Disloyalty becomes the most common form of exercising freedom.
To understand this evidence, or at least this threat, we need to go back to the fundamental elements of our modern societies, democratic or not, where the market economy dominates: they are all based on the apology of individual freedom; each citizen is pushed to focus on his or her individual sphere, on his or her personal happiness, and not to worry about collective issues.
Each member of such a society is encouraged to be concerned only with himself and to focus on how he can gain the means to satisfy his own needs and most individualistic desires, whether it is to consume material goods, to travel, to express himself, or to freely choose his form of happiness, being allowed to find it wherever he wants, changing his mind as much as he wants about what he wants, and even about what he is.
In these societies, which are not limited to formal democracies, and which can also be found in market dictatorships, everyone has the right to exercise his or her individual freedom in all forms, or almost all forms. In particular, in a very large number of areas, he has the right to change his mind, which is the elementary form of freedom. He can thus change the product he consumes, his employer, his employee, his bank, his home, his romantic partner; and, in these societies which claim to be democracies, he also has the right to change his political opinion and vote. And even to change their place of residence and nationality.
This apology of unlimited freedom has value: it is a formidable incentive to change, to discover, to create, to innovate, to progress.
However, this form of freedom also has its limits: it does not respect tradition, heritage or achievements; it prevents the construction of anything sustainable.
Society therefore puts the brakes on it by raising two obstacles: a legal obstacle (the contract) and a moral obstacle (loyalty). The contract is an obstacle to the exercise of freedom because it sets the conditions and duration of an agreement between two people or two entities. Loyalty is the ethical counterpart, which morally forbids betraying the person with whom one has just committed oneself, by a promise or an oath.
Today, under the tyrannical pressure of the demand for freedom, these two obstacles are beginning to weaken: the duration of contracts is becoming shorter and shorter, whether it be work contracts or housing contracts; and even sentimental contracts. And loyalty is increasingly felt to be an obstacle to the exercise of free will.
So, on the whole, more and more people are behaving like disloyal mercenaries in companies, ready to change jobs as soon as the conditions in another company seem better. Similarly, they are ready to break an emotional bond as soon as the conditions of another romantic or sexual partnership seem more attractive.
Worse still, beyond loyalty to one’s most direct partners, loyalty to one’s fellow citizens disappears, as can be seen in the lack of respect for the payment of taxes or for the cleanliness of public buildings; and worse still, the most important loyalty, at the same time as the most abstract, disappears: loyalty to future generations, whose pensions are not being financed, whose environment is being destroyed, and to whom one is preparing to leave abysmal debts.
No organisation can function without a minimum of loyalty between its members: imagine a company, a business, a family, composed of disloyal mercenaries capable of leaving everything to earn a little more, to obtain a better status, or a better sexual or sentimental situation. Imagine even more what could happen, what will happen, when artificial intelligences are no longer loyal to their creators. No family, no company, no nation, no civilisation will survive. This is the greatest lesson of history: no life without loyalty.
It is urgent to return, through law and morality, to this ancient principle of chivalry, which undoubtedly had its raison d’être.
Image: The Knights of the Round Table. Appearance of the Grail, illuminated in the 15th century.