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  • Writer's picturegabriellehalpern

Jean Jaurès Foundation note: "For a true generational hybridisation!"

Note by the philosopher Gabrielle Halpern published by the Jean Jaurès Foundation

Do you know how to say "retirement" in Spanish? Jubilacion"! A word whose Latin etymology tells us that it is a "song of joy". It has nothing to do with our French word "retraite", which the fierce Latin etymology associates with the action of "withdrawing". But how can we accept that this is the term that expresses our vision of the role and place of a growing proportion of our population? This idea of withdrawal is terrible - the expression "retirement homes" is so appalling that it's crazy that we even had the idea of calling them by that name. The cold, impersonal acronym "EHPAD" doesn't help. Why do we "remove" these generations from our society? Why do we talk all day long about inclusion, social diversity - when very often, unfortunately, what is done in this sense is more like "social juxtaposition", i.e. individuals coexist but never meet - and do we find it so difficult to embrace the elderly in our society? When will we finally take the great challenge of generational hybridisation seriously [1]?

All day long we hear about the ecological transition and the digital transition, while one transition is fast approaching in our blind spot: the demographic transition, with the ageing of the population. In 2060, one third of the population of France will be over 60 [2]. We’re facing a real revolution and yet nobody is talking about it. There is a deathly silence from politicians and their electoral programmes or action plans, and inaction from the economic world, which prefers to put the subject in a ready-made "silver economy" box. It’s treated as if it were a specific sector of activity that only concerned a few companies - whereas this demographic transition concerns all companies and all sectors, as well as all public policies, without exception [3]. In companies, there are departments in charge of the digital transition, and others in charge of sustainable development, but no thought has been given to the demographic transition. Yet we should ask ourselves what an intergenerational company could be like... And an intergenerational society? Urban planning, public services, products, real estate, work, leisure, mobility and even uses - everything needs to be rethought, everything needs to be reinvented, because the demographic transition [4] is going to dramatically change our society.

However, we are spoken to with the terms "generation", "old age", "seniors"; there are "the old" and there are "the young". This gives the illusion that, in the end, there are some on one side and others on the other. In the political programmes of candidates for local and national elections, there are election segments with measures for the elderly and others for the young. This is a form of political marketing, which leads to public marketing, with categorical public policies, splitting the whole nation into several pieces. By constantly categorising populations, public and private decision-makers create divides between generations and lead to a society of silos. Let's stop with the boxes! It's disturbing, when we reread Jean Jaurès' speech to young people, to note that he addresses words to them that we would think were intended for everyone, including old people! Isn't this paradoxical? No, and if it were perceived as such, it would be terribly sad! Jaurès goes from the particular to the general, from the singular to the universal, from identity to otherness, and this is perhaps the true role of politics. We need a hybrid public policy, not only for the "old age", but for generational hybridity!

[1] Gabrielle Halpern, Tous centaures! Eloge de l'hybridation, Le Pommier, 2020.





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