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Alain Giguère

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65% of Canadians tell us they believe in God, while 49% consider their religious beliefs to be important to them (And St. Mathew Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 04-10-17 at 6:25 p.m.

Religious beliefs in continuous decline for almost 20 years!

For this Holy Week, I have decided to examine our data on the religious beliefs of Canadians. A substantial percentage of the public-49%, one in two Canadians-say that their religious beliefs are important to them. There are some interesting regional variations: the least religious reside in Québec and British Columbia (43%); the most religious, in Alberta and the Atlantic provinces (56%).

Nevertheless, the churches are empty. Religious belief seems more a case of cultural heritage than the expression of a sustained practice of worship. As such, the difference between believing God and religious beliefs is telling: people feel less need of a Church to "connect" with God.

The trends are telling, too. While 65% of Canadians say they believe in God, this percentage has been in continuous decline, down from 81% in 2005. A similar trend obtains for religious beliefs. The numbers who tell us that religion is important to them have dropped from 70% of the population in 2000 to 49% in 2017.

The future of religious beliefs in Canada

Despite the media attention given to religion as it relates to the influx of immigrants, in the population as a whole, religious beliefs have been steadily waning for nearly 20 years. Religious people are gradually disappearing from our lives. Whether we are talking about Protestants in English Canada or Catholics in Québec, the trend is the same. At this rate, "if trends continue," within a generation (25 years), religious beliefs could become a completely marginal phenomenon.

Of course, such a scenario is based on the current trend and doesn't account for the growing role of immigration in the coming years. Even so, the acculturation of immigrant children by the school system might still help maintain the trend. Even if immigration helps religious people maintain their weight in society, they will not be Christian. They will be Taoist, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslims, etc. And it will likely be a question of cultural heritage, a set of myths that give meaning to life without necessarily requiring ecclesiastical rites.

I admit that this scenario is based on the projection of current trends and that one must be cautious when attempting to predict the future. But we have been observing these trends for almost 20 years, and the younger people are in age, the less prevalent their religious beliefs (which surely offers some predictive value). Will immigration change the situation? We'll see.

Our relationship to the sacred

People tend to construct their own image of God, and he is more like a guardian angel than an "old man with a long white beard." A plurality of almost two out of five Canadians (37%), and the same percentage in Québec, believe in their own constructed image of God. Only 22% of Canadians believe in the God depicted by their church (14% in Québec).

On the other hand, a belief in a "force" that connects us to nature, the cosmos, the universe, is one of the strongest rising trends. We are witnessing a depersonalization of the divine, a kind of postmodern Buddhism that makes people feel that they are participating in the divine, that they are a part of it, just as nature is ("May the force be with you!"). Adherence to this pantheist vision has grown from 11% of the Canadian population in 1998 to 21% in 2016 (up from 14% to 28% in Québec).

Finally, atheism-a vision of life as merely a biological phenomenon-rose from 7% in 1998 to 20% in 2016 in Canada (from 8% to 21% in Québec).

Personal values and hot buttons as they relate to the divine

Examining people's values helps us better understand why the God of our churches is taking such a beating in popular beliefs. Those who believe in a traditional deity have very traditional and very conservative values. They respect the authority of institutions; they are fatalistic, have little control over their lives-and turn to God for leadership!

Those who construct their own personal God have difficulty living with the complexity and uncertainties of today's world. They feel potentially excluded from society, and threatened by it. Therefore, their God becomes a kind of guardian angel who watches over them.

The believers in a divine force and atheists, the two groups in continuous growth mode over the past 20 years, are in total ideological opposition to the Church (whether Catholic or Protestant). They reproach the Church for basing its role on prohibitions, submission, sin and punishment. They insist, to paraphrase Mr. Trudeau (the elder), that the Church has no place in people's bedrooms. They feel in full control of their lives, and aspire to independence and self-fulfillment.

A challenge for organized religion (especially the Christian, Catholic and Protestant Churches)

If they want to stay socially relevant, these institutions have some serious catching up to do to get back in sync with people's values. The gap between the tenets of organized religion and the reality of most people's lives has widened to an abyss! Only a tiny minority of Canadians believe in a Church-sanctioned God. Over the years, the notion of God has exploded into a myriad of different forms, culturally better adapted to the times.

This is an ironic situation if we consider Christ's message-to bring the subject back to Holy Week. Christ preached compassion, openness to others, kindness, generosity, selflessness and love, virtues that the Church does not represent for those who oppose the Church vision of God. But these virtues are precisely the ones so desperately needed in our times. Despite the marginalization of the Christian churches, perhaps these holy weeks can reconcile us to Christ's wisdom.

St. Mathew Passion by Johann Sebastien Bach

Of all the musical pieces appropriate for Holy Week, Bach's St. Mathew Passion is probably the most moving. This work oozes pain, tears and contrition. The excerpt I have chosen is in fact "the contrition aria": the mezzo-soprano sings the pain of the apostle Peter when he realizes that, as Christ predicted, before the cock crowed, he denied Christ three times ("I do not know this man"). Sublime!

J. S. Bach, St Matthew Passion, BWV244: Mark Padmore (Evangelist), Christian Gerhaher (Jesus), Camilla Tilling (soprano), Magdalena Kozena (mezzo-soprano), Topi Lehtipuu (tenor), Thomas Quasthoff (bass), Berliner Philharmoniker, Rundfunkchor Berlin, Knaben des Staats- und Domchors Berlin, Sir Simon Rattle, conducting; staging by Peter Sellars

One out of ten fantasize about joining the holy war in the Middle East! (And the War Requiem by Benjamin Britten)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 04-03-17 at 5:14 p.m.

A Fantasy: Going to war!

At least that's what 12% of Canadians are telling us!

The idea of probing such a topic came to us because of all the media attention given to radicalization lately.

I don't blame the media, but just the fact that they have been discussing this issue, giving it first-page prominence, may have given the public the impression that the phenomenon is much more significant than it actually is (in terms of numbers of mobilized individuals). For example, although Muslims represent 3% of the population, our surveys have shown that people believe their numbers to be much higher. The media coverage has undoubtedly played a role here.

Since we obviously can't interview the people who have already left to fight, to get an idea of the scope of the phenomenon, we wanted to hypothesize a similar phenomenon to stand in for radicalization. Consequently, we have turned our attention to those who "fantasize" about joining the holy war. It is clear that before freshly converted disciples leave the country for such an "adventure," they undergo a kind of psychological "ripening" process in their minds. Before heading off to war, these radicalized individuals probably spend a great deal of time coming to terms with the idea, imaging their prospective "mission," imbuing with it meaning. They idealize and romanticize their commitment, which gives them a motivation previously lacking in their lives before embarking on this path.

The question then became: How many Canadians entertain this kind of holy-war fantasy?

In our last survey of the values of Canadians (a survey reflecting Canadian society as a whole), we therefore asked people if they agreed with the following statement: "I feel envious sometimes of young people who go to Syria or the Middle East to join the holy war or sacrifice their lives for a cause they believe in."

The results obtained were a source of "radical" astonishment for us: 12% of Canadians said they agreed with such a statement (4% "totally" and 9% "somewhat" agreed). Interestingly, there is no regional variation on this question, with the exception of Québec, which stands out as the province least in agreement with the statement (9%), even though the media there has given the subject a great deal of coverage.

Youth searching for meaning

Not surprisingly, young people are the most in agreement with this statement. But what's amazing is their level of agreement: 29% of 18-24 year olds and 20% of those 25-34. Note, too, that even though the percentage of people in agreement declines proportionally and significantly with age, it is still 3% among people 65 and older. (There is something surreal about imagining a 70-year-old fantasizing about holding a Kalashnikov. An aging Baby Boomer!)

We also find the highest percentages of people who fantasize about fighting in a holy war among immigrants, labourers, individuals with lower incomes and education, and men.

Therefore, it appears that challenging economic circumstances can produce conditions favourable to radicalization-or at least for fantasizing about it. These types of social conditions provide fertile ground for indoctrination. Ardent young people who struggle constantly with major social and economic barriers might easily end up fantasizing about jihad as an "exciting project"!

The values and mentalities associated with jihad fantasies

Which brings us to the value profile of these "aspiring jihadists." They express a complex kaleidoscope of motivations and mentalities. They feel excluded from society; they believe that they have no place, purpose or meaning in society; they feel powerless, with no control over their lives.

Consequently, they feel a keen need to boost their social identity, for their own feelings of self-worth and in the eyes of others. They want to become someone in society, to boost their low self-esteem.

Unlike the people who normally feel excluded from society, these jihad fantasists display a unique combination of traits: they see themselves as full of promise, as able to meet challenges, but feel that society is preventing them from achieving their potential.

Therefore, in their fantasies, a "holy war" seems like a wonderful project. It would give their life meaning, let them achieve their full potential, enhance their status and social identity, and help them become someone important on the social scene.

Obviously, only a tiny minority of those who periodically indulge in this kind of fantasy ever end up radicalized, but the psychological/sociological portrait described here suggests an entryway to the radicalization process.

A societal project for brands and organizations

In my opinion, radicalization is an issue offering a great opportunity for companies to demonstrate their commitment to a social cause. Of course, there are a lot of intervenors working actively to prevent radicalization. But if, in addition to these initiatives, brands and companies also tackled it as a community-engagement project, we might see some significant progress. Jobs, integration, community support-whatever the initiatives-the social problem is certainly important enough to warrant devoting the necessary resources to it.

Benjamin Britten's War Requiem

Britten's War Requiem is the ideal classical musical piece to accompany such a problematic issue. This requiem, beyond its liturgical associations, constitutes a fervid condemnation of the abominations of war. Britten composed this work in 1962, for the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral in Britain, which had been destroyed during the Second World War.

The clip suggested here is "Agnus Dei." The text is a poem that makes various connections between the butchery on the battlefields of the First World War and the crucifixion du Christ.

Ian Bostridge, tenor, Antonio Pappano conducting, and the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, in rehearsal:

La Presse is Publishing My Blog!

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 03-28-17 at 1:54 p.m.

A few weeks ago, I launched a weekly blog on societal and market trends, which I associate with pieces of opera or classical music. Many of you have been following my blog, and I thank you for that. Your enthusiasm is greatly appreciated.

Following the launch of my new blog, I reached an agreement with La Presse, which has kindly agreed to publish my blog every two weeks, starting on April 4. Therefore, I will synchronise with La Presse's schedule and publish my blog posts on the same dates (and on the same topics). The La Presse version will be slightly shorter than the one appearing on the CROP website, which will have more detail, including statistical tables as well as a summary of the values and hot buttons that explain the blog topic-and, of course, the opera or classical music clips.

Looking forward to reconnecting on April 4!

Alain Giguère
President of CROP
March 28, 2017

34% of Canadians are less concerned that the news they read or watch is true or false than whether it strikes an emotional cord! (And the lie in Mozart’s Don Giovanni)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 03-20-17 at 4:33 p.m.

Are we prepared for a Donald Trump to lead our country?

During his election campaign, Donald Trump admitted to having lied a few times when unable to sufficiently hold his audiences' interest. When he felt that people were getting bored, he would launch some trial balloons and then retract them when the false information no longer proved useful. None of which prevented him from being elected President of the United States. One might have thought that a politician who admitted to lying would be toast. But, no. By telling people what they wanted to hear, true or false, he charmed the crowds!

We have also witnessed the explosion of "fake news," which Mr. Trump has unquestionably exploited and continues to exploit-a case in point: the alleged wiretapping by President Obama.

There is something deeply disturbing about this phenomenon. You can lie to people, yet they don't care! Are there a significant number of Canadians who would react the same way, I wondered. With no expectations of coming up with any meaningful results, we nevertheless asked this question in our last survey on the values of Canadians: "When I read, hear or watch the news, it doesn't matter if it's absolutely true or not; what's more important to me is that it affects me emotionally, that it touches something deep inside me."

To our utter stupefaction, 34% of Canadians said they agree with this statement! Two out of five in Québec (37%), the province with the highest proportion, compared to 30% in British Columbia and the Prairie Provinces, with the lowest proportion.

It is true that three times as many people say they "somewhat agree" than "totally agree" with this assertion-26% versus 8%-but even so, they still don't mind being lied to as long as they get an emotional hit!

Also astonishing is that one in three in the country (32% in Canada) only "somewhat disagree" with the notion in question. How is it possible not to totally disagree with this statement (34% in Canada)?

The most vulnerable groups

Those who agree with the said statement are found among people with the lowest incomes and education in the country, among immigrants and blue-collar workers. Most surprising are the youth: 43% of Canadians 18 to 24 years of age agree with the statement; and 39% of those aged 25 to 34.

It's as if, when suffering from certain socioeconomic disadvantages, taking comfort in having one's perceptions validated, experiencing some emotional gratification, being touched on an emotional level, is more important than getting the facts straight. Just as with authoritarian regimes, whether soviet or communist, where what counts is the effectiveness, the utility of the information, not its accuracy; in this case, effectiveness is the ability to touch people's emotional hot buttons.

Click here for detailed results

Is this where the current wave of populism across Western democracies is leading us? Is the tradition of truth losing its relevance in our new, complex and uncertain world?

The values and mentalities behind the acceptance of lies

The sociocultural profile of these "willingly credulous" individuals helps us understand why they express such an attitude. First and foremost, they are profoundly cynical. They simply believe that all the elites are lying to them! That the media, politicians, business people, even scientists, all have an agenda and are lying to the public to get what they want!

They also feel more or less excluded within society. They feel disconnected from what's going on in the world and from what the media is telling them. They believe that there is no (or no longer a) place for people like them in society. They are fatalistic, expecting bad things to happen to them. They feel that they have little control over their lives, while at the same time believing that they will eventually adapt to current conditions, notably through civil disobedience-desperate times, desperate measures!

They also highly regard strong leadership, which they see as the way to redress the exclusion they feel in today's world.

And so we come full circle, to Mr. Trump, or to his eventual Canadian counterpart!

Click here to consult values profile

The opportunities for companies and organisations

Whenever we identify societal and market phenomena, I enjoy finding their implications and opportunities for organisations, companies and brands. In this case, I would never recommend lying to the public or to consumers while manipulating their emotions to promote a cause. However, people do need to feel moved, to be comforted and mobilized via their hot buttons. Today, more than ever, the communications opportunity for organizations and brands is to find ways to touch people emotionally. Informing them is necessary but insufficient.

Of course, one must be doubly vigilant to root out fake news and expose its authors. We must call on the media, the press and social media platforms to do their part. I consider the efforts of Facebook and other platforms rather paltry given the magnitude of the phenomenon.

The lie in Don Giovanni!

In the history of opera, one of the greatest liars-if not the greatest liar-is undoubtedly Don Giovanni. He doesn't lie to achieve political power; he lies to seduce women! I have chosen a clip in which his valet, Leporello, attempts to "console" a conquest abandoned by his boss. He explains to the unhappy woman that she is but one of his boss's many conquests to whom he has promised the sun and the moon (notably marriage) to take advantage of them. Known as the "Catalogue Aria," it is, in my estimation, one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. Here, it is performed in a modern production at La Scala in Milan (December 2011).

W. A. Mozart: Don Giovanni – Peter Mattei, Bryn Terfel, Anna Netrebko, Barbara Frittoli, Giuseppe Filianoti, Anna Prohaska, Coro e Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, Daniel Barenboim, Production: Robert Carsen, Milano, release 06 Nov. 2015, Deutsche Grammophon.

26% of Canadians believe that men are superior to woman! (And the mad scene from Lucia di Lammermoor)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 03-10-17 at 5:32 p.m.

Sexual equality isn't here yet!

International Women's Day on March 8 inspired me to put a survey question that has always intrigued me into perspective: "Whatever people say, men have a certain natural superiority over women, and nothing can change this." One in four Canadians (26%) agree with this statement. Almost one in three people in Québec (31%) agree with this statement, the province with the highest level of agreement, while the Atlantic region has the lowest level of agreement (at 20%).

What I find most curious is that young people, the Millennials, are the most in agreement with this statement (32%, or one in three). Could this be this due to the influence of Hollywood? Immigrants (people born outside Canada) and technical and blue-collar workers also stand out in being particularly in agreement with this statement.

Over the many years that we have been following the results of this question, the proportions have remained virtually unchanged (23% of the country in 2000), suggesting an entrenched background sentiment of male superiority.

We should also point out that very similar proportions of women agree with this statement (24%), leading us to conclude that Tarzan will have no trouble finding his Jane here!

Superiority or difference? The values and hot buttons underlying this view

It has already been pointed out that to any chauvinist interpretation of the results of this question, you can object that men's physical strength confers a "certain superiority" (men and women compete separately in the Olympics, for example). Others who share a feminist or less chauvinistic point of view consider physical strength more of a difference than a proof of superiority. In an increasingly knowledge-based economy and even in traditionally male jobs, women are performing as well as their male colleagues.

Click here for detailed results

Most telling in this debate is the value profile of the individuals who agree with the above-mentioned statement: they could not be more conservative.

They also express great difficulty living in today's world: they feel they have little control over their lives; they have trouble living with the change and complexity of life today. For them, society no longer has guideposts, standards, morality; people's roles have become unstructured. Women's emancipation beyond their traditional roles is proof positive for them that our society is losing its way!

Status is also an issue, along with a great deal of social-psychological nostalgia-for an era where men played the dominate roles and had the highest status in society. These individuals still crave an enviable social status, which underlies their interest in traditional roles where men and woman have clearly defined functions (corresponding to antiquated stereotypes).

We also find a significant proportion of immigrants among the people in agreement with this statement. Immigrants often come from societies espousing more traditional values and that continue to impose highly predetermined roles on men and women.

In short, we can conclude that those in agreement with this question truly see the statement as expressing the social superiority of men versus women, in the traditional, stereotypical roles they believe in!

The opportunities for businesses and organisations

I do not pretend to have the solution to the problem of sexual equality in our society; others have taken up that banner. However, given my strong concern for corporate responsibility (I sincerely believe that companies need to take this on), I see this issue as providing some very promising avenues.

All companies and organisations are founded on values. In 2017, I'm sure Justin Trudeau would agree that equality and equal opportunity must inform the fundamental values of every organization, and that concrete practices must be put in place to ensure that this value is incorporated into organizational cultures. In companies with technical jobs, and with young and immigrant employees, in particular, promoting an organizational culture based on sexual equality would surely help the situation evolve-especially since the results of our question have barely moved in 20 years.

For brands, too, promoting sexual equality can only be beneficial in today's marketplace. One example is the delightful ad run by Audi during the last Super Bowl (http://www.superbowlcommercials.co/audi/), surely one of the least feminist media placement venues around. The ad highlights the company's commitment to equal pay for equal work: "Progress is for everyone."

Click here to consult values profile

The mad scene in the opera, Lucia di Lammermoor

To illustrate just how far women have come over the centuries, I have chosen a clip from the opera, Lucia di Lammermoor, by Gaetano Donizetti. Italian opera in the 19th century usually depicted women as hysterical, neurotic and unstable. In this excerpt, Lucia has effectively lost her mind! Her brother has forced her to marry a "good catch" to raise the family's social standing. The evening of the wedding, Lucia, in a deranged state of madness, kills her new husband and sings her joy at soon being reunited with her former lover! Known as the "mad scene," it is a melodic jewel.

Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor / Netrebko, Beczala, Kwiecien, The Metropolitan Opera, New York, 2009, Deutsche Grammophon.