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The real sharing economy

 To share: to allow someone to use or enjoy something that one possesses.

We can share what we possess in substance such as food or toys. We can also share immaterial matter such as time, memories, or affection. The meaning of words evolves infinitely, as our society transforms and shapes itself.

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When I first arrived in the community of Inukjuak, I was disappointed not to discover a blatant spiritual atmosphere within families or groups. Maybe was it simply not apparent for an outsider such as myself, or maybe it expressed itself in a way which I had not expected. Indeed, when I think of spirituality, I think of a connection to spirits, with the spirits of nature first coming to mind. There is a saying in Inuktitut which means We are all one. I believe in the interconnectedness of life and matter, in every aspect. I was therefore craving to discover those bonds to the creations of the earth, tangible and intangible.

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However, I couldn’t force the discovery of what I wanted. I just had to keep my eyes open and let things come on their own. That’s when I started to realize the extent of the concept “we are all one”, and the concept of sharing in modern Inuit culture. The feeling of being at home in a host’s living room while serving yourself some boiling stew, the simplicity of a group eating raw arctic char on the floor of a cabin, the circle opening up with smiles as I join for volleyball practice. These are just a few illustrations of the sharing I’ve experienced here. When I told my father about it, he evidently referred to Marcel Mauss’ “Essai sur le Don” (The Gift).

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“What do they expect in return?” – my father asked me.

“Nothing!” – I replied with great passion.

“We always expect something in return of what we give…”

Well, maybe Inuit do expect something in return, just not in the short-term. And this is what makes the concept of sharing so unique, so real. It becomes timeless.

I won’t try to put numbers on the scale of the sharing economy here, although I’m confident it is quite sizeable. And by sharing economy, I’m certainly not referring to the Ubers and AirBnBs of the world. Has the word sharing reached a point where it relates to selling unused capacity, whether it be time, real estate, or anything else? I hope not. And living in this welcoming community for the past 40 days has certainly revealed the roots of sharing. And I share them with you today.

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