Last week, we cited the famous Letter from Clara to President Hollande of France. Below, we have obtained an English translation, so you can enjoy the letter in its entirety. This appeared in Le Point magazine earlier this month. If your French is up to it, you might also enjoy reading the comments.
Monsieur le Président de la République,
First, let me introduce myself: Clara G., 20, sophomore in History at Sorbonne University. I am writing to explain why I would like to make my life elsewhere than in France – like the majority of young French people, if you believe the results of a survey done by Via Voice in April. To the question, “if you could, would you like to leave France to live in another country?” 50% of those aged 18-24 and 51% of those 25-34 said yes, versus 22% of those over 65.
You see, times have changed. My grandparents of 1968 wanted a revolution; I want expatriation. My grandparents, who have a nice retirement cottage in the country, dreamt of transforming French society. I think only of escape.
This may shock you, but my reasons are financial. Not like Jerome Cahuzac, I assure you, but simply because I don’t feel like working my whole life just to pay the interest on 1.9 billion Euros of debt that your generation has kindly left us as our inheritance. If you had invested a little of this money in improving the country, so that I might have some chance of enjoying the benefits, then I would not mind paying it back. But it has only permitted your generation to live above your means, enjoying generous social benefits that won’t be there for me. It gave you a life I would call “cushy,” but I guess that word offends you.
My work and my taxes must go not only to pay for your retirement, which you did not bother to plan, but also for the health and welfare of additional old people who, in less than twenty years, will make up the majority in our country. So, how much money will be left for me to raise my children? I recently read a study by the economist Patrick Artus, which gave me chill, “given the weak growth potential and the aging population, young French people can look forward to continued stagnation of their purchasing power throughout their working lives.” I am not overjoyed by this prospect.
But the most depressing part is, I know exactly what will become of my life, if I stay in France. Once my studies are over and I have my lovely, useless diploma, I will spend years in the ranks of internships and temp jobs. I will become, as the experts say, a “variable expense” in the sort of work deliberately organized to exclude young people and protect the salaries of those already in place. With my tiny, precarious job and bad pay, it will be impossible for me to convince any banker to give me a loan for an apartment in Paris. And if ever, by some improbable miracle, I manage to make a lot of money, I know in advance that I will not only have to give up most of it in taxes, but I will also endure the general reproach of my compatriots and your personal contempt.
This is why, Mr. President, I wish to leave France. This is also why your charming Minister of the Interior, Manuel Valls, should be less concerned about the dangers of immigration, and more about the emigration of the youth of the country. Where will I go? To Germany perhaps, of which you often speak ill, but which strikes me as a country with self confidence. Or maybe farther, to Canada, Australia. Or maybe to a developing country. In Africa, why not ?
Thus – as indicated by the Via Voice survey – I am like all young French people. I do not see globalization as a threat, but as an opportunity. But it is surely not in a France which does everything for its own protection, where your ministers and socialist comrades spend your time saying it is absolute evil, that I will be able to profit from it. So, yes, I am ready to go live in a country where there is growth, where salaries are rising, where to be rich is not considered a mortal sin, a country above all where there is a sense both individual and collective that things will be better tomorrow than today.
You may say that I am lacking a basic sense of national solidarity, that I am frightfully materialistic and self centered. There is some truth in that. But my selfishness is nothing compared to the egotism shown by you and your predecessors, who have sacrificed our generation by wasting public money instead of taking the difficult decisions.
All the same, Mr. Hollande, I say that you will indeed “shake things up,” that you will give some hope to a youth that cannot do without it. I see today that, despite your grand fiery speeches about youth, in one year France has aged ten. She withers, freezes, and stiffens at full speed. What a pity!
That’s what I have to say to you, Mister President, the unhappy citizen who wants to be an expatriate.