Among the traits that differentiate people, companies, peoples, nations, ideologies and eras, one of the most important is that which enables us to distinguish those who are constantly on the alert, watching for all the faint signals heralding conflicts, crises, the wrath of man or nature, humiliations, abuses and violence, and who are ready to mobilize to face them, to work hard to avoid or combat them ; those who, on the contrary, are content to take advantage of the smallest joys of the moment, to seek out what can bring immediate pleasure, trivial conversation, derisory gratification, while looking with indifference at the surrounding difficulties and irritating subjects.

The watchers worry about bad news; the enjoyers are only interested in good news. The former seek to unravel the mysteries of the future; the latter draw from the present all the reasons to be happy. The former are on the lookout for the world; the latter are on a mental vacation.

Mental vacations. The poison of our times.

We are all familiar with personal, historical or geopolitical situations in which these differences in attitude, misused, have led to tragedy:

Being on the lookout for the world, when nothing justifies it, leads a person to lead an unnecessarily anxious life, to spend more time than necessary preparing for the worst, to die of anxiety and depression, in vain; it drives a nation to build too many fortresses and ramparts, to spend too much money on its defense, to ruin itself to protect the acquired without taking risks to conquer the new and, finally, to disappear.

To be on a mental vacation, on the other hand, when the climate is out of kilter, when the world is going badly, when enemies of all kinds are on the doorstep, when the weakest are being abused, when we can draw up a credible list of major threats, is suicidal. We have seen so many people, companies, nations and civilizations, confident in their narcissism, their optimism and their presumption, rush into it, and die as a result.

Generally speaking, today, on the geopolitical terrain at least, the frontier is clear: the nations of Asia are on the lookout, ready to pounce at the slightest threat, for their greatest benefit. Whereas almost all European countries, and many in Africa and North and Latin America, are largely on a mental vacation, to their great misfortune.

This is particularly true of today’s France, which, along with many others, has just joyfully crossed the bridges of May, the arrival of the Olympic flame on national soil, Taylor Swift concerts and the Eurovision show. And who’s about to get excited about the Euro Football Championship, the Paris Games, the summer vacations, the Tour de France, the latest video on TikTok, and so many other reasons to think about nothing.

Some of these events are admirable, or at least enjoyable; and I’m not going to be a killjoy. I’m also enthusiastic about some of them, without letting my guard down.

Meanwhile, France remains particularly vulnerable on all fronts: financial, military, economic, industrial, technological, ideological and democratic. Climate change, water scarcity, artificial intelligence, major international corporations, hostile geopolitical powers, dominants of all kinds, domestic, religious and/or fascist extremists, are all pushing their pawns, sharpening their weapons, deploying their networks and preparing deadly attacks, each in their own way.

France can no longer remain on a mental vacation. It must wake up. As soon as possible. The time has come for general mobilization. Not just to preserve the gains achieved through the sacrifices of so many magnificent people, but also to launch a major, long-term project. And even if the powerful of the moment have no interest in it, even if “every man for himself” is the law of the strongest, the nation urgently needs it.

If it doesn’t react right away, if the French continue to bask in a mental vacation, if they let their enemies claw at them, if they don’t give themselves a great mobilizing project, one day they’ll discover that their cities are under water, that their houses have been seized by ruthless creditors, that their jobs are threatened, that their standard of living is collapsing, that bombs of all kinds are being dropped on their parasols. It will be too late. Far too late…

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