The pension reform raised the question of work. The question of work raises the question of training. The question of training raises the question of demography. The question of demography raises the question of land use planning. Land use planning raises the issue of infrastructure. The question of infrastructure raises the question of investment. The question of investment raises the question of taxes and public expenditure, but also of debt, etc. In short, the pension reform embeds all the reforms. It raises the question of the spirit of reform.
But what this pension reform has shown is that the spirit of reform has become blurred in France, or rather completely frozen. The reform is no longer novelty, neither rupture nor adaptation. She is perpetuation. A reform, in France, is only acceptable if it is additional. It can only exist as an exact extension of these so-called “historic” reforms, which are as indisputable as they are inviolable. As the New Testament could only be conceived as the revelation and prolongation of the Old, the reform in France is tolerable only as a continuation of what has been sanctified in the past.
It is wrong to say that France is hostile to any reform. But of the reform, we have a very precise, and very finicky conception. We don’t like these sacrilegious adventurers who believe they are remaking in their own way what the centuries have woven thread by thread. We want evangelizers, but not innovators. Thus, any reform is scrutinized on the basis of its conformity with the existing corpus, like a new dogma which can only be ratified in a religion if it does not contradict the old dogmas. Reform in France is a matter of inquisitors and doctors, of canons and rules. Any candidate for reform must listen to them and respect them before allowing themselves to be intoxicated by a spirit of reform that would unfortunately be pragmatic, disruptive, realistic.
Nostalgia for times gone by
We all know the sacred articles of the Reform Codex. They compose the holy chapters which are the extension of public expenditure, the proliferation of state control and the gratuities offered to ever more numerous categories of the population, against a backdrop of imperious taxation. A reform that escapes the criteria of this canon is doomed to contestation and failure, or else to forced passage, which is always a capital sin. The President of the Republic affirming that he enjoys democratic support seems like Luther forgetting that his real judges were not the common people, but the prelates and doctors of the Church.
France is proud to be the country where the bitter breath of reforms that would strike the sacred edifice of social justice is not felt. We fiercely resist these external winds which claim to weaken our cults and undermine our idols. Putting the concern for the preservation of rituals and sacred texts before any consideration for the surrounding world, we have made once and for all the radical (and undoubtedly very honorable) choice to be the nation where social justice takes precedence over all another consideration, and is the object of a cult of which we flatter ourselves to be both the inventors and the promoters: who other than us, French, knew how to bring to the world the light of 1789 even in the villages remote from our African colonies?
Obviously, we were able to be these knights of social justice for a time, without renouncing to also be a great scientific, military, cultural and industrial nation. Those times are over, but our choice is made: we must remain the austere repository of the founding principles of the welfare state and the generosity of all with all, and ignore the birds of bad omen, the impious, the heretics, who brazenly recall that justice supposes a little prosperity all the same, the solidarity of misery not being a very promising program. It doesn’t matter that our gods eat their children, as long as the rule is safe. Thus, as time goes by, we will more and more resemble those little kingdoms far removed from the march of the world, where the most subtle ceremonials and the finest strengthen, to general satisfaction, the dogmas received from the ancestors. We are not against the reform, since we are the depositories of its ancient relics. We are the jealous guardians of a Grail – which no one, alas, is looking for.