France, Portrait Of A Nation In Denial — In Our World In Denial
The continuous increase of public debt and a tone-deaf president in France, the rise of authoritarian regimes elsewhere in the world, the blindness to global warming: realities that we do not want to see and that will end up destroying us if we do not act.
PARIS — In France, the denial of reality seems to be the only thing that all of our public figures have in common: The president (who is right to say that it is his role to propose unpopular measures) refuses to see that other solutions than his own were possible and that institutions will not be sufficient in the long term to legitimize his solitary decisions.
The parliamentary opposition groups refuse to see that they do not constitute a political majority, since they would be incapable of governing together and that they have in common, for too many of them, on both sides of the political spectrum, left and right, only the hatred of money, the mistrust of success, and the contempt for excellence.
This leads the country, as a whole, to refuse to take note of that the current economic situation in France is actually improving: Unemployment is at an all-time low, to the point where it will soon be the employees who will take the law into their own hands and demand meaningful jobs and much higher salaries.
But the same denial also leads the country, by contrast, to refuse to give importance to its disastrous budgetary situation (a public debt at an all-time high of 115% of GDP); to its poorly financed pensions; to the declining position of its industry (it now represents a smaller share of its GDP compared to Spain or Italy); to a financial situation that is more catastrophic than ever (with deficits in foreign trade and payments that have become structural).
We have arrived at the point that without the protection of the euro, France would be in the same situation as Argentina, as we may soon see with the downgrading of its credit rating.
Rise of dictatorships
Europe is also in denial about the military takeover of Germany by the United States (Germany buys all its weapons from the United States, while refusing to make any serious progress towards creating a European defense system) and Eastern Europe (which welcomes U.S. troops on its soil, without even respecting the requirements of existing treaties).
The democratic world is also in serious denial.
There is also denial about the economic takeover by China, whose cheap products are increasingly imposed on European consumers who are concerned above all about their purchasing power.
The democratic world is also in serious denial about the rise of dictatorships and their triumphalist alliances (Xi Jinping's recent visit to Vladimir Putin in Moscow gave the world a sumptuous image of that) and about authoritarian temptations within its own borders; not only in Hungary, but also in Poland, Italy and the United States.
Demonstrators at last year's COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow
A ticking ecological bomb
Finally, the whole planet is in denial about the ecological dangers: Almost nobody wants to listen when we've again been told that we are not on target for the 1.5 °C temperature rise, and that we would have to reduce the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions by half in seven years.
There is a denial that our current trend will lead to a 4 °C rise in a few decades, which would wipe out life on at least half of the planet. This concerns not just half of India, China and Africa. But also half of the United States and Europe.
These denials of reality can be explained quite easily, all of them, by the same reasons: Too many people prefer an explanation of the world that does not require them to make any effort; or at least that leads them to think that there is no point in making any effort, because they cannot have any impact on their future.
Thus, the French think they can do nothing to reduce their foreign debt, the Europeans resign themselves to being militarily submissive to the Americans and economically submissive to the Chinese, and humans think that climate control is beyond their reach.
A reality we do not want to see
So, we entrust the powerful leading figures of the moment with the task of managing this reality that we do not want to see — which they do with pleasure, in their immediate interest, without worrying about future generations, for fear of being accused by their people of asking them to make efforts.
Denying reality is the best way to make it happen.
By acting this way, the French debt will increase, Europe will crumble, human rights will decline, the planet's climate will implode. Until the rise in interest rates makes France insolvent, the euro is called into question, democracy gives way to a dictatorship in the United States or in a large European country, and hundreds of millions of people migrate to escape climate disruption.
Denying reality is the best way to make the worst happen. There is nothing more urgent than to face up to the challenges. And to act.