Marc Le Menestrel
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Violence and fear in Paris: a way forward

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by Marc Le Menestrel (16/11/2015)

To feel violence against ourselves is one of the deepest and irresistible emotions of human existence. And to join others in resisting this violence shall be acknowledged as a fundamental process to nurture and celebrate our social identity as human beings. To be safe is certainly one of the most important conditions of living our life in peace. And to be safe together will always remain one of the most important endeavors of humanity.

We are rightly fearful of violence and it is interesting to realize how fears may sometimes be a dangerous advisor of human action. Although most animals react to fears as if they were controlled by them, we human beings have the formidable ability to think about our fears, to recognize them, to let them go through us, and to develop our sense of action while they past, inspired by who we can be beyond our fears.

And we as human beings know that we are the ones to be afraid of.

At this epoch of our civilization, we are now becoming fully aware that the biggest threat to us is ourselves. And we know that reacting to violence by separating us from others, whoever they are, is perpetuating violence. We also know that this is known, and that our animal part is predictable, and that our reaction to violence and fears can be used and abused to create more violence.

How can we put our most sincere and powerful emotions at the genuine service of our freedom and of peace?

It is interesting to note that one of our core strength lies in taking conscience that we are the ones generating violence against ourselves. Instead of carefully designing what it means to be “I”, “we”, “you” or “them”, attempting to draw a line between “us” the victims of violence and “them” the perpetrators, we shall take full conscience of the part in us who is using and abusing us to exercise its destructive power.

How do we ourselves generate violence? What are the things that we want from others and that lead us to violence? Who are the ones to whom we are violent? Why and when do we profit from violence? What are the social and institutional mechanisms that act as incentives to violence? Where is the violence that we are afraid to speak of?

From within ourselves to our family, our company, our boards, our country, our society or our whole humanity, there are an infinite number of “we” who can answer these questions in a constructive, peaceful and loving manner. There are an infinite number of ways to have these “we” take conscience, discuss and act collectively in a peaceful manner.

When we will be able to take full responsibility for the violence that we inflict upon us, we will have the genuine power to live together safely in peace.

And because this requires us to be very smart, together, let us start as soon as possible.

Each time I come to South Africa, I search for some courage and inspiration to ask important questions. After the violent and fearful events in Paris last week-end, this is my introduction to the third module of the course African Directors Program that I am glad to co-direct with Arnold Smit. It is a partnerhip between INSEAD Global Governance Initiative, the University of Stellenbosch and Old Mutual Investment Group aimed at empowering African Directors towards a more responsible, ethical and sustainaible business.

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