A victory in any war will be pyrrhic if the winning country or society does not come out of it more united and more shaped by the experience. Such a triumph would be of little use if the vast majority of its citizens did not share their suffering and, above all, did not jointly internalise the icy sacrifice of those who died. Putting the objective of collective victory before any other consideration was what the President of the French Republic, Emmamuel Macron, put on the personal and general horizon of all his fellow citizens in his third radio and television address since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Macron was less epic than on other occasions and much more inclusive, although as commander-in-chief he drew a horizon of hope as well as a programme of operations for what is supposed to be a new and decisive phase of the war against COVID-19.
Before the outbreak of the pandemic, the French president had failed to imbue the millions of French people whose unrest and protests were expressed week after week through the self-described “yellow vests” with such hope. The fact that the demonstrations and riots were less numerous than eighteen months ago, and even languished from week to week, did not detract from the obvious discontent of the many layers of society who said they were fasting for the future.
The much-needed structural reforms that France needs, especially of its pension system, which is full of privileges and exceptions, have been put on hold. It is therefore urgent to win the war, and this is the main objective that Macron has set for his compatriots. And, no doubt well advised, among others, by his predecessors in office, he has acknowledged mistakes and unforeseen events without blaming the cobbler.
With the solemnity that characterises the speeches of a head of state, who also holds executive power in his case, Macron has outlined the main guidelines of the change that will take place in the post-war period, from the re-industrialisation of the country, which like so many others had left in China's hands "the factory" of products that have now proved to be strategic, to the joint strengthening of a European Union, which not a few haruspices are preparing to put an end to.
France itself is preparing to seize this opportunity to unite a country that was breaking down at many of its seams, starting with division and even antagonism with the French of Arab origin and the resurgence of an explosive anti-Semitism, and including citizens from sub-Saharan or Creole cultures. Not few of these find serious difficulties in burying or repatriating those killed by the coronavirus to their countries of origin.
In short, Macron is aware of the opportunity that history is offering him to rebuild the unity and greatness of France, without forgetting either that this time that horizon will not be separated from the rest of the EU, whose hypothetical failure would be a decisive collective defeat.
In addition to the French, Macron should then persuade the other members of the EU of the need to act together and not in a dispersed order. This is not the time to invent stories, which the current reality will soon debunk, but to act, bringing together the vast majority of citizens, regardless of their ideology and social status. Nor is it time to devalue such epic concepts as heroism. Heroes are those who give their lives saving many through acts as risky as they are decisive. Macron has not, therefore, fallen into the corny habit of calling heroes those who are bored sitting on their sofas, surrounded by the whole panoply of technology.
“We will never win alone”, proclaimed the French President in defence of that Europe whose citizens need to finally feel part of the winning side. Citizens who, as in every post-war period, can then tell each other about their common experiences, their little battles, in short, those on which the future was built and which have become the present, even if they become the repetitive stories of those who, with all the glory they deserve, will move on to the immortal category of ex-combatants.