In France, denial of reality seems to be the only thing that all the actors in public life have in common: the president (who is right to say that it is his role to propose unpopular measures) refuses to see that for pensions, other solutions than his own were possible and that the institutions will not suffice in the long term to legitimise his solitary decisions; the parliamentary oppositions 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 the left as well as on the 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 the improvement of its economic situation (the unemployment rate is at its lowest, 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); it also leads, on the other hand, to the country refusing to attach importance to its disastrous budgetary situation (a public debt at an unprecedented level of 115% of GDP); This also leads the country to refuse to attach importance to its disastrous budgetary situation (a public debt at an unprecedented level of 115% of GDP); to its poorly financed pensions; to a declining industry (it only represents a smaller share of its GDP than Spain or Italy); to a financial situation that is more catastrophic than ever (with deficits in foreign trade and payments that have become structural); to the point where, without the protection of the euro, France would be in the same situation as Argentina, as we will soon see with the downgrading of its rating.
Europe is also in denial, faced with the US military takeover of Germany (which buys all its weapons from the US, while refusing to make any serious progress towards the constitution of a European defence), and of Eastern Europe (which welcomes American troops on its soil, without even respecting the formalism required by the existing treaties), and faced with the economic takeover of China, whose cheap products are increasingly imposing themselves on European consumers who are concerned above all with their purchasing power.
The democratic world is also in denial about the rise of dictatorships and their triumphalist alliances (of which Xi’s recent visit to Putin gave the world a sumptuous image, which will leave a lasting impression on people’s minds throughout the emerging world) and about the authoritarian temptations in its own midst; not only in Hungary, but also in Poland, Italy and the United States.
Finally, the whole planet is in denial about the ecological dangers: almost no one wants to listen when the IPCC says, once again, that to avoid a 1.5°C rise, we would have to halve the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions in seven years, which is obviously absolutely impossible; which means that we are rather on a trend leading to a 4-degree rise in a few decades; which implies that at least half of the planet would be unlivable, even though it will be more populated than ever. And not just half of India, China and Africa. But also half of the US and Europe.
These denials can be explained quite easily, all for the same reasons: too many people prefer an explanation of the world that does not require them to make any effort; or at least leads them to believe 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 are resigned to being militarily submissive to the Americans and economically submissive to the Chinese, and humans think that climate control is beyond their reach.
So we entrust the powerful 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 peoples of asking them to make efforts.
By doing so, the French debt will increase, Europe will fall apart, human rights will decline, the planet’s climate will deteriorate. Until rising interest rates make France insolvent, the euro is challenged, democracy gives way to dictatorship in the United States or in a major European country, and hundreds of millions of people migrate to escape climate change.
Denying reality is the best way to let the worst happen. Nothing is more urgent than to face up to the issues at stake. And to act.
Painting: Pieter Brueghel the Elder, The Parable of the Blind, 1568