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Jacques Attali Headshot

Facing Flooding

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France is a strange country. She has known, for at least a thousand years, that she is a flood-prone country. She has experienced flooding many times in her history, sometimes in dramatic ways. Nevertheless, each time the threat has diminished, she has become complacent; she was no longer vigilant, and she did not prepare herself to face the floods once again, by acting on the most basic causes of the problem, which can be identified first and foremost as lying in poverty and ignorance.

By studying the history of France, we recognize that at least one out of every four of the country's total population, over the past thousand years, has been exposed to the risk of a flood. And that is still true today because this country fails to remember and is unaware of the pending danger. It is often taken aback when a major flood occurs. As it was, France was not as hard hit during the 20th century, compared to certain neighboring countries, and she forgot to be prepared and be ready to face these dangers.

Three lessons need to be learned from these experiences:

1/ It is through remembering the dramas lived that they can be avoided. It is through memory that threats are dealt with. How to convince those who have never faced such a peril of the danger? Where flooding has been unusually severe and violent in the past, people are better trained and prepared. Elsewhere, they say there is no risk, as they are driven by the illusion of safety.

2/ It is by creating appropriate conditions to avoid them that dangers can be averted most lastingly. The poorest people and the least well informed groups are the most at risk from flooding. Therefore we must begin by combating poverty and ignorance.

3/ We live in a world where short-lived, instant gratification and amnesia dominate. Nothing is more dangerous to a civilization, and to a democracy than not remembering what has been a threat to it, and what has been a protection for it.

Each community must train its agents on the dangers of flooding, in order to prepare for them. It must also develop a culture of risk, in the words of Serge Tisseron with his accurate use of the term « memory of disasters ». It must also adopt the right structural policies, in order to prevent this type of paroxysmal events of imbalance.

We will already have understood that this perspective remains valid, word for word, if the threat of water is replaced by that of, also timely, anti-Judaism, anti-Semitism and racism.

France is a strange country. She has known for at least a thousand years, that she can be covered by a tide of racism. She experienced this tide many times in her history, sometimes in dramatic ways. Nevertheless, each time the threat has diminished, she has become complacent; she was no longer vigilant, and she did not prepare herself to face it once again, by acting on the most basic causes of the problem, which can be identified first and foremost as lying in poverty and ignorance. Today, at least one out of every four of the country's total population, has foreign origins. And yet evil forces are at work once again to flood the country with their murderous mud. We can remove them only by vividly recalling the shameful events of the past, by keeping a vigilant watch with every resurgence, and by acting on the root causes of the problem which remain ignorance and poverty.