Survey: Yes I am French and I was born pessimist

Article published on Jan. 10, 2011
Article published on Jan. 10, 2011
It's gruelling every time a holiday period winds down in Paris, capital of a country populated by the 'world champions of pessimisim'. Crestfallen faces enveloped in black coats on grey jumpers, the Parisians being carried away on the metro seem to have just been released from their hangover.
I am one of them, and proud of it, because when even if you're a champion of the most nauseating state of mind, you're still a champion! Right?

A columnist from the prestigious daily newspaper Le Monde prefers to underline our clarity behind the ambient gloominess, quoting Indian expert Gurdaran Das: 'Maybe your country seems more pessimist than others quite simply because the French mind is quicker at translating into words and thoughts the dysfunctions of the planet'. Infallible. When I make no effort to hide my Frenchness whilst on a recent reporting mission in Montenegro, I start pitying the workers who earn 400 euros a month or the Kosovan refugees who live in shanty towns. 'It's awful, how horrible, my God.' They look at me with forced smiles: the poor can't even imagine that I would pity their kind in their place. Would it be 'the French genius' as the quill of Le Monde puts it? What is funny in the Voice of the people BVA/Gallup survey on economic perspectives 2011, taken by 64, 203 people in 53 countries and published on 3 January, are the contrasts. Whilst the majority of people in Western Europe are pessimist about the coming year, the optimists are the majority in Africa, at 76%! While 2011 will be better according to 80% of Nigerians, only 3% of the French are of the same spirit.

The French are divided into three categories. There are those in denial, like the columnist Valeurs Actuelles, whose editorial The Major People (Un peuple majeur) confirms what Stéphane Hessel, author of successful book Be Indignant! (Indignez-vous!), precises on us Gaulois: the French 'have a very high opinion of themselves'. Others accept and are justifiably shocked by our lack of hope about the future, in the manner of Jean-Marie Colombani, former editor of Le Monde and co-founder of He calls upon the cowards to turn towards the America of Barack Obama, author of The Audacity of Hope (2006).

Let's make a smile at the supermarket till a constitutional law

Finally, there are the worst, the disillusioned humanists, those who are no longer even driven to despair by French pessimism and who prefer to exploit all of its dramatic potential. Who better than artists to show us our worst nature? Writers Michel Houellebecq and Virginie Despentes, winners of the Goncourt and the Renaudot literary prizes in 2010 respectively, envelope their works in a realistic and brilliant pessimism. Is it therefore thanks to their wisdom on our self-importance that we accept our fate and laugh at it? Let's burn their bestsellers and forbid darkness in favour of the light! Let's hang the boys of café bitter and Nicolas Hulot, who make us feel guilty about the state of the planet, let's make a smile at the supermarket till a constitutional law.....Ah, no, I forgot, revolution is an idea of the past here. Let's content ourselves then to look beyond our country’s borders before responding to surveys on the internet!

Image: (cc) By lobstar28/ Flickr