Place du Capitole was deserted in Toulouse (Haute-Garonne), October 17, 2020 (ADRIEN NOWAK / HANS LUCAS / AFP)

20 million French people have just spent their first evening under curfew. Everyone at home before 9 p.m. to fight the virus. Sociologist Jean Viard suggests that we do not take this event while waiting for it to end, but rather turn it into a life experience. A life constrained, which restricts our freedoms, but an apprenticeship.

franceinfo: Jean Viard, is this a major social fact?

Jean Viard: It is undoubtedly a major social fact. You have to tell the story of the curfew, it was in the Middle Ages, in wooden towns, to force people to close fires at 8 p.m., because otherwise the town would risk burning. And then, it became a political category in fact, with William the Conqueror, in 1048 to calm the Saxons. This model is used to calm societies down. And then, we all remember, of course, the curfew that the Nazis imposed on Paris in 1940, when they arrived, which only lasted two days, I believe, but which marked us a lot. We all saw pictures.

This is the start. It goes back to war. That is indisputable. But this time, it also refers to equality, because the big cities are treated the same way even though they have different disease rates. We are not in the error that had been made with Marseille, which had felt excluded when we can see today that it is the least ill, if we can say of all the metropolises, but I I would like to stress one thing.

It restricts our freedoms. And today, with the assassination of Samuel Paty, who taught freedom, we have to see that in our societies, freedom is what is most precious and must be defended. So, of course, I am in favor of agreeing to restrict it for the pandemic, but it has to be right. It has to be a fixed duration. You have to tell yourself that you get used to the lack of freedom, if you will. We are in great danger because we are caught in the opposite direction on two sides. On the one hand by the attacks, I was going to say fascinating against freedom, on the other hand by this pandemic. I think you have to have that in your head to respect it and make it an event.

Then we will say something else. The curfew is less serious than the great confinement. You have to keep this in mind though, because most of us don’t go out at night. And in addition, there is still only a third of the French who are affected. This is why public opinion strongly supports it. But it is true that there are two groups. First, the tourists have disappeared. For the tourist economy, it is a disaster. And then, of course, it’s a problem for people of culture, party people and students. So it’s true, including in neighborhoods in difficulty where the street at the end of the day is the space for young people to let off steam, because their house, they are often numerous, is small. There we have a real problem.

But I would still say two things, first let’s sing victory, I mean, we saved tens of millions of lives. This is what is happening. We always forget to say it. At the start of the pandemic, last March, it was compared to the Spanish flu. 50 million dead. We’re at 1 million. In France, we estimated at 300,000 dead, there are 30,000. So, if you will, we have gained lives. You have to tell yourself. Because otherwise, we no longer know why, deep down, we are going through such painful things. We are going through painful things because we have saved tens of millions of lives. I think it needs to be said all day.

Are there two France today, more than ever Jean Viard, that of the metropolitan areas under curfew and that of the countryside, one might say?

Yes, but it’s not that of the metropolises, since most people in the metropolises never go out at night. So that’s where I put it into perspective, and that’s also why we tell people you can go out to study, you can go out to work. You can go on weekends and on vacation. We are not completely locked up. But it is true that as regards the heart of cities, this vision yesterday of Paris or Marseille completely empty at 9 o’clock in the evening, that has something terrifying. Because the city is life, it’s meeting, that’s all that.

But I would say one thing: let’s try to tell ourselves, we don’t wait for it to be over, because we don’t know when it will be over. Let’s do something else. Look at how many people read, how many books we bought. We can no longer go to the theater, we will read a little more, we will return to the theater afterwards. Or we’ll go to the theater in the morning. Yes, that’s what you have to say to yourself. We are going through a parenthesis that we have to build on because otherwise we will wait – but maybe they won’t find a vaccine before I don’t know how long. It is important that everyone thinks about how I make this a forced learning, not a positive one, but it is a moment of experimentation.

Yes, maybe the students will drink a little less beer and work a little more, it will be less fun for them. They will catch up next year. No, but if you like, I don’t want to play the old man who gives advice, but I say: do not consider that we are waiting for the end. We live next to a pandemic and try to live as well as possible, to ask ourselves what can we invent to make it, let’s say, enriching.

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