Many criteria can be used to decide on a political action or a budgetary economy: its economic efficiency, its cost, its impact on employment, the environment, social justice, future generations. It is a criterion too often forgotten: its impact on the availability by everyone, a quality time to spend with others, which can be called an approximate word: «sociability».

More commonly, this word is used to characterize a sociable person, that is, able to live easily in society. I mean it here as a description of a situation that allows everyone to become one.

Sociability is not the antonym of solitude; it is a form of freedom that may be necessary, when we choose the time, the duration, the conditions of exercise. In particular, it may be necessary in a creative activity and is not confused with misanthropy.

Sociability is also not the acceptance of immersion in a crowd: the aggressive presence of others in crowded public transport, in noisy work, in poorly soundproof buildings is not an opportunity to live fully, peacefully, with the others.

Sociability is the ability to have time and conditions to escape from unwanted loneliness.

Many people live in real solitude. Some are really physically alone, without family visits, without real communication with anyone, except on social networks, or with strangers, cashiers of supermarkets or bus drivers, or with nurses, infinitely dedicated, passionate, But they’re overworked and they don’t have time for conversation. These people, so many, have no one to confide in their sorrows, their worries, their perplexities, their hopes. One of the few existing studies on the subject, Australian, (which I cannot vouch for the seriousness), states that 20% of the population of this country enjoys less than an hour of real interaction with someone every day and that this is the limit from which the brain degrades, because it does not function sufficiently in exchange. I have the feeling that this ratio is probably reached in most of the most developed countries, and especially in the English-speaking countries.

This lack of sociability is, by many, considered useful to the economy: it has long been known that the time spent talking with others is stolen from production and market consumption. And the modern economy prefers that people eat alone, briefly, industrial products, rather than consuming together, taking their time, dishes prepared at home. We also know that, more generally, the more you are alone, the more you buy, to fill your solitude.

Our societies very quickly identified the lack of sociability to a disease and proposed therapeutic responses. They say that feeling alone is not healthy, and that you can heal by paying someone to talk to you. Sociability then becomes a commercial activity like the others, with psychoanalysis, and all other forms of paid conversations. Another therapeutic and market response is psychotropic drugs and all drugs, legal or illegal, which aim to make us forget our solitude, to make us believe that we are happy, even if we are not. Yet another market response involves the multiplication of dating applications, first dedicated to the organization of weddings, then brief sexual encounters, then, more recently, sharing experiences or friendships more or less lasting. Digital sociability is supposed to work miracles. That is an illusion.

Non-market responses are much rarer. There was that of confession, whose purpose is quite different, and which cannot be called sociability. There existed, and almost no longer exists, that of the village squares, that of the cafes where one came to speak, without consuming with strangers. I really like the one I read in a recent article in a Japanese newspaper published in Courrier international, describing a young adult from Tokyo settling on a bench, after his work, with a sign where it says only «I listen to you», and who thus puts himself at the disposal of all those who need to be listened to, and to chat with someone. I like even more all the associative activities aimed at making meet, dialogue, play, assist, do, out of all commercial expectations.

In particular, those who care for people who loneliness can condemn to misery and suicide, such as the teenagers of Social Welfare for Children, so neglected by a ruthless society.

If there are a few sectors that should never be concerned with budgetary savings, these are the ones.

Image: Pexels.