The generation that ruled our countries from the 1970s until today left behind a heap of financial, social and environmental debt.
François de Closets is the one who introduced scientific and economic journalism to French television in the mid-1960s. He is also a prolific writer whose essay Always more! , published in 1982 (by Grasset), was a real social phenomenon. He then denounced the corporatism that was undermining the French economy.
François de Closets is the one who introduced scientific and economic journalism to French television in the mid-1960s. He is also a prolific writer whose essay Always more! , published in 1982 (by Grasset), was a real social phenomenon. He then denounced the corporatism that was undermining the French economy. The essayist and journalist, still all fired up at 88, returns to us with a new book
, in which he condemns this time the irresponsibility of the generation that has been in charge for the past 50 years. TRENDS-TRENDS. Is “La parenthèse boomers” the continuation, 40 years later, of “Always more!”? FRANÇOIS DE CLOSETS.Always more! dealt with the privileges of corporations. The boomers parenthesis deals with the privileges of a generation. Always more! aroused strong reactions. And the reactions are quite comparable today on this book which denounces the selfishness of a generation. When I say that the average purchasing power of retirees is greater than that of young people, this does not hide the fact that there are small pensions at less than 1,000 euros per month which are scandalous. But it does not prevent. There is indeed a behavior, a policy and a generational thought, which however we never bring into play. Because the generation is a nebula, without political organization, without a spokesperson. Why is this generational spirit more pronounced today? Generations had little impact when you lived in a society where people recognized themselves in their homeland, their social category, their religion… Today, homeland and religion no longer count and social background much less. People no longer have any benchmarks, except for being the same age. In the last presidential elections in France, the votes were generational: the young people voted Mélenchon, the older Macron. And the gap between generations is widening? The generation that came to power in the 1970s was the boomer generation. Their parents straightened out the country after the war. They are born into a peaceful world, with growth and still little unemployment. An easy world where the threats that weighed in the inter-war period have disappeared. The situation of a country like France was then exceptional, financially, industrially and demographically. This generation benefited from the four “Ps”: peace, prosperity, progress, full employment. You can’t blame a generation for having been lucky…No. But what characterizes this generation is its notion of freedom. The civic freedom of the Athenians was accompanied by duties. It was first to buy his hoplite equipment to be ready to defend the city. Individual freedom, on the contrary, results in the city being considered at the service of the individual to protect and ensure his freedom. It no longer includes any requirements, only rights. The human condition is then defined as a set of rights (right to peace, consumption, work, etc.) making it possible to ensure multiple freedoms. We saw it with the covid. The idea of making vaccination compulsory was rejected. However, vaccination against smallpox was made compulsory in France as early as 1902! But the right to refuse vaccination has been made the most important of human rights. We have shifted from civic freedom to individual freedom. That’s where it all started. This individualistic ideology has transformed citizens into customers of a comprehensive insurance company called the state. But no democracy can sustainably live on individual freedom alone. Why do you say “parenthesis”? I had this idea when the covid arrived. A parenthesis only exists once closed. And today, it closes. The tragedy of history returns, with the epidemic, then the war. So we can’t blame a generation for having experienced incredible luck. But there is a duty of parents to prepare the future of their children. There is a duty of generations to facilitate this metabolism which passes from one generation to another. However, the boomers have squandered the inheritance. They put on the back of future generations trillions of debts, financial, but also environmental, social… How not to vomit the generation that did this? When was the fault? The break came in 1973 with the first oil shock. Concretely, the French had to pay more for oil. For a country that was heading for 5% annual growth, it was not unbearable. But then-president Georges Pompidou was obsessed with 1968 and didn’t want to “fuck the French” (sic). Who was going to pay? Businesses. They raised salaries and paid more for energy. But when that was no longer enough, the public deficit took over. A shameful deficit at first, then triumphant: it was thought that the deficit would ultimately increase revenue. We still think so today…Yes. Today, we still pass the energy bill on to our children. And it is very funny to see Jean-Luc Mélenchon presenting his program: he takes 250 billion with his right hand, which he puts in the system and at the exit we recover 267 billion. In the middle, there’s like an alchemist’s athanor that turns debt into revenue! Jean-Luc Mélenchon reassures by saying that if France is in default of payment, it does not matter: the bankers will see their money disappear and the people will see their debts disappear. But it’s exactly the opposite: the banks will have put their money abroad and the people will go from poverty to misery! Your book is not only critical. You propose solutions…Underlying these problems is a phenomenon that no other society has experienced: aging. Old age practically did not exist in 1945: when our social system was set up, life expectancy was between 60 and 65 years. Retirement at age 65 was calculated so that it was not paid. But after childhood, adolescence and active life, we will see the creation of two additional lives. The first is the life of seniors, between 65 and 80 years old. The senior, if he has not been worn out by his work, has 15 or 20 years of life without any particular handicap ahead of him. Then there is old age; those over 80. And that is the break. Why? They are two very different ages. For seniors, the problem is strictly monetary. We have to give them a pension. But for people in their 90s, giving money is not enough. We must assist them. When the boomers came to power, they built an ideal senior age that they started in France at 60. And they put that on their children, the assets. But this burden is becoming heavier and heavier. And we see the wave of octogenarians and nonagenarians arriving, which poses a completely different problem. Studies show that loneliness is the black hole of old age, which accelerates all the intellectual and physical infirmities of age. The isolated old man ages badly intellectually, psychologically and physically. And it is very expensive for society. What do you propose? I was inspired by the work of leading teams on these longevity issues and countries that, like Denmark, are solving these issues. We cannot solve this problem solely on the basis of our liberal individualistic society. In France alone, to ensure the care of our elders, it will take a million people. You won’t find the money or the people. At the same time, it is not normal for 60-year-olds who are about to retire to enjoy a standard of living which, statistically, is higher than those who work. We could therefore ask these seniors to take care of people of old age since this senior generation has more than abused it. How to involve them? Seniors must ensure a permanence with the older ones. We must organize ourselves at the municipal level to identify people who need services and ensure that they will be visited every day, that we will go to their homes not only to treat them but to see them and maintain real relations with they. We must also learn about old age. We have in France 10 years of life expectancy in good health less than the Scandinavians. Why? Because we don’t know how to grow old. There is a set of rules to learn. Then you have to make choices: do you want to continue working until you are 65-70? This assumes that the company adapts. Today, the company anticipates the fact that employees leave after 55 years and it no longer deals with it. Another option: I want to stop at 60. So you would have an activity that is neither work nor volunteering but which would be similar to that of volunteer firefighters, who are available and come to help the professionals. In the same way, you will learn how to behave appropriately with the elderly, observe the symptoms and participate in an organization that, at the municipal level, will monitor all the elderly. In return for this, you will receive your pension. If you don’t want this social obligation, you will have a smaller pension. This is the scheme that would allow us to have happier old people and to be able to pay for old age. In Denmark, the country that pushes the concern of old age the furthest, you will see that the elderly are happier and that the system is financially balanced.