Shiny happy people?

This REM song was a big hit when I was a teenager. It paced my way to school, and tended to upbeat my daily life. But nowadays I often wonder where this enthusiasm is gone.

Bless Unhappiness.

In the late 90s, after France won the World Cup, there has been a very positive trend in my country. People were confident, social and racial disparities were lowered, the economy boosted by the rise of Internet was favourable, the country's mood at its best... But unfortunately, for a few years now, there has been a clear backlash. Moral is now down. And this can be felt pretty much everywhere.

Advertising, as a mirror of the society, has obviously captured this trend. This campaign for Ikea by Paris-based creative hotshop, La Chose, is quite explanatory of this phenomenon even if it makes fun of it with its election-like tone of voice:

Film 1: "Today the French don't debate anymore, neither do they exchange ideas. Families stopped talking to each other. Generations don't understand each other... We must reengage the dialog. Therefore France needs places to meet up, France needs personalised and user-friendly kitchens. So with Ikea say Yes to change, vote Ikea"

Film 2: "Today France is reluctant, France does not move forward, France lacks of energy. France is fed up, and yes France is grumbling, France is tired... It needs to wake up, but to proceed it must first sleep well. It needs comfortable and well-conceived bedrooms. So with Ikea say Yes to a dynamic France, vote Ikea".

Interesting enough, the way advertising plays on the current crisis is completely different to how it tackled the late 70s'. Back then, France was in a poor condition due to the petrol embargo which endangered the entire economy. But one advert called for the revolt, and its line remains anchored in the collective unconsciousness even nowadays: "In France we don't have oil, but we have ideas". Slightly patronizing I reckon, but drastically different to the current communications... A hail to hope, uplift, and positive attitude towards adversity.

Spleen and Ideal.

But it goes beyond advertising. Let's have a look at music. The French musical scene has been recently taken over by artists who are probably greater Prozac advocates than crowd entertainers. Think of Vincent Delerm, of Benjamin Violay, of Carla Bruni (to be heard here)... Great texts, but what a mood!

It is like we were back to Baudelaire's time when The Ugly was Beautiful and Melancholy a highly-rated art de vivre. And as a matter of fact, one of the most acclaimed art exhibition in 2006 in France was dedicated Mélancolie.

Ron Mueck's over-realistic sculpture of human beings... A high time in Melancholy exhibition.

Greater Britain?

Since I moved to the UK, I have paid strong attention my host mood. I was wondering whether they would share this disenchantment with us. And they are... On December 31st, the Sunday Times published a YouGov poll on Britons' prospect in life. And the results have been introduced by the title: "Britons happier, but not with Britain". And this had nothing to do with their heavy defeat against Australia in The Ashes, it is a deeper situation:

Although people appear to be satisfied with their personal well being, they seem thoroughly fed up with rudeness, bad language and loutish behaviour, which they claim have contributed to Britain's decline over the past five years.

This survey revealed that 55% of the population considered having had a bad year in 2006...

The fear of change.

And the results of this trend seem to be embodied in the loss of a proper cultural identity. Sounds familiar to the French readers of this post? Well it is. The questions raised about society evolutions are always accompanied with reluctance and doubts. Will we lose our identity? Will I have my place in the new environment?

But change is good. It's like fresh air, it allows expanding your perspectives as long as you are ready to accept and maybe leverage them.

So my dear fellows. Cheer up...

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