The reflections of Emile Durkheim, the person considered by many as the father of Sociology, are relevant to the understanding of any modern era social problems. According to his theory, there are some structural effects in society that by acknowledging them, one might be able to organize better. Now, I´m not a sociologist but the resemblance of certain parts of his writings to the universal idea of Trispectivism captured my attention. Well, that and an article someone brought to my attention that blames the Western European societies in the recent clash with some radical Muslims.
Actually, when talking about the Western world and in particular about the differences between the US and countries as France, Denmark and England, the most obvious social issue that is noticeable is with the difficulties with the Other. While the US fights with that omniscient Other abroad, meaning, extrinsic alterity problems, the Europeans have to fight it intrinsically, in their cities and amongst their population.
Ironically, in the beginning to the middle of the 20th century many thinkers mentioned Durkheim’s theory of the differences between Social Solidarity to predict that the US will collapse from interior conflicts because of the immigrant that were swarming into the neo-promisedland. With a capitalist system and thought, surely the individualism will thrive, separating the different groups into heterogenic groups that eventually will deteriorate the country from within, or that is what they predicted.
As we now know, in the US the immigrant manage to integrate unimaginably better than the EU immigrants. While there are, of course, some racial issues and the streets are rivers of prejudice and a-prioris, the level of hostility and anger is small in relative to the old continent.
So what is the difference? Durkheim divided Social Solidarity into Mechanical Solidarity and Organic Solidarity. The first is collective consciousness in beliefs, work, thinking the same about value, which, as you have might guessed can remind us the Marxist way of thinking. It is when the social forms a unity (as bird flock of fish schools). The Organic solidarity, on the other hand, is more to describe modern societies, that are based on functional interdependence.
Both of the paradigms can be explained with the trispect mindset, after all, in every discussion about society the use of Trispectivism is obvious and even necessary. There is the individual, whether indigenous or immigrant, interacting with the universal (the social sphere, the country), and the change between the configuration of one system and another is the interaction, which is constant and prone to continuous modification. While in the EU there is a kind of emphasis on the social group acting as one (even with the capitalist influence), the Americans give more relevance to the fact that an individual, any individual will want to succeed, thrive, live better and thus will have to develop a will to integrate into the current. Free will and personal effort of integration from the individual in the US has turn out to be incredibly different from the country programs of integration and continuous effort to make it seem as one happy family.
France is a great example of that, today with more than 6 millions of Muslims that making about 14% of the total population, the country is in disarray. Immigrants find themselves as marginal groups unable to comply with the rest of the traditional ties that were assumed by the locals many years back. Thus, instead of integration we see self-segregation, a search for another identity. When in the US one creates an identity within a multiple of other individual identities, in the EU, one creates a sphere within a beating social collectiveness. This is more terrifying than any crazy radical individual on the American ‘higher unity’ of individuals, as Simmel described it.
There are many other components in this equation, no doubt, state of economic crisis, the fact that the numbers of immigrant augmented immensely in the last 30 years and many more.
So, to reiterate, it seems to me that the problem of assimilation in the EU is BECAUSE of erroneous programs of assimilation of the governments and not the lack of them. The reality is that while the immigrant feels as if the country owes him equal rights, he will most likely do the least possible to attain them (generally speaking of course). While if US makes it clear that rights are not attainable but by proving you are worthy of them, the country thrive on hard working, assimilated new Americans. The interdependence of many individuals is a well established reality that is function better than the ideal of one social collective body.
Why, one might ask, does the sporadic radical Muslim, attacks, act and react mostly in France, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, when other countries, little further in the region, in Africa on in many other places have a much more bloodier history with the Muslim world (not only under the Ottoman Empire). Why is it that Charlie Hebdo and some Jews in a kosher market get to be the target for radical, mal-integrated, group of 2nd generation individuals? Or is it simply a question of media coverage? Who know?
For centuries we were preoccupied about independence, let us now begin advocate for interdependence. This is me paraphrasing the conclusion from the documentary Connected, by Tiffany Shlain. This 80min film is a touch of personal quest for the memory of her recent deceased father, the brain surgeon and writer Leonard Shlain, and a call for global recognition of the power of interconnectivity. The legacy of her father is shown to be implanted in an aspiring director and human-being giving way for an aesthetic feature documentary.
I cannot say that the documentary reveals any large scale investigation or even revised common knowledge and preconceptions about the Internet / Smartphone era we are living in. However, it does offer a broader perspective about the interconnectivity between everything on this planet (or the universe, if you ask Neil deGrasse Tyson). The film skillfully intertwines between her autobiography with a eulogy to her father’s work and the impact of technology over our present and future existence. This is a very difficult task, moving back and forth from the individual and the universal with coherent logical continuance, and yet, with the aid of excellent animation director and film narration, Tiffany manages to create eighty minutes of interesting reflection on our life.
I connected to the documentary because of its basic conceptual vision of interconnectivity between the individual and the universal, which is what I investigate in my book Trisipectivism. Unlike many texts written about the good and the bad that people create with new technology (while some creating MOOCs to provide high level education for people around the globe, others succumb into self-indulged egocentric use), the film tries to focus on the big picture of simply making the better choice. The cycle of wrongful doing can always be broken by a simple decision of begin advocating and working for good.
We are on a crossroad, she concludes, and it is up to us to use this power for good. Although I find this conclusion somewhat arrogant for, in this world, it is the constant sensation that we, in this dot of time and space, are all so potent and important for the future. Perhaps it is not as romantic as the film’s narration but it is exactly that fact that might just help us regain consciousness of our place in this world. Maybe she is right, and we should take this role of masters of the universe and actively set the world back into order. Or, on the other hand, maybe if we stop thinking that we are so great, we will naturally be led to living peacefully with our fellow cohabitant of this amazing universe. As much as I would like to choose the second option, it is against nature to stop concentrating on the ‘I’ as the chosen one. Thus, in the end, her largest contradiction might just be the film’s most important message.
Which ever way, the movie speaks not only to your emotional individual being (the loss of a loving father, the birth of a baby, movie against the odds) but also to the universal one (global connectivity, Cosmos etc.). It is left for each and every one to decide which interaction she will choose.