Among the countless threats looming on the horizon, there is one that still seems remote today, yet is there for all to see: the great renunciation.

We are all, individually, confronted in our lives with circumstances in which renunciation is necessary. At some point, we have to give up being a child, then a teenager, then a young adult. All too often, we also have to give up a loved one who has passed away, a love, a friendship, a career, a position, an out-of-reach sporting or artistic performance, an unattainable ambition, life itself, when death approaches.

And yet, this renunciation is not always inevitable. We can try to stay young for a long time, and give ourselves the means to do so; a loved one is always there if we think of him or her; we don’t have to give up loving someone, even when the love is unrequited; a friendship can be won back if it’s lost on a misunderstanding, or if we decide to wipe the slate clean; nothing forces us to give up being ourselves and trying to obtain the position we think we deserve; and even when we’re only an amateur, we can, by dint of hard work, willpower, humility and high standards, go much further than we think, by running or jumping, walking, lifting weights, painting, sculpting, singing, playing a musical instrument, or even conducting orchestras.

The same applies to the life of societies. History is full of stories of social groups, cultures, cities, companies, nations, which let themselves go and disappeared, without even having apparently decided to do so.

That’s what threatens us today. We see people by the millions, if not billions, giving up on an ambition, a project, for themselves or their children. We see them giving in to drugs, alcohol and all forms of addiction, all of which are forms of renunciation. Others make do with what they have, or blame others for their disappointments. In so many countries, crushed by the dictatorship of political power or money, or more prosaically by a domestic dictatorship, we still see many people giving up the fight, trying to free themselves or remain free, or to obtain a fair share of the wealth produced. More specifically, we have seen so many people, in occupied countries or countries threatened with occupation, choose to collaborate with the enemy. More generally, many people have given up trying to choose their future.

This is understandable. Throughout history, these domestic, economic and political powers have been overwhelming, seemingly invincible.

Today, even more than ever, the threats are immense and many people think, or will think, that there’s no point in fighting against the forces of money, or those of arms. They might deduce that it’s better to shut oneself away to one’s own personal happiness, whether it’s made up of harmful products or simply a little secret garden to cultivate.

The sum of these small renunciations would lead to the big one. It’s not here yet, but I can feel it coming. The way too many people are about to resign themselves to the advent of authoritarian regimes in our neighboring countries or in our own, to the abandonment of serious climate objectives, to healthy food for all, to quality education for all.

If we all let go, it would be the end of what humanity has taken so long to build; for nothing of importance has been built without opposing, in one way or another, a renunciation; without revolting against a certain misfortune; without standing up to conquer a supposedly inaccessible right. And tomorrow, an obscure world is not certain.

Today, there are a thousand examples of a refusal to give up. I’ll cite just one of the thousands that come to mind: that of the Iranian women who, despite all the threats, suffering, rape and torture, are not giving up on doing everything they can to ensure that their immense country, with its extraordinary multi-millennial civilization, emerges from the nightmare into which it has been plunged for so long.

But in order not to give up, individually and collectively, we have to overcome our own worst enemy: fear. Only those who love life deeply are prepared to risk it to make it beautiful.

Image: Pexels.