On my radar this week

Alain Giguère

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Tell me who you are voting for and I’ll tell you who you are (within a small margin of error)! – And Macbeth by Verdi

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 09-18-18 at 3:08 p.m.

As a "back-to-school" post and in light of the upcoming Quebec provincial election, I thought it would be interesting to look at the voters who support each party, based on their personal values, hot buttons and mentalities. Just as we do with our clients' brands and their target-market segments, we can examine the motivations of these voters to better understand what drives their choices.

Each party represents a vision of society, along with specific aspirations for our society and its members. When we decide to vote for a particular party, we are in fact supporting the values it represents.

Through our Panorama program, CROP has been studying the values of consumers and citizens for more than 30 years. Using the tools of this program, we have analyzed the four main parties in the current electoral race.

From conservatism to social-democratic idealism

Generally speaking, the major social divisions that characterize Western democracies today are reflected in the dynamics of Quebec's political parties. Based on the profile of their voters, we can say that...

• The Quebec Liberal Party (QLP) is the party of proud "Canadians" who aspire to social success and status;

• The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) gives off a whiff of neo-conservatism, given the ethnic intolerance of its supporters;

• Le Parti Québécois (PQ) embodies the commitment and pride of Quebec's regions and their everlasting dream of sovereignty; and

• Québec solidaire (QS) presents itself as the incarnation of social-democratic idealism in its pursuit of social equality and progress.

The values of the supporters of each party appear to be nicely aligned with the electoral platforms and the public discourse of their party, as we can see in the current election campaign.

Quebec Liberal Party: social success, pride, multiculturalism and "Canadianism"!

Although the federalism/sovereignty schism no longer dominates the sociopolitical landscape, Canadian and Quebec identities are still in opposition for many Quebecers, particularly at the regional level between Montreal and the rest of the province, where a Quebec identity is stronger. The Quebec Liberal Party resonates with Quebecers who feel that they are Canadian first and foremost (without necessarily denying their Quebec identity). These voters aspire to a Canada whose role as a model nation on the world stage embodies excellence in many areas. Pride is undoubtedly the "mentality" underlying their enthusiasm for this identity.

The QLP is also a party of "achievers," for whom social status is a social marker of supreme importance: they aspire to success, to an enviable social status that they can flaunt to their entourage and to society at large ("Keeping up with the Joneses"!).

Unsurprisingly, they also express great humanity towards ethnic communities and a keen openness to the world. They see themselves as citizens of the "global village."

Indicative of their slightly older demographic, QLP supporters are somewhat conservative and value the traditional family, religion and a sense of duty.

Based on the values of its supporters, the QLP is the party of social success, multiculturalism, tradition and Canadian pride.

The Coalition Avenir Québec: our Brexit!

The CAQ is somewhere else entirely on the political spectrum. It is the party of the regions; it is against "elitism" and Montreal's political correctness. Its supporters identify with their region and with Quebec's regions generally, and are disconnected from the societal debates that rage in Quebec's largest metropolis. They are the antithesis of the Plateau (Mont-Royal): ethnic intolerance reigns. Immigration, perhaps, but immigrants must quickly adopt our customs and values and leave theirs at home. The social division between Montreal's "modernity" and the conservatism in the regions is the same type of division that pitted London and rural England against each another during the vote to leave the European Union. (The mayor of London is still arguing for a second referendum.)

CAQ voters see society as a jungle, where the elites have everything to gain at the expense of "ordinary people." (The Montreal elite yet again.)

There is a certain conservatism, a nostalgia for more defined, more stereotypical roles for men and women. They aren't involved in discussions about gender equality (which they consider a debate for Montreal and the Plateau!).

Thus, the CAQ perfectly embodies a populism resulting from a society that is changing too fast, where their supporters no longer see themselves reflected, where "the people" have been forgotten. The CAQ gives them a voice.

The PQ: in search of a lost country!

The vast majority of people who still call themselves sovereigntists are allied with the PQ. They are the opposite of QLP supporters, identifying primarily with Quebec and very little with Canada (they live in the regions). They also display a victim mentality: they feel socially excluded by a society that is changing too fast. Their high degree of community engagement provides them with the comfort of being useful and productive.

The feeling of exclusion among PQ supporters creates a fantasy of civil disobedience and rebellion (we can almost hear the pots and pans banging!). These Quebecers have a sense of frustrated fulfilment, which sovereignty could have prevented. While the loss of their sovereignty dream has left these voters feeling defeated, they still have a great deal of pent-up energy to assert themselves, transcend current constraints and express their uniqueness.

Consumption has become a social marker for them. Their feelings of exclusion make them crave the status that consumption provides.

Ethnic intolerance is also part of these voters' profile. Their ideal country is first and foremost for "old stock" Quebecers. Similar to the CAQ, immigrants are welcome but only if they quickly adopt our customs and values and leave theirs behind. Hence the competition between these two parties on the issue of Quebec identity.

Thus, the PQ expresses melancholy for a lost country (after two referendums), commingled with feelings of exclusion from a society that is changing too fast.

Québec solidaire: the idealism of possibility!

As one might guess, responsibility and social and environmental engagement are at the centre of these voters' motivations. They act like our conscience-a constant reminder of the challenges facing society and a very critical attitude toward companies and institutions that do not do their duty (or worse ...).

This engagement is fuelled by a feeling of urgency-for the threatened sustainability of our planet and its resources, for the widening gap between rich and poor; by a feeling of looming social and ecological disasters if nothing is done, along with the conviction that we can fix things if we just put our minds to it. For these QS supporters, apocalypse is a project: an opportunity to change the world!

This engagement also has a component of personal fulfilment: the belief that everyone has potential just waiting to be realized-a dream of personal development fostered by solidarity.

Finally, we should not be surprised that these supporters display the highest level of multiculturalism of all the parties. Not only do they warmly welcome foreigners, they are convinced that their contribution will enrich our society (cultural fusion).

A profoundly humanist party that dreams of self-actualization for all!

Trends in Western democracies

The social divisions described in the profiles of the voters of each of the major Quebec parties are now found in just about every Western country. This is what happens when societies change too quickly.

On the other hand, Quebec, along with the country as a whole, still has a chance to avoid even greater divisions because our inequities do not yet threaten the social fabric. Our "right wing," so to speak, is still less extreme than in many other countries. Our social programs and Canada's social awareness still bridge the ideological gaps.

Let's hope that the future evolution of our society continues to foster this relative social harmony.

Macbeth by Verdi

My musical clip of the week is Macbeth by Giuseppe Verdi.

Despite all the failings of modern Western democracies, democracy as a political system still remains the most civilized way to exercise power. This has not always been the case. Over the centuries, bloodshed was more often than not the order of the day.

In this excerpt from the opera of this Shakespeare tragedy, Macbeth's wife fantasizes about becoming a queen and prepares herself to convince her husband to kill the king in order to seize power.

And she intends to use her sexual prowess to get him there!

Giuseppe Verdi: Macbeth, Lucic, Pape, Netrebko, Calleja, Luisi, The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Chorus and Ballet, Deutsche Grammophon, New York, 2014.

Are you a dog person or cat person? Whether you have a dog or a cat says a lot about who you are!

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 06-19-18 at 4:56 p.m.

For my last post of the season (I take a break for the summer), I am turning my attention to the "guardians" of dogs and cats by analyzing their hot buttons in the same way we do for consumers of brands and products. Let's have some fun!

Nearly one in three (31%) Canadians have a dog and an equivalent proportion (32%), a cat.

These pet guardians are over-represented by people under 55 years of age, particularly 18-24 year olds, residents of small municipalities and rural areas, as well as by people living in households with children.

Interestingly, people with higher incomes tend to have dogs, whereas the opposite is true for cats.

A lever for personal fulfillment!

Aside from their sociodemographic and socio-economic traits, what truly distinguishes these pet owners are their mentalities and values, their motivations. The "hot buttons" prompting people to share their lives with one (or more) of these animals are particularly telling.


What dogs and cats have in common is their ability to connect us on an emotional level to life, to nature. People with pets express a strong need for this type of "BioManist" connection-a feeling of symbiosis with nature and life in general.

Dogs and cats also respond in a fundamental way to people's desire for personal fulfillment. Their presence provides the kind of emotional support and psychic balance that predisposes their guardians to pursue personal fulfillment and development. In fact, many studies over the years have shown that animals have a significant and positive impact on people's overall health.

Dogs: a social marker and a social lubricant!

In addition to the traits they share with cats, dogs have their own identity. They cohabit with people who need to achieve and who have a strong desire for social validation and status recognition. Dogs are a way of signalling our social standing in the world. We "wear" our dogs like we wear a designer label -as an expression of "conspicuous consumption." Dog owners are particularly strong on this hot button, which we normally associate with brands!

Hence, dogs function as a "social marker." They say something about us to other people! We've also found that dog owners enjoy violence in the media (movies, games, etc.), as if they are proud of the "power" of their animal! (Without in any way justifying the cases of canine violence, which are fortunately rare occurrences considering the high number of domestic dogs. Hopefully, we are only talking symbolically!).

Dogs also function as a "social lubricant." They come to us. They go to other people. They are gregarious. They have relationships with their human guardians. They contribute to our socialization. They encourage people to meet. Dog owners express a strong need to socialize, to connect with others. Dogs seem to encourage these connections and encounters by mediating some of our relationships with others.

As a marker and social lubricant, dogs contribute to our social life, to the way we live together!

Cats: a more intimate relationship with life

Cats are more intimate creatures. They generally invite a closer and more respectful symbiosis with life and nature. They are more independent. We go to them. They encourage this response in their guardians, who also express this particular way of connecting more intimately with life and others around them.

It is fascinating to observe that cat guardians are particularly sensitive to environmental protection, to mutual aid and social commitment, and to society's ethical issues. Cats express this same sensitivity to life.

Moreover, cats tend to have guardians who are more individualistic and idealistic, who are concerned with their uniqueness and need for personal fulfillment, in similar fashion to their pet's independent character (a sensitivity to themselves that does not exclude others; far from it).

Cats also provide intense "polysensorial" experiences in response to our strong need for enjoyable stimulation through all our senses. (We want to touch cats, smell them, snuggle with them, etc.). Cats are sensual creatures who like to rub against the "things" they like.

It's not quite that black and white!

You might object that many dog guardians have relationships with their dogs that are closer to what I have described for cats, and vice versa. True enough. What I have described is the average profile of pet guardians, their predominant characteristics, without any specific segmentation. (I, too, have a dog with whom I have relationships that is similar in many respects to the one many people have with their cats, even though my dog is the size of a bear!).

Here's to more inclusion of animals in our society

This brief analysis leads me to a quite obvious conclusion: as a society, we need to make more room for animals. As a social project and in our personal lives (for those who don't have pets), we should promote more inclusion of animals in our society, in our communities.

Pets contribute to personal development; they connect people more intimately to life and to nature generally. They help us live together, etc.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the physical and mental health benefits of domestic animals. That is why animal therapy is often recommended for the relief of all types of ailments.

In Paris, you can eat at a restaurant with your dog, and more and more companies are accepting dogs in the workplace.

It is interesting to note that, in Canada, it is the smaller municipalities and rural areas that have the highest proportions of homes with dogs and cats.

Urban living tends to exclude domestic animals. We need to reintroduce them!


La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi

For my musical clip of the week, I searched in vain for an opera excerpt with an animal. However, the concept of social marker that dogs represent evoked an obvious choice. One unequivocal example of a social marker is the courtesan for the Parisian bourgeoisie of the 19th century. For a bourgeois, having one of these beautiful young women on his arm was a way to enhance and show off his status.

A dramatic example of the fate of these women is Verdi's La Traviata, based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils, La Dame aux Camélias (The Lady of the Camellias), where death is the only possible outcome. (Traviata signifies a fallen woman in Italian.)

In this magnificent excerpt, the courtesan, who has fallen in love for the first time, realizes that she has no right to this love because of her status as a fallen woman (madness, madness!).

Many thanks to all my loyal blog readers for the stimulating conversations.

Happy summer!

Giuseppe Verdi: La Traviata, Anna Netrebko, Rolando Villazón, Thomas Hampson, Wiener Philharmoniker, Carlo Rizzi (dir.), Willy Decker (prod.), Deutsch Grammophon, Salzburg Festival, 2005.

Do you believe that companies plan the obsolescence of their products so that you buy new ones? 64% of Canadians think they do (and Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 05-29-18 at 3:09 p.m.

In late 2017 and early 2018, Apple was hit with public accusations of building obsolescence into its older smartphones to encourage consumers to upgrade to its newest models. Apple's accusers claimed that the latest versions of Apple's operating system were slowing down the older devices. Apple admitted to doing this but justified the practice as a way to preserve the batteries and extend the life of older devices.

Apple is currently the subject of a number of complaints around the world, accusing the company of using planned obsolescence. This particular public relations storm should remind consumers that many products on the market probably incorporate built-in obsolescence to stimulate sales.

From lightbulbs to cars, from domestic appliances to inkjet printers, we can't help but question the durability of manufactured products these days.

The public outcry against Apple prompted us to ask Canadians if they believed that manufacturers were practicing planned obsolescence in order to stimulate sales of their new models. Respondents were asked which of the two opinions below they agreed with more...

A) In order to facilitate the introduction of new products and support the pace of their innovations, manufacturers design their products with a built-in limited lifespan, thus forcing consumers to purchase a replacement after a shorter period of time

OR

B) It’s not in the best interest of manufacturers to market products that do not last long. Their reputation is in the balance; I don’t think that they deliberately reduce the useful life of their products

To our great surprise, almost two out of three Canadians (64%) believe that manufacturers plan the obsolescence of their products in order to stimulate sales of their new upgraded models. I consider this an enormous proportion - and an indication of a lack of trust, to say the least!

Moreover, this proportion is relatively consistent across all the subgroups we analyzed, apart from a few exceptions with not very large variances. This indicates that there is almost consensus around this issue.

Note that 25-34 year olds and technicians are the most critical of this practice, with 71% and 73% respectively in agreement with our first statement. But overall, the differences on all the analyzed criteria stand at around 3% (68% in Quebec vs. 63% in English Canada in agreement with statement A).

Ecological concerns versus the joy of consumption

When two thirds of the population agree with a proposition, it is difficult to identify what distinguishes them from the rest of the population (since almost everyone is on board with the first statement!). Thus, in terms of values and hut buttons, it is difficult to determine what motivates their attitude.


Nevertheless, we find it interesting that people who believe that manufacturers are using planned obsolescence are distinguished by a high degree of defeatism about the future of the planet, especially in ecological terms. They view consumption as a source of unnecessary gratification with a detrimental impact on the environment. They are very mistrustful of brands, accusing them of creating non-essential needs.

By contrast, those who do not believe that manufacturers are using planned obsolescence are the most enthusiastic about consumption. They see it as a kind of playing field. For them, they find buying something, no matter what it is, particularly pleasurable and stimulating. They trust brands, the companies behind them and their advertising messages. They want to believe in brand promises and enjoy the gratifying experiences that brands offer them. It's as if their consumption enjoyment is blocking their critical faculties!

An economy and consumer psychology fuelled by the joy of consuming

The paradox of consumers' attitude toward planned obsolescence is this: a large majority believe it, but the joy of consumption has grown so much in recent years that people prefer not to think about it. In one of my previous posts, I examined the consumption-as-personal-gratification trend, one that continues to rise in 2018. Planned obsolescence notwithstanding, we increasingly want to enjoy the rewarding experiences we get from consumption. This in turn drives the economy, creates jobs and fills government coffers. Consumption fuels the economy and people derive great satisfaction from it. And, because it is ephemeral, it must be constantly renewed. Whether this is a vicious or virtuous circle depends entirely on your point of view.

We can certainly decry the waste of resources and the impact on the planet caused by our consumption patterns but, given the ever-growing enthusiasm for consumption, neither our awareness of planned obsolescence nor our ecological conscience is likely to slow this trend.

We can only hope that manufacturers incorporate more socially and environmentally responsible business and manufacturing practices over time.

Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini


One way to view planned obsolescence is as an act of betrayal on the part of manufacturers. For my operatic pick of the week, it was easy to find examples of betrayal. Operas are packed with them!

One of the most poignant tales of betrayal and the inspiration for some of the most spectacular lyrical flights is Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini. It is a horrifying story based on real events (although the original protagonist was French not American.) In the opera, a young American naval officer on layover in Japan marries on an exotic whim a 15-year-old Japanese girl named Cio-Cio-San, gets her pregnant, disappears for three years and returns with his new American wife to take his child home to the United States. Faced with such betrayal, Cio-Cio-San, known as Madame Butterfly, commits suicide.

In this musical clip, "Un bel di, vedremo," one of opera's most beautiful arias, Cio-Cio-San imagines the long-awaited return of her husband.

Giacomo Puccini: Madama Butterfly, Giordani, Racette, Fedderly, Zifchak, Croft, The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Chorus and Ballet, Sony Classical, New York, 2009.

Do you approve of companies collecting information about you in order to offer you relevant and customized products, services & content? 53% of Canadians say they do (and Faust by Charles Gounod)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 05-15-18 at 3:38 p.m.

The recent public outcry surrounding Cambridge Analytica and its use of massive amounts of personal data culled from Facebook triggered a global awareness of the unsuspected power of databases - especially the amount of data that is being collected and stored about every single one of us. Public comments followed on the appropriateness of collecting so much information and the ethical guidelines that should govern these practices.

Despite the brutal awakening for some and the knee-jerk reaction by others to curb the practice, data collection is not about to stop. Regardless of the eventual regulations imposed, the collection of personal data is bound to accelerate exponentially in the coming years.

People leave a trail with every purchase, every web search. Soon, many of their appliances will also transmit data about their usage (The Internet of Things). Database servers are fed continuous digital streams of data about our individual transactions and web behaviour. The infrastructure is in place. It works perfectly and nothing is going to stop it.

For the time being, in Western democracies, data is being collected primarily about consumption. Companies are targeting their customers to better understand them and ultimately offer them appropriately customized offers. (There is no doubt that people in their role as citizens won't be far behind!). These practices derive their legitimacy from personalization: data is collected on your preferences in order to present you with relevant offers and content perfectly matched to your lifestyle. Relevance is the key; it is the "cement" of engagement.

Nevertheless, we were curious to see what consumers thought about being continually "spied on" electronically! Since the subject is complex and required some nuance, we asked the question in the following way, with a preamble:

Digital technology now makes it possible for businesses to collect lots of data about the preferences and behaviours of their consumers (purchase/shopping history, websites they visited, products and services they were interested in etc.), in order to provide them with more personalized offers.

How relevant is it to you personally that, based on information compiled about you..., websites or electronic applications offer you suggestions of products that correspond to your own tastes gleaned from your web surfing history? (Very, somewhat, not very, not relevant at all)

To our surprise, this question radically divided the Canadian population almost into two equal halves. Just over one in two people in the country (53%) consider it "relevant" to have data collected about them for personalized offers, while slightly fewer (47%) see no relevance there and tend to oppose it.

The social divide is most acute by age group. While 53% overall consider it relevant to have data collected on them so they get personalized offers, this proportion rises to 79% among 18-24 year olds! It falls to 67% among 25-34 year olds, and declines in linear fashion to 39% among people aged 65 and over. Young people are more consumption-oriented and therefore eager to share their data to enhance their consumption experience.

What's more, the depth of young people's enthusiasm compared to their elders signals a major generational gap with respect to the sharing of personal data with third parties. The ethical issues surrounding the dissemination of this data seem to be of little concern to the younger generations but of great concern to older people.

People in Eastern Canada are more "wary" about this kind of data sharing. There is a "relevance rate" of 46% in the Maritimes, 48% in Quebec and 55% in the rest of the country (for a national average of 53%).

Customization - the promise and the threat

Our analysis of the values and hot buttons of the consumers in favour and against the collection of personal data highlights the social divide on this practice.


Among those most in favour, where we find a majority of young people (under 44), the cocktail of motivations is very broad. They strongly believe in the promise of personalization, which also exercises a remarkable symbolic function: anticipation. They believe and hope that the relevance of the content and offers they receive will give them access to the very best on the market, while also bringing out the very best in themselves through the stimulation the process provides. Self-improvement, a creativity boost, access to the best products/services and innovations, the pride of being early adopters, etc.: anything goes in terms of motivations and expressed needs.

The opportunities are immense for the companies and brands able to position their content strategy on customization. The above-list of hot buttons and values that companies and brands can respond to provides only a glimpse of what these personalization aficionados expect.

Conversely, the other half of the population who do not believe in the relevance of collecting their personal data probably see it as a manifestation of George Orwell's "Big Brother" (1984). They are watching us. They are spying on us. They are trying to sell us stuff that we don't really need and deliver messages that may be contrary to our interests, etc.

They are very critical of companies, holding them responsible for today's climate of uncertainty in which they are struggling to adapt. They are keen to maintain their freedom and control over their lives, and believe that third parties might be able to control them through the use of their personal data (Hollywood sci-fi movies probably serve to enflame some people's imaginations). They also subscribe to a form of voluntary simplicity and anti-consumerism (No Logo). Their opposition is ideological and philosophical.


The future of personalization

Personalization is here to stay, even as it infiltrates more and more areas of our lives. (CROP is also investing heavily in it by transforming its practices and business model.) What will give it momentum, what will ensure people embrace it, is its relevance. In our daily lives, we are constantly bombarded with mass messages that may have little relevance to us. The relevance of the content offered by personalization will be the key to its spread and its acceptance.

The challenge for companies and organizations is to ensure this relevance. But to do this, they need intimate knowledge about individuals; hence, the collection of personal data.

Even the personal data of the most resistant people. Because they tend to be very sensitive to the issue of environmental protection in particular, sending them relevant content on this issue might make them more receptive to personalization!

Faust by Charles Gounod

One of the most famous "Big Brothers" in opera (and literary) history is Mephistopheles from Gounod's opera, Faust (and from Goethe's play by the same name). Mephistopheles is the devil incarnate, who makes pacts with his victims to control them (while constantly spying on them).

In this clip, Mephistopheles reveals his diabolical nature by singing his invocation to the night,"Ô nuit, étends sur eux ton ombre..." (Oh night, spread your shadow over them ...), which introduces the next scene, the seduction of Marguerite, whom he brands with a magic and evil mark...

Charles Gounod: Faust - Jonas Kaufmann, René Pape, Marina Poplavskaya, Orchestra & Chorus of The Metropolitan Opera, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, New York, 2014.

Do you have a goal in life? 30% of Canadians say they don’t! (And Winterreise by Franz Schubert)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 05-01-18 at 3:10 p.m.

Every year, CROP conducts an extensive survey of the values and hot buttons of Canadian consumers and citizens (our Panorama program). In the midst of our analysis of the results of our 2018 edition, a social phenomenon, as sad as it is disturbing, caught our attention: nearly one in three people in the country admit to having no goals or purpose in their lives!

The statement used to study this phenomenon is itself troubling and moving. We ask people if they agree that ... "Generally speaking, I feel that I don't really have any goals in life." To such a question, 30% of Canadians say they agree (with no significant regional variations from one coast to the other): 6% totally agree, 24% somewhat agree. Even being somewhat in agreement with such a statement is deeply depressing!

What is even more disturbing is how this indicator has evolved. Over almost 15 years, the number of people in the country who feel they have no purpose in life has almost doubled! From 2004 to 2018, the percentage of people in agreement with the statement in question rose in a disquietingly linear way from 16% to 30%.

I constantly repeat in my posts that for some of us, life, society and the world around us are changing too fast, and that not everyone can keep up. Our new results unfortunately confirm this trend. A growing social divide continues to widen year after year between those who find our era stimulating and a full of opportunity, and those who feel increasingly out of place, excluded and cast aside. This feeling of exclusion can take many forms. Aimlessness - an inability to find a mission, a calling or goals - is one result of having trouble coping with the times.

Young people and low-income earners

The social divide is most pronounced among younger people. While 30% of Canadians tell us they don't really have any goals in life, this percentage rises to 40% of people under 35. We tend to believe that Millennials are changing the world. However, we need to recognize they do not all feel that way, nor do they all have the same feeling of control. Two out of five feel aimless, unable to find meaning in their lives in today's world.


People at the lower end of the wage and education scale also contribute enormously to the numbers who feel that life is futile. Agreement with the above statement is 40% for people whose family income is less than $40,000 a year, falling to 25% when family income is $60,000 or more. The same obtains for education, where agreement with the statement drops from 36% of those who only completed high school to 24% of the university-educated.

Although socio-economic conditions clearly play a part in this feeling of aimlessness, they do not explain the entire phenomenon. Even among the wealthiest and best educated, we still find that one in four say they have no purpose, no goals. This is not insignificant.

A lack of control over their lives and feeling socially disconnected

This type of aimlessness is reflects mindsets that are quite paralyzing for these individuals. They subscribe to a very fatalistic view of life, believing that their fate is set and following its course; that everyone has a designated place. They have the impression that their lot in life is immutable and feel that they have very little control over their ability to eventually improve it; that their destiny is controlled by societal forces over which they are powerless.

They also feel disconnected from others and from the society around them. Nothing much connects them to the life they are forced to participate in. They believe that society is a ruthless jungle, that the rich and powerful benefit from all of the era's opportunities and that there is nothing left for them. They are very cynical about society's elites.

Consequently, they espouse a very conservative view of life, one that values social codes, family and very traditional gender roles - a nostalgic conservatism for a bygone era where they would have had a place. They believe that are being excluded by an ever-changing world dominated by social, ethnic and sexual diversity


Projects of social inclusion or a relentless divide?

We can only hope that social-inclusion projects will be created to enable more citizens to benefit from the opportunities of today's world. Community initiatives can make a difference by integrating people, giving them a place in society, helping them find a purpose or goals. Our hope is that such initiatives proliferate. It is more crucial than ever that governments, institutions and businesses recognize the situation and commit to alleviating the problem through their policies of social responsibility.

Some initiatives are already underway but, given the trend, more needs to be done. Much more. Otherwise the social divide will widen, encouraging the rise of the far right and the populist movements we see growing in many democracies around the world. Is a Canadian Trump on the horizon?

Winterreise by Franz Schubert

Winterreise (Winter Journey), a song cycle for voice and piano, is a metaphor for aimless wandering. The story is about heartbreak that leads to wandering. The grief-stricken protagonist takes flight after being betrayed by his beloved. But, very quickly, the work's tragic beauty transcends its sentimental despondency, which is represented by a long journey that leads to nothingness, to wretchedness for all those who have lost the meaning of life.

The musical clip, "Gute Nacht" (good night), begins the journey (night), when the protagonist takes leave of his beloved. A magnificent production for the 2014 Aix-en-Provence Festival.

Franz Schubert: Winterreise – Matthias Goerne (baritone), Markus Hinterhauser (piano), William Kentridge (visualisation), Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, 2014.