Jeremy Clarke Jeremy Clarke

What angry young French men want

As I bought the drinks, Didier told me that voluntary euthanasia was in and casino capitalism out

[PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP via Getty Images]

Chatting on the café terrace with my new friends Didier and Emile made me aware that certain political ideas, which before the Covid-19 pandemic I had comfortably assumed belonged on the wilder shores of political discourse, are now mainstream among the under thirties. I felt a little envy, perhaps, for Didier’s undoubting conviction that questions of equality, gender, race and white supremacy were the ultimate verities for humankind. But a single word often betrays a great design, and his supplementary advocation of voluntary euthanasia for the chronically sick and elderly indicated all too clearly in which direction his ideal post-Covid society would be headed. Also, it seemed to me that beautiful and profound though his ideals were, Didier wasn’t a real person in touch with realities. Though, if I am to be thoroughly objective about it, neither am I.

Real or unreal, however, a young person’s friendly but not unselfish interest in me flattered me. And besides, the alcohol was beginning to effect its usual transformational magic. Behind the disaffected and aggressive persona I saw a trusting, thwarted heart. Here he was, recently grown from a child into a man. He had stood on the threshold of society and yelled: ‘Here I am! I’m willing to believe! Where do I sign?’ And society had ignored him. This had happened to me also. Without that necessary stroke of luck to give you a leg up, one can become embittered. Especially if those ignoring you appear to possess neither strength nor merit.

Didier and his friend Emile were skint. I was buying. Didier was the poor young intellectual Turk; the repository of all knowledge, in fact. Emile was saved from insignificance only by his bulk. Unlike Didier, however, Emile wore his accretions of despair and destitution lightly.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in