If there is one lesson to be learned from the lamentable non-debate on pensions, it is the extraordinary unpreparedness of France, and more broadly of Europe, to master the long-term challenges. To the extent that the President of the Republic, who still has four long years ahead of him, is only proposing an agenda for three months.
Contrary to other countries, there is no serious reflection in France on what the country could become in 2030, in 7 years, that is to say tomorrow morning; and even less on what it could choose to become in 2040 or 2050.
Under the label “France 2030”, we find only an investment plan, admittedly significant (54 billion euros), aimed at providing the country with autonomy in a few key sectors, and an upgrading of higher education in these same sectors; and nothing to think about the other dimensions of the country in 2030, and even less in 2040 or 2050.
We therefore allow fantasies, rarely irenic, to proliferate about what lies ahead and we give more weight to pessimistic and declinist forecasts than to possible solutions.
In fact, many threats hang over the country; all the more so since, being today one of the richest, safest and least unequal countries in the world, with a particularly temperate climate, many people can legitimately have the feeling that things are going so well that they can only get worse.
The absence of serious, realistic, democratically debated and shared forecasts, the refusal to look for causes and to be satisfied with scapegoats, then leaves plenty of room for crude doomsayers and the most extreme populist proposals. At the same time, this creates the conditions for the realisation of these extreme predictions, since, because of a lack of serious thinking about the future, we refuse to act to orient it in time towards the best and we end up panicking at the last moment in front of problems that we could have solved if we had taken the right steps well beforehand; we then sink into the search for scapegoats, because we have not taken the time to look for solutions that are necessarily complex for complex problems.
The refusal to plan ahead is one of the dimensions of a mortal enemy of humanity: procrastination. If the first IPCC forecasts had been taken into account thirty years ago, we would have planted different plant species than those that now populate our fields and forests. A problem that is caught in time, because it has been foreseen, is much easier to solve than if it has been allowed to fester. It is because we don’t take the problems in time that we create the conditions for the worst. It is the blindness of the theoretically reformist parties that makes the bed of populist parties.
A country, like a company, a family or a person, cannot build anything great, exciting, serious, consensual or empathetic if it does not think about what it can become in the long term. To do this, it is necessary to make an effort to identify the invariants, to detect what is in danger of disappearing and what it is urgent to bring to life. Some people, some companies, are carrying out such reflections; some public players too. Too rarely, and too confidentially.
If such a reflection had been carried out a few years ago, on the scale of the whole country, we would have avoided finding ourselves today with enormous gaps in the control of strategic sectors, in our supplies of vital resources, in urban disorder and rural desertification, in the artificialisation of the soil, in the insufficiency of renewable energies, in the dramatic insufficiency of the number of doctors, nurses, professors and engineers, in the control of our debts and in the balance of our pensions.
It is not too late. And nothing would be more exciting than to embark on such a reflection. This is probably dreaming, but let’s imagine for a moment that each municipality, each department, each region, each ministry, each company, each association, each family, and even each of us, were to launch a vast reflection on what we could become in 2050 or even, why not, in the next century. After all, those who are born today are likely to still be around when the twenty-second century begins. It is high time to face the future.
Painting: Caspar David Friedrich, The Morning, 1821