but the human price is exorbitant. A minority has succeeded in impressive intellectual performances, but many have completely stopped, or even found peace simply by separating themselves from all social relations. This phenomenon is called hikikomori in Japan. It has also appeared in Quebec and Italy where victims of isolation syndrome are called withdrawn. This is why I advocate slowing down our children’s development, as is already done in many countries in northern Europe where often, before the age of 11, no child sees his or her work evaluated by a grade. or a review. They are told: “You don’t understand today, it doesn’t matter, you will understand tomorrow”.

I led the Commission for the first 1,000 days of the child (running from fertilization until the end of 2 years). Tove Mogstad Slinde, Senior Advisor at the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, attended all of our meetings. His country, for ten years, has slowed the rhythm of children’s lives. However, Norway ranks better than us in PISA surveys, but more importantly the suicide rate among young people has fallen by 40%, ignorance is almost non -existent there (it is over 12% in France) , the psychopathy of young people has almost disappeared… I recognize however that the picture is also not idyllic because in Sweden and Finland, countries with similar policies, we see the resurgence of extreme racist movements on the right.

To return to the importance of the first 1,000 days, I want to remind you that, contrary to what I often read, not everything was decided before the emergence of language. It is a starting point in life, the foundation of an individual, but his whole existence is not defined by this departure. However, this is important because those who attend school who have made a secure attachment, will experience the pleasure of acquiring knowledge. School attendees who have gained insecure attachment (due to a family tragedy, abuse, significant social insecurity or because they have experienced a natural disaster), will be wary of teachers, friends, adults , they will be afraid to explore, etc. In peaceful countries, 70% of an age group consists of safe children. During the war, as I observed by turning to data from Congo and Lebanon, “secure” children represented only 30 to 40% of the workforce.

Your book seems more pessimistic than your previous works.

Unfortunately, I share your feelings. My previous works were more optimistic, as I worked a lot on the question of stability and then I brought a positive note for psychology. I am even more worried now.

The Covid-19 virus was first and foremost a cultural catastrophe. There are millions of viruses around us: not all of them are toxic to us. The maker of the toxic virus is the intensive farming, mixed species, the transportation of these viruses by our vehicles (cars, planes, etc.). But I am afraid that we are entering the century of viruses, because there have been centuries of plagues in the past; between 1348 and 1351, one in two Europeans died here.

I am also afraid of an increasingly turbulent world that will democratically elect authoritarian or dictatorial leaders. We see this happening in many countries around the world. The role of teachers and actors is more important, but, yes, I’m worried.

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