Saturday, 12 May 2012

the boomer President

Only a few months ago I was having a conversation with someone in which I remember saying that the baby boomers - my generation - have had their day in the sun, they have been n political power and are now out of it, the world's leaders are a new generation.  I was thinking of Tony Blair and Bill Clinton now out of power, and of Obama, Cameron and Clegg, all born in the 1960s, but I wasn't right.  Francois Hollande, the new President of France (technically not yet, as the investiture has not yet happened) is my age.  There have been a number of programmes about him, his family and his political career so far, as you might expect, given that he is France's second Socialist president ever and the first one was Francois Mitterrand, whose shoes cannot be filled by anyone alive.  And of course pictures of a young Hollande, the clothes, the hair, all that, remind me of my youth.  Though Hollande was too serious and too political even in his teens to have been in any way counter-cultural (as we used to call it then) or cutting-edge (as we didn't).  But none the less, we are talkin' 'bout my generation.  Here, and not only here, the boomers are giving something back.  Because that's what we wanted.  We didn't want to tear down the society we lived in, despite what the older generation said, we wanted to improve it.  That's why we didn't do much in the way of creating paintings and symphonies, we were more of an activist generation.  The Beatles were the soundtrack of our youth, but they were older than us, war babies.  The visual artists shaking things up in the 21st century are younger than us.  Writers, yes, there are some.  William Boyd (whose latest, Waiting for Sunrise, is unopened on my table in hardback, a pleasure to come) and Hilary Mantel (whose latest, Bring Up The Bodies, currently has me in thrall to my Kindle) were both born in 1952.  Ian McEwan and Martin Amis were both born in 1949.  So those are all boomers.  But you don't find out much about how our generation grew up from any of their books.  Interesting that you don't.  What they all do is tell stories, mostly from other times and other places.

The surname Hollande comes from how those Protestants fleeing religious persecution in the Low Countries, then under Spanish rule, were dubbed by the locals in northern France, where some of them found refuge.  So Hollande may well have Protestant heritage.  This would be most unusual for a French President.  It would be most unusual for a French person outside this part of France, which anyway has been German in living memory. Although I suspect Hollande is an entirely secular individual, and the question does not arise.  His predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, has Hungarian Jewish antecedents, and that was never really an issue, despite the terrible history of Jews in France in the twentieth century.

It's too soon to say what Francois Hollande will do.  I fear for the international future - I cannot see him providing the kind of leadership Sarkozy did in the Arab Spring, but I hope I am wrong.  He is going to reduce France's dependence on nuclear power, he says.  Wrong.  And the unionised workers at the Fessenheim power station not far from here will not like it one bit when he closes them down.  His government will be formed next week, and will probably include at least two Greens (those Greens are not a bit high-minded, you should see them treading on each other's heads in the hope of a ministerial post) which will tie his hands a bit.  Parliamentary elections take place next month, and in some places the Parti Socialiste is trying to kick out PS incumbents or selected candidates to make way for Greens.  With predictable and messy results.  This is happening here in Strasbourg too.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, the left candidate for the presidency, is to stand against Marine Le Pen of the Front National in Pas de Calais in the north.  Should be fun.  What's going to happen there?


Anonymous said...

He is 57 - the same age as me. I dont' really feel like a Boomer. I think that they are really 1946 - 52 - ish. I do not identify with Bill Clinton or Hillary ( too old) - although not much - but still, too old.

Neither do I really identify with the 1960s because I was too young then. I identify with the 1970s. Great decade.

Sarkozy is also 57.

Good for him and Hollande.

Ed Miliband is too young. So are some others. Hillary Benn should be the Leader of the Labour Party. He is 57.


Jane Griffiths said...

well, we were young and, perhaps, beautiful, in the 1970s, but what formed us?

Anonymous said...

NOT being war babies - or really close to the war. I felt as if WW2 was as far away from me as the 7 Years' war.

And so did all my friends.
Husband was born in 1947. He is a war baby. Other husband was born in 1949. So was he. They both liked to read about Hitler and WW2 things, despite being polar opposites. I was formed by the Labour Leadership election of 1963Things were never the same again. So I was formed by Harold Wilson, really. And all that lot. They were all very glamorous and they did not wear plus fours and Harold Wilson cavorted in the Post Office Tower revolving restaurant , having breakfast with a juvenile David Frost and also the Beatles - and wore a trendy short raincoat rather than a heavy 1950s homburgish coat. And Tony Benn was a young, bouncy, media friendly Tiggerish sort of person - and Barbara Castle was a red-haired sexpot. It was all years away from the staid old Tories. And then there was Vietnam. And I was about 13 or so. Formative. Not war. Not at all boomer. I don't think I have ever boomed at all. And Hillary Clinton looks like a very old boomer indeed. AND I DO NOT WANT TO BE A BOOMER AND I AM NOT ONE.

Anonymous said...

Watch 'Smashing Time' with Rita Tushingham, Lynne Redgrave and Michael York. Rita Tushingham wears an amazing Victorian nightie and little lace up bootees. And it all comes to a climax in the revolving restaurant when Lynne Redgrave gets pushed into a giant birthday cake. It says everything that needs to be said about not being a Boomer. And Lynne Redgrave who is fat and not the one that Maichael York wants to get off with - ( he goes for the ethereal Tushingham) says that everything is 'Dead pacey'. Bliss.