Reflection on Paul Nizan’s incipit: « I was 20 years old… »
I was 20 years old in this spring of 2020 and I was confined to Paris, like most of my friends. Confined to a student room with the garbage cans of the building across the street as a backdrop. Some would say that we were lucky enough to have all the means of communication that any man can dream of: TV, telephone, smartphone, computer, tablet and all the social networks possible and imaginable: FB, WTS, Vber, Instagram… We could watch for hours on end the news, measure in real time the failure of the world built by our parents and grandparents. Watching our screens to the point of nausea… We watched in amazement, in awe, behind our screens, the implementation of what Naomi Klein had called « the strategy of shock ». That is to say, a strategy, now well tried and tested by ultra-liberal governments, which consisted in passing the most iniquitous laws during these periods of shock such as tsunamis, pandemics, nuclear disasters and others… We were learning every day, along with the litany of the number of people who have died around the world, how to undermine the social gains so hard won by the generation of our great-grandparents.
I was 20 years old and had to finish nursing school at the end of the school year. I was 20 years old and until a few months ago, I dreamed of giving the best of myself to build a better world. I was 20 years old and had just received an e-mail on this sunny morning, asking me to support a team of nurses at Necker Hospital. I would receive in exchange for this service (which is compulsory by the way) the modest sum of 12€50 per day. I was 20 years old and I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t have enough to protect myself to provide care to the sick. I had learned this from the testimonies of the other carers. And yes, I was 20 years old, living in the 5th world power and my country was not even able to provide the minimum required to protect its caregivers. We didn’t have much perspective and we didn’t trust our leaders. They didn’t even dare to say that they hadn’t anticipated anything. Their speeches were very ambivalent: « Don’t go out or you’ll get a fine, but go to work and you’ll get a bonus. It’s just a flu but it’s very serious. Don’t put on a mask, leave it for the caregivers even if I’m wearing one… » I wondered what kind of world we could imagine for tomorrow while being so confined, watching our freedoms shrink like a skin of sorrow? I was 20 years old and like Paul Nizan, I will not let anyone say that this is the best age of life.