What is “the meaning of our lives”?
It was interesting to listen to the President of France address the US Congress last week – mainly because it was likely the French President would speak of world issues (he could hardly talk about his own back home, or about America’s) but unlikely he’d have much in agreement with his state-visit host, President Trump.
President Macron is one of the “new generation” young-ish leaders across the world, and often speaks in the lingo of Zuckerberg and others, with his French accent. A feature interview in Wired magazine recently was all about France’s turn toward next-generation products and innovations – self-driving vehicles, AI & health services, etc. A senior spokesperson for Europe, Macron was unlikely to pretend he had no differences with Mr Trump.
Macron did not disappoint, in that respect, going on the offensive over global warming, trade protectionism, anti-immigration and nationalist politics. Although articulate, his issues were the obvious ones, grand ideas, all to the applause from congress-people who had just paused, it seems, in their wreaking havoc on the American economy, its educational system, and everything between.
That’s merely my view, I’m well aware, but I interject this question, which is not exclusively mine: why do politicians seem to speak only in platitudes and clichés? They have a big-tent theory, to include everyone? A don’t-rock-the-boat attitude? Don’t annoy any voters? I wanted to stand up and shout: what does all this blather really mean? What will you and your government actually do, and when? I was listening to the radio by myself, so it was easy to stand up and shout – softly.
Macron did mention a few specifics. He did predict the US will re-join the Paris Accords and be forced to open up to trade which benefits others as well as itself . . . pretty safe predictions. But on the subject of climate change, he didn’t argue specific positions but asked a very powerful ethical question: “What is the meaning of our lives if we (basically) make a mess of the planet and leave that destruction for our grandchildren?”
I’m a grandfather, and I did stand up when I heard that. This is as touching as news reports of the hockey youths killed, or people mowed down on a sidewalk in Toronto, because President Macron called on us to protect our grandchildren . . . our planet’s entire next generation . . . all the grandchildren and all the generations of the world. I was struck by the enormity of his challenge, but when I wondered what this means for us, right here, one answer came into my head:
What is the meaning of our lives here in the Outaouais if we leave a huge radioactive dump for our grandchildren, right on their water source, right in the route of their wind and fresh air?
What is the meaning of our lives today if the Chalk River dump is our legacy to our own children and grandchildren?