Let’s do something together!

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Hello, I’m Julien. Strasbourg-born, Paris-trained, Italian-blooded, now based in Melbourne and working across Australia, Sweden and China, I am closely attuned to the many subtle ways that cultural and linguistic diversity translates as difference in perceptions, emotions, behaviours and value systems.

As a writer and educator, my work aims to discern and articulate the various manifestations of this diversity, invent better ways to realise that our worlds are different – and rejoice in the possibility to find common ground.

I currently share my time between three main activities:

  • I work as editor-in-chief with the Global Challenges Foundation, a Swedish philanthropic Foundation that aims to stimulate a better understanding of global catastrophic risk, and catalize new global governance models to address those risks.
  • I design and deliver new workshop models with the Marco Polo Project, a non-profit organisation exploring new models to develop cross-cultural understanding.
  •  I am enrolled in a PhD with Monash University, exploring the emerging digital ecosystem of Chinese language learning.

You can read some of my reflections here – or browse through my portfolio to look at my writing, film and curation work.

I offer coaching services, workshops, public speaking, and support for new projects. Over the years, I have been fortunate to work with a broad range of organisations on cutting-edge cross-cultural initiatives. I am always open to new projects and opportunities, and would love to discuss them with you.

Let’s do something together! You can reach me at Julien.leyre at gmail.com.

 

Justice – Week 8

This year, I will reflect on the four cardinal virtues through daily practice and meditation, intentionally focusing on one per season. After starting the year with prudence and temperance, I now reflect on justice – or the capacity to give everybody their right due. 

This week, I reflected further on the mutual relationship between justice and power.

In French, the same adjective, ‘juste’, describes the quality of a just decision, appropriateness in the choice of a word, and a musical note on pitch. Social order is based on people saying the right thing at the right time. The main obstacle to justice, in that perspective, is not a punctual lie on one particular point of fact, but deliberate and systematic obstruction of meaning, or bullshit. I was giving a conference on Sunday. There was a question. On that occasion, guided by justice, I honestly replied ‘I don’t know’. But how tempting, when holding the right of speech, to make up something instead, hiding ignorance under a cloud of words.

Decision-making structures rarely result in a distribution of power that ensures absolute fairness. The representative model of Western democracies is based on a division of the country by seats. Some of them, more likely to swing across the field of possible choices, have disproportionate importance in defining the political agenda. Global power differentials act as a multiplier to this internal imbalance. Trump’s election rested on the choice of a relatively small number of people in the central eastern United States. The ballot power of those communities now endangers long-standing international efforts for climate and environmental protection. From the perspective of justice, this is a blatant issue. Yet these voters – and US politicians – only followed the national rules of the game.

Is it justice that we should suffer from the decisions of our fathers? In many poor countries, children at birth are loaded with a national debt heavier than the collective can structurally cover. Without even considering how fairly loans were allocated in the first place, those children never gave consent, yet find themselves burdened with a duty to repay. Meanwhile, somewhere, somebody’s receiving interest – and likely using some of that money to support their own children and others in their community. From the perspective of those children who benefited at birth of this inherited advantage, however, a deliberate or forced reallocation of wealth on the global scale, gradually reducing their comparative wealth and affecting the conditions of their children, would likely be perceived as injustice.

To what extent should systems favour majorities – to what extent should they be designed for ‘everyone’? I had a conversation about supporting cultural minorities on Wednesday. Soon, challenges arose: what should be given priority? Supporting locally born people of minority background, or supporting migrants? And what about other inequities, class, age, or gender? We might wish for systems to service ‘all’, but when they don’t, what should we do to compensate? This is a murky space, where justice and pragmatism blend.

On this note, I started reflecting about justice and time. If justice is a return to balance, how fast and often should justice be rendered? What is an acceptable delay? And when we’re aiming to create a more just decision-making system, should we be judged on the perfect justice of our final intentions, or should we be judged on results and improvement?

Justice has many dimensions. It regulates the relationships among individuals, and regulates the relationships between individuals and the various social collectives that we belong to. But justice also regulates the mutual relationship between different collectives, considered across space, and across time: international justice, intergenerational justice. These various dimensions of justice are mutually dependent: progress on one dimension will affect others positively. But it is tempting, depending on our position at birth and at the moment of passing judgement, to neglect one of those dimensions, or even deny its existence entirely.

Justice – Week 7

This year, I will reflect on the four cardinal virtues through daily practice and meditation, intentionally focusing on one per season. After starting the year with prudence and temperance, I now reflect on justice – or the capacity to give everybody their right due. 

This week, most of my reflections centred on the relationship between justice, truth and seduction.

On Sunday, I watched an adaptation of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Peter Sellers set the plot in the Bronx, casting the main character as an African-American leader, Don Elvira as a white middle-age punk, and Don Ottavio as the local cop. Through the first act, I couldn’t stop thinking about justice. Don Giovanni makes promises he never intends to keep. He lies deliberately, seducing, and by doing so, damages the very basis of trust. This is not about sex: Don Giovanni promises more than passing sensual pleasures, he promises marriage, and therefore, a share of his wealth and privilege. Woman after woman falls for it. They neglect other commitments to follow him, and find themselves abandoned. Such is the seduction of consumerism, such is the seduction of politicians: join, I offer abundance, they say – then move on.

One area where seduction plays out is national identity. I am reading ‘The Darker Nations, a people’s history of the Third World’. The book follows the rise of decolonised people after the end of the Second World War, and their eventual demise in the 80s. Early movements for liberation were international in scope: their goal was not to develop an inward-looking sense of identity for newly liberated people, but coordinate a global fight towards collective emancipation. As I read through this relatively recent history, I think about current discourses on cultural difference. Is their purpose to genuinely support better collaboration between people from different traditions, or is their goal to distract us from issues of class and oppression? I reflect, also, on the dangerously seductive power of national symbols, Eiffel Towers and Taj Mahals: to what extent do they represent a sense of collective history, to what extent do they represent an appropriation of national resources to beautify the pleasure grounds of the wealthy?

Lying stands in the way of justice, as does the refusal to give everybody their due. The two, most often, go hand in hand. We develop narratives about our success that omit credit where due, refuse to consider past contributions, deliberately veil ethical shortcuts and even violence. This applies to collectives and individuals. Current economic models encourage personal brand building, with outsized opportunities for select winners in the reputation game. The temptation is great to pay no more than lip service to gratitude, while weaving grand narratives of hardship overcome through the perfect mixture of smarts and grit – then end up believing that our situation is actually the result of our own individual efforts.

The test of justice is judgement, supported by evidence and testimonials. Frontal lies are a direct obstruction of justice, but there is another, more insidious practice: when those in power deliberately construct narratives and frames of reference that will cast them in the best possible light, and leave their shortcomings in the shadows. This may be the main argument for the separation of powers – the temptation is too great for politicians needing fast action to cut ethical corners. Therefore, another body, whose mandate is not execution, should be there to seek truth, and pass judgement accordingly. This is also where prudence meets justice: we may deliberately create smokes and mirrors – but we may also, just as well, be self-deluded, and believe our own lies. In this second case, the fault is greater, and we should not let self-serving delusion get away with it lightly.

Should politicians keep their word? How harshly should they be punished if they don’t? What about countries? I wrote last week that my own fear of the future was a major obstacle to donating money where I think I should. On Thursday, while planning a workshop on financial literacy, one of the co-designers casually mentioned that, anyway, there would be no pension when we reach an older age. How should I behave when I hear this prophecy? Build security for myself, because I cannot trust the collective? Or invest in collective action to protect a system of intergenerational distribution? The choice I make will influence my retrospective idea of justice: if I work hard and save, I will not find it fair that I should share my savings; if I work hard at building collective support systems, I won’t find it fair to be left destitute, while those who provided only for themselves enjoy the result of their selfish efforts. Our sense of justice is therefore highly coloured by our own political choices. Power plays in with our sense of justice and truth.

The doctrine of original sin tells us that generations past did not do the right thing, and therefore, inasmuch as we bear their legacy, we do not start with a blank slate, but carry their failures forward. For this generation, it is a heavy legacy: a destructed environment, population explosion, the consequences of colonial exploitation, and a web of complex lies and partial stories obscuring the root causes of today’s greatest challenges. It seems clear that our generation has to change course. But how, and whereto? More truthful accounts of recent history would offer a precious first step, but I sense that opposition is great: many crimes would be revealed, and many myths underpinning the very sense of self for entire classes and nations would be shred apart.

 

Justice – Week 6

This year, I will reflect on the four cardinal virtues through daily practice and meditation, intentionally focusing on one per season. After starting the year with prudence and temperance, I now reflect on justice – or the capacity to give everybody their right due. 

Through the week, I reflected on the role of self-control and self-awareness in striving towards justice.

I believe – and feel – that I should donate more of my income. This is not an act of charity, but justice: my current comfort is the result of accumulated personal and collective privilege. However, insecurity stands in the way. If I direct more of my current income to alleviate poverty, instead of saving up for my future, should things go wrong, will there be someone to look after me? I would not only risk my present and future comfort, but fear to lose power, and capacity to influence. I sense the lack of a clear agreement between individuals and collectives, between nations, between generations, and between the present and future – and I experience this lack as a major obstacle to justice.

I was brought up in a context that valued warmth over cold. It was acceptable to do bad things in the heat of passion, but a minor infraction based on cold calculation was unforgivable. Yet, reacting maybe to my upbringing, I have come to value cold-bloodedness. ‘Give me a man that is not passion’s slave, Horatio, and I shall hold it to my heart of hearts’. Justice requires that we give everybody their due, and act appropriately. Feelings are not within its realm. A video circulated on Facebook. An American courtroom, a woman on trial for parking fines. She starts crying. Her son died, her social payments were cut off, she was trying to sort out her situation. In the end, the judge lifts all fines: ‘I won’t let you leave this court with only 5$ in your pocket.’ The video was shared as inspirational. Everybody ‘liked’. I was ill-at-ease. Not that the woman should be let off scot-free, but that objective assessment of responsibility was replaced by teary sentimentality. Why did no one question the justice of social structures placing this woman in a situation where all she could do was park illegally to sort an inextricable situation? Why should this be presented as magnanimous behaviour from a judge, rather than cause for outrage at a system that unduly placed a poor woman in the courtroom?

‘Go for it’ is the default attitude in entrepreneurial circles. Is this based on deep trust in the justice of our collective systems, or a guilty confusion of strength and justice? I worked on a grant application, and as I did, kept asking myself: is the problem I try to solve worth a share of taxpayers’ money? Am I genuinely committed to solving it? Am I able to deliver and execute the right solution? Working in the non-profit sector, and taking the mission seriously, brings a double burden: not only must I ask myself how to succeed in competitive funding applications, but I must also question whether even applying is legitimate.

Do certain roles or industries require greater attention to justice? I often come across people running or interested in education ventures, who decide to run them as a businesses. Their goal is genuinely both to provide quality training to people, and make money from it. My question, however, is always – what is the priority. The desire to reconcile good business and positive social impact is laudable, but if there was tension between the two, which one would win? Because business and social good are different games, and overlap only to some extent. Conversely, this also begs the question: what contributions to society deserve compensation, on what basis, in what currency? And if the system we live in is one where those contributing to the collective good receive less, in absolute terms, than those only serving their own interest – then we should raise the question of justice, rather than try to reconcile business and social impact.

By the age of three, the children of wealthy families have been exposed to 30 million more words than those from lower social SES. This has a lifelong impact on the shape of their brains, and their cognitive ability. We blame people for their own shortcomings, praise them for their own success. But privilege, or its absence, affects the very physical structures of our minds. Justice would require that collective resources be directed towards early childhood education, so that inequalities be not reproduced from generation to generation. From another angle, this means: justice demands of those in a position of privilege that they willingly donate part of their wealth, so that their children will not be favoured from their first years in life. And we believe, somehow, that they will oblige, spontaneously.

Universal income is increasingly perceived as a legitimate policy: as artificial intelligence takes over jobs, we must find a new basis for wealth distribution than individual contribution to society through paid employment. Much as I support the underlying assumptions, I have one major reservation: that current proposals are far from universal. Rather, trials and proposals only consider redistribution among restricted circles, within cities, regions or – at most – nations. On the pure basis of justice, considering the complex patterns of global interaction and technological evolution, I do not see why American, Finnish or Canadian wealth should only benefit jobless Americans, Finns or Canadians, with no share for Nigerians, Bolivians or Pakistanis. More broadly, universal income raises a deeper question: what justifies excluding any person – other than specific, personal guilt in relation to an established set of laws – from access to wealthier territories, and the welfare system they provide? I’m not saying there’s an easy solution. But we should frame important questions in the correct manner.

Justice – Week 5

 

This year, I will reflect on the four cardinal virtues through daily practice and meditation, intentionally focusing on one per season. After starting the year with prudence and temperance, I now reflect on justice – or the capacity to give everybody their right due. 

This week, I reflected on the connection between individuals and collectives, stimulated by two books, ‘La composition des mondes’ by anthropologist Philippe Descola, and ‘L’Enrichissement’, by sociologists Boltanski and Arnaud Esquerre.

Justice must ensure that everybody receive their due. The primary question therefore must be, who is everybody? This is particularly relevant in the case of ecological justice, where the relationship between humans and non-humans is at stake. From the perspective of justice, if a natural element is endangered – a lake or an animal species – they could be considered as external objects that only matter inasmuch as their existence affects the well-being of various humans. Or, they could be considered as part of a structured collective, alongside other elements of the natural ecosystem, including humans. Justice, then, demands that their interest be taken into consideration, as much as that of individual humans.

At the basis of any reflection on justice is the question of distributing public wealth to members of the community fairly. The technical modalities of collective decision are therefore a crucial issue. Those who master rhetorical codes and understand procedures are at an advantage, and able to guide collective decision to their benefit. We should therefore always ask ourselves, to what extent does a certain protocol favour justice, or strength?

Does justice require that we follow formal established rules, or more general principles?  If I was to develop a personal relationship with an Uber driver and got them to drive me somewhere, without going through the system, would I be at fault? On the one hand, if I by-pass the system, I would replace an exploitative structure with direct human interaction; on the other, I would endanger a system offering stability to the social order. In a multicultural environment, these questions are difficult, as norms of behaviour in relation to the law vary.

The current state of things is justified by narratives anchored in the past: justice and history therefore go together. Further still, the structures giving value to things are themselves historically located. Modern industrial society produces large numbers of interchangeable specimens based on the same prototype, whose ownership is protected by law. This is a product of the European 19th century. Today’s discussions on copyright and piracy should be considered in this light: what they question is not an eternal right, but a certain historical construction.

Economic systems, and the way that various types of things are valued and priced, determine in turn the comparative advantage of those who control various types of things. The position we take in those economic systems will in turn determine our interest in advocating for change or preserving a certain state of things. Deliberately choosing to place ourselves in a position where we serve interests in contradiction with the common good is a question of justice. Beware, therefore, the risk of finding ourselves in a situation that seriously restricts our capacity for justice.

Justice regulates the mutual relationship between people as part of a collective. But who decides on our capacity to be part of that collective? When belonging requires physical access, who makes decisions on our capacity to remain part of a certain group, and what form of justice applies?

 

Justice – Week 4

This year, I will reflect on the four cardinal virtues through daily practice and meditation, intentionally focusing on one per season. After starting the year with prudence and temperance, I now reflect on justice – or the capacity to give everybody their right due. 

Through the week, I considered the narratives that affect our understanding of the relationship between personal and collective benefits.

As a premise to justice, it is essential to define whose interest we serve. For-profit entrepreneurship presents itself as a force for good, developing better products and services for people. However, the for-profit start-up ecosystem could aptly be seen as a constructions that allows capital holders to grow their wealth exponentially, with the benediction of public opinion. Successful entrepreneurs join this small club of investors, and embrace their interest, while all pre-selected players are rewarded by access to subsidised work space, events, and curry puffs. Non-profit legal structures, though possibly more suited to many start-ups, do not service the needs of capital, and are therefore both undervalues and misunderstood.

Technology defines our common living environment, and the way we collectively make decisions. It is unclear, however, who determines our discourse on technology. Hackers, tech-enthusiasts and crypto-anarchists advocate for tech-enabled decentralised power networks, anonymous browsing software, and bitcoins. The latter appreciated almost tenfold in the past few years. Bitcoin advocates happened also to be the first adopters: they care, no doubt, about building parallel currency systems independent from the state – incidentally, this results in their virtual assets exponentially rising in value.

There is a storyline about international politics, whereby ‘Western democracies’ – the US and EU – are international guarantors of good and freedom, while rogue states endanger international stability, supported by two shady powers, China and Russia. On Tuesday night, I watched interviews of Putin by Oliver Stone. Putin is cast as a typical ‘bad guy’, yet, through the empathetic lens of the documentary, some of his claims are allowed to resonate. Why should Russia not assert its sovereignty? Why should it not systematically question American intentions, actions and statements? Why should we doubt the truthfulness of Russian statements more than that of American equivalents?

In the professional context, how does justice apply to various ‘extensions of responsibility’? Should those be seen as a form of managerial generosity, creating the conditions for staff to develop new skills – or do they represent a clear form of fraud, allowing organisations to pay people below-rate for extra work and responsibilities? More generally, this is a question we should raise in today’s capitalist order: where do freeloaders reside? At the bottom of the pyramid, where people profit from the system – or at the top? Those in power, at least, are in a better position to press for handsome compensations. Corruption ensues: rather than asking for a general reduction of salaries in top layers of management, competent leaders in the non-profit sector start complaining about their organisations ‘underpaying’ them in regards to their for-profit counterparts.

Who benefits from a community? I jokingly told the recruiter at THNK that I did their work for them – I had referred a couple of people to their program. Many communities – or clubs – hire community managers who maintain a sense of collective belonging, and harness the goodwill of members towards actions benefiting the group. Members act as volunteers, not so the managers. There are, however, two ways for them to be paid: through the contributions of existing members, or through joining fees of new members. If the latter prevails, then the business model of the community goes against its value proposition: more enrolments ensure economic survival, while a supportive core group is key to members’ experience.

On Friday, I reconnected with one of my life’s great teachers, Andra, who trains THNKers in the art of presence. We spoke about cardinal virtues: instantly, she draw correlations to the work she does in spatial awareness: ‘if there are 7 virtues, then you can project them on the 7 cardinal points, left/right, front/back, up/down, and centre’. We reflected on the symbolic equivalent of each in the Chinese framework of the five elements. ‘Justice,’ she said, ‘if it is about separating what is mine from what is not, would have the quality of metal.’ She placed an arm forward, palm facing towards her, fingers slightly spread apart. I thought then that justice could be seen as part of a natural cycle. In the Chinese model, the five elements that constitute the material world engender each other in a cyclical manner. As long as abundance prevails – in fiery times of abundance and, resulting from fire, earthy times of calm plenitude – there is no need for justice. But comes a moment where distinctions have to be made, and metal must rule. From this comes flow – water, born of metal – and from water, wood, or rebirth. A certain economic model proposes to bypass the moment of justice: the trickle-down effect ensures increasing benefits for all as long as we maintain growth. But Without a transition through justice, and metal, the cycle remains in a state of block, and renewal is impossible.

Justice – Week 3

This year, I will reflect on the four cardinal virtues through daily practice and meditation, intentionally focusing on one per season. After starting the year with prudence and temperance, I now reflect on justice – or the capacity to give everybody their right due. 

Over the week, I reflected on privilege and the role that power structures play in maintaining justice.

The structure of the State, at least in Europe and Australia, involves a separation of power. Law-makers are responsible for establishing fair legislation; judges are responsible for settling disputes; executive organs – governments and their various agencies – must coordinate the work of administration, police and public service in a just manner. These powers balance each other, limiting the risk that an entire state will shift away too far from justice. But this balance structurally limits fast and decisive action. Hence, as happened in the recent French election, the appeal of a strong man taking initiative to concentrate all powers in their hands. This is a path to greater strength, not greater justice.

Where does justice begin, and where does fortitude? Does justice command that – whenever possible – we step up and exert leadership when a system is unjust? Does it only require that we not take part in whatever evil is orchestrated? Or does it demand that we publically strive to name things for what they are – and leave it there? Is justice a virtue that mainly concerns individual action, or does justice invite us to consistently reflect on the structures around us, and what those nudge us to do? Where does justice begin, and where does prudence?

As I attend the first day of the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance pre-summit in Berlin, I reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of entrepreneurship and its supporting systems. Start-ups are very good at building not only private goods, but also club goods – open access to valuable things for a limited pool of members. The danger is, such club goods often pass off as public, and on that basis, receive undeserved amounts of scarce resources and attention. Facebook has over one billion users, true. Most of humanity therefore is not on it. Sharing economy platforms do wonders for educated residents of global cities. In most of the world, they bring no benefit.

Start-up ecosystems, put forward as part of city-branding by Berlin, Melbourne, San Francisco, Shanghai and Amsterdam – or even Johannesburg, Hanoi and Nairobi – belong to the same class of club goods: access to co-working spaces, incubators, networking events and all forms of seed-funding for new projects is dependent on a certain attitude, language, skillset, information and dress-code. There is nothing inherently wrong about this – but passing off a selective members’ club as a community space for all is telling a lie, and endangering justice.

The discourse of entrepreneurship articulates a new form of aristocratic ethos. Risk-takers create the world of tomorrow based on a deep desire to leave a mark through their impact.  On this basis, they demand privilege – access to rulers, exemption from tax, a looser relationship to the law. They believe in working hard, but also believe in cultivating the traits that will nurture a greater creative vision: they do sport, they like beautiful things, and gather in cosmopolitan forums to shape the world of tomorrow – expecting subsidies to fund their travel costs and salmon canapes. This is just only to the extent that their efforts genuinely contribute to public welfare.

As the week ends, and I reflect on the summit I just attended, I return to the role of structures. I met beautiful people, but found the curation underwhelming. It was not clear whether we were mainly supposed to learn new things, meet new people, or propose new policy. Hence, probably, a light sense of coldness and competitive hostility. I leave on a high – there was cheesecake, champagne, and I was one of the happy few. But I leave with a mild sense of frustration: we could have done more, better. It’s not clear what though. I’m in the club, for sure, but what was the great contribution of this publically sponsored forum to the welfare of all? It is what each one of us makes of it, perhaps. But if we demand privilege, should we not work harder to deserve it?

 

 

 

 

Justice – week 2

This year, I will reflect on the four cardinal virtues through daily practice and meditation, intentionally focusing on one per season. After starting the year with prudence and temperance, I now reflect on justice – or the capacity to give everybody their right due. 

Over the second week, while travelling around France, I reflected on justice within a systemic context.

The first rule of justice is never to mistake strength and right. Contemporary Western civilisation has expanded over the world, imposing its form and values, extending lifespans and producing large quantities of material goods. It now harnesses most of the available space and resources on the planet towards its goal, and therefore surely qualifies as the strongest form of culture. This triumph has nothing to do with justice.

On photograph, Walker Evans captured the faces of farmers struck by the Great Depression. Poverty takes on a human face, confronting the viewer, even ninety years later: is it right that people, through no fault of their own, should suffer the systemic consequences of bad decisions made by those in power. The recent financial crisis was forefront in the minds of all visitors, begging the question: were those responsible held accountable? What were the faces of the many who suffered? And who’s going to do them justice?

Tax is an agreed system for distributing material resources within a community. Fraud is a direct affront to justice. But there is another, more insidious danger. It should be permitted for anybody to take advantage of the space allowed by law. But if only the few, the rich, the powerful can hire the services of experts in the arcane science of tax optimisation, the systemic result is blatant injustice. We may wonder, should not virtue prompt those in positions of advantage actively try to reform a system benefiting them more than others, and align it with justice?

An article circulated on Facebook, announcing the projected financial shortfall for pensions by 2050. This piece, as all the ones I read on finance, occulted one fundamental fact: that money is not a thing endowed with intrinsic properties, like petrol, pork or butter, but the symbolic expression of a relationship. ‘Having money in one’s old age’ is a shortcut: the goal is to increase the chances that we can access goods and services after our bodies and minds decline. The problem of future pensions goes beyond the realm of finance, and requires a structural reflection about the state of the world. Various factors play in: by 2050, where can we expect abundance, where will there be scarcity, based on technological developments and ecological exhaustion? Who will make decisions regarding the sharing of scarce resources by then? Will medicine extend healthy lifespans, and what activity can we maintain in old age? What will be the relationship across generations? All those factors may radically change in the coming 33 years. But if we place all of our eggs in the finance basket, betting on an indefinite continuation of the current situation, then we have a vested interest in maintaining it. And we’ll oppose any change to whatever aspects of our current model jeopardises the future of all, in the mistaken belief that it might affect the size of our own puny little nest egg.

Mediterranean societies trade on many levels, exchanging large quantities of material and immaterial goods within the community, creating dense networks of mutual obligation. Those prime over responsibility to people outside. A paradox emerges: intense ethical attention prevails within the group, while tax evasion becomes a way of life. In relationships with people outside this network of mutual obligation, the law of the jungle encroaches at the margins: if you can get away with it, in small things at least, strength and cunning trump justice.

At the end of the week, I was left with a question: to what extent is justice culturally independent? This in turn expanded into the following three. First, what are the boundaries of the group where justice applies? Is it the immediate family community, the broader town or city, the nation, the world? Second, what is the object of justice? Is it access to material goods, or immaterial goods, attention, honour, warmth or other social benefits? Finally, who is the subject of justice? Is it always an individual, or can the group be responsible?