What fundamental values do human beings hold in common? As globalisation draws us together economically, are our values converging or diverging? Is the principle of human rights becoming a global ethic, or a vanishing preoccupation of the elite?
These were some of the questions that led former leader of the Canadian Liberal Party, Michael Ignatieff, to embark on a three-year, eight-nation journey in search of answers.
A renowned academic and public thinker, Ignatieff discovered that while human rights may be the language of states and liberal elites, the moral language that counts with most people are the ordinary virtues: tolerance, forgiveness, trust and resilience. These virtues are the moral operating system of global cities and favelas alike, the glue that makes the multicultural experiment work. When order breaks down and conflicts break out, the ordinary virtues do the work of repair and reconciliation.
Ignatieff visits the RSA to explain how ordinary virtues privilege the local over the universal and the citizen’s claims over those of strangers. When exploited by populist politicians, they can drive a politics of fear and exclusion, but they are also a source of healing, reconciliation and solidarity.