22. sept., 2020

The Resigned-Claimants

"In spite of these disasters on our doorstep, and in spite of the growing impotence of the states, politicians continue to act as if everything depends on them; they persist in campaigning on programs and promises; committing themselves, if elected or if they take power, to improve the environment, reduce inequalities, create jobs, restore growth, distribute allowances, posts, subsidies, tax deductions.

Refusing to see the end of a world coming, most citizens - not only in Western countries - continue to pretend to believe them, expecting everything from them, demanding priorities, exemptions and benefits. When they are disappointed by one party, they run to another before that party, and then another, increasingly extreme party, disappoints them in turn.

In fact, since the dawn of time, every society (religious or secular), every power (that of the fathers, priests, generals, lords, masters, elected officials, the State), has done everything possible to ensure that every person under their authority has a bad image of himself; so that everyone feels dependent, from the cradle to the cemetery; so that everyone is put in a situation where they do not have the desire or the audacity to fend for themselves; so that everyone is at once resigned to their destiny and demands a better one. (…)

In democracies, citizens watch stock market prices and economic indicators determine growth and employment; they accept themselves as powerless, out-of-date; they know they are incapable of taking their condition in hand, of changing it in any way, of choosing their life. They demand security from the State (i.e., defense, police, health, jobs that require training), demanding the best services for the lowest price; the most public spending with the least taxes; they are selfish consumers of public services that they themselves no longer think of giving to others. (…)

I call these people - the vast majority, and not only in democracies - the "resigned-claimants". Resigned to not choosing their lives; demanding some compensation for their servitude.

Strange world: in seemingly more and more individualistic societies, fewer and fewer people realize their dreams, more and more accept to do nothing but claim the crumbs of an abundance. And when they think they are escaping from it, it is by the ersatz of distraction, of collecting, of DIY.

This is particularly the condition of citizens in so-called advanced democracies. This is, for many, the main criterion of their electoral choices. This is the explanation for the cowardice of politicians who no longer dare to undertake unpopular reforms and only add new promises to those they have been unable to keep. This is also the explanation of the ideological evolution of the world towards an ever more secure populism, more and more barricaded, where everyone prefers to fall back on illusory certainties: paternalistic and xenophobic totalitarianism corresponds to the future expectations of the "resigned-claimants".

But since, with the globalization of the market, states, even the most dirigiste and closed states, will be less and less capable of providing these protections, these security, nationalist and xenophobic populisms will also fail. The market will then take over even more to provide these insatiable consumers of security with more surveillance tools, more means of alienation, more instruments of resignation.

(Free translation from French language)

Devenir soi, p.31, Jaques Attali, 2014