According to the Global Barometer of Hope and Despair for 2011 life is looking grim for many Europeans but the French are the most pessimistic.
Iceland was the second most pessimistic followed by Romania, Serbia and the UK in joint third place (some people say the French have always been a melancholic race but we seem to have followed them since our latest recession).
Pascal Bruckner, a philosopher, was quoted in the Times as saying that France had a tradition of self-flagellation but was concerned that; ” the better we live, the more we complain” and that France was wallowing in “le miserabilisme”. A French newspaper, La Croix, said that; “The French are the European champions of the bad mood”.
The most optimistic countries were Nigeria, Vietnam, Brazil, Ghana, and China.
The survey asked a sample of 64,00 from all social groups in 53 countries, whether they felt optimistic or pessimistic about 2011. The percentage of optimists and pessimists were then subtracted from each other to show whether that country was hopeful or pessimistic. Globally 30% expect 2011 to be a year of prosperity and 28% expect it to be a year of economic difficulty – so the net Global Hope score is 2%. But of the 53 countries only 19 can be classified as hopeful whilst the rest are pessimistic.
Global hope is highly concentrated among the rising economic powers of Brazil, Russia, India, and China (the BRIC countries) which have a Hope score of 35%. In sharp contrast the score for the rich countries of the world known as the G7 (USA, Canada, Germany, France, UK, Italy, and Japan) is a negative score of -17%.
The survey also looked at per capita income in each country and found that most of the countries high on income were low on hope and the most hopeful countries were those lowest in income. But 20 of the 53 countries fall into the category of both low income and low hope. These countries include many of the former soviet republics such as Ukraine, Latvia, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, and Lithuania, as well as Egypt, Turkey and Bosnia
By contrast there is a small group of countries which had both a high per capita income and a high hope score. These were Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Switzerland.
These countries have been in the limelight before. Finland has been judged the best country in the world, followed by Switzerland and Sweden, and one of the top countries people would like to live in, along with Sweden and Denmark. It’s scandinavian neighbour Denmark has been judged to have the most satisfied populace, followed by Switzerland and with Finland and Sweden both not far behind. There is definitely something to be said about these Nordic countries but Norway must feel left out.
Updated 30 January 2011: To add to France’s woes President Sarcozy is proposing that French schoolchildren are taught English from an early age! The President is well-known for his love of Anglo-saxon culture and now wants to teach the “language of Shakespeare” to toddlers.
Right wing intellectuals are up in arms reminding everyone that de Gaulle never spoke a word of English in public (but we know what an ungrateful so-and-so he was) and that another former President, Jacques Chirac (currently in a spot of trouble with the law), walked out of a meeting being addressed by a Frenchman in English. They see language as an agent of domination
The English language borrows from the French (usually courtesy of 1066) but the French don’t generally reciprocate. “Le weekend” is about the extent of it apart from internet language and air traffic control. The government is proposing that children start learning at 3 years of age – rather than at seven as at present – assisted by computers, and there should be student exchanges for older pupils. Some experts say that three is too young anyway and that children can’t learn a foreign language until they learn their own at age 5 or 6.
Others argue that standards in French have slipped and those should be improved before teaching English. The President himself has been criticised for his use of slang and vulgar expressions. The Academie Francaise has always resisted the spread of “franglais” and “globish” and insisted on French words such as “courier electronique” for e-mail.
Updated 21 February 2011: Good news at last for the French, or at least the French “baby boomers”. It seems they might have found the secret of beating old age and believe that senior years can bring joy and fulfilment rather than what Charles de Gaulle called a “shipwreck”.
There has been a backlash against jeunisme (youngism) led by psychotherapist Marie de Hennezel. Her best-selling book: “The Warmth of the Heart prevents your Body from Rusting” promotes staying healthy but embracing physical decline rather than resisting it. She says it means; “accepting age without becoming old”.
She is a government adviser on end-of-life policies and finds that although quality of life allows people to live longer, old people are hidden from site and France has one of the highest suicide rates in the world for the elderly.
As you might expect from the French, the need to continue to delight in sex is an important part of this new philosophy and Hennezel says; “it just gets more beautiful and lasts longer as you get older“.
And older women are revered on French TV (the top rated newscaster is a 56 year old woman) and many foreign stars like Sharon Stone and Kristin Scott Thomas have resurrected their careers in sexy roles in French cinema.
So for baby boomers follow the French way: accept your age but enjoy the sex!
Updated 28 February 2011: I never thought I would say this but after the last update and the latest news from France – I am getting to like the French (except for Arsene the Winger)!
The news is that part of the planning to reduce the 9.3% unemployment rate is to offer free hairdos, manicures and makeovers to female jobseekers. Action Relooking is an initiative open to a dozen women every month from the 1.5 M who have been out of work for more than a year. OK it would take over 10,000 years to clear the backlog but it’s a start.
Pole Emploi, the national employment agency, has been accused of sexism by feminist groups because it hasn’t offered the same service to men. In the politically correct UK of course it would never have got off the ground in the first place unless men were offered the same treatment.
The French Prime Minister’s wife is backing the scheme and those who have been the lucky recipients say it has boosted their morale in difficult times and given them confidence when they attend interviews knowing that first impressions are important.
Others are less convinced. A union activist said it was a “get pretty and go to work philosophy” and feminist websites are saying that makeup and fashionable clothes will only be good for bosses who are predominantly male.
Updated 2 May 2011: You have to feel sorry for the French riot police, the CRS. They’ve been told they can no longer have a glass of wine with their lunch when on duty!
The police union aren’t happy about this attack on a Gallic tradition of having a 1/4 litre of red with their meals. The union is suggesting a very French compromise – having their meals and drink out of sight of the public. Other police departments are watching with more than interest as they fear the same rule will be applied to them.
French employment law prohibits alcohol in the workplace with the exception of, wine, beer, apple or pear cider (so now you know the French definition of alcohol) and police regulations forbid drinking altogether but this has always been officially ignored (and you have to admire the French for their willingness to ignore rules and regulations).
The CRS spend most of their time waiting to deal with riots and see the wine as a convivial tradition. Unfortunately last year riot police were seen drinking beer during demonstrations they were supposed to be policing.