THE DOWNSIDE OF SOLIDARITY
by Virginia Postrel • Aug 25, 2003 at 2:42 pm
I'm a little late to this subject, but isn't it interesting that the fabled solidarity of French socialism leaves old people alone to die from the heat as the whole country goes on vacation at the same time? Yet that seems to be a consensus view of what happened. From the USA Today report:
BRUSSELS — More than 10,000 people, most elderly and living alone, may have died in France during this month's blistering heat wave, French health officials said Thursday. The revised estimate would make it one of the worst such disasters in modern history....
The estimated death toll has risen steadily in the past week, even as the mercury has dropped. On Aug. 14, the number of dead was estimated to be up to 3,000. Three days later, the figure was put at 5,000. On Thursday, the minister for the elderly, Hubert Falco, said "most probably" 10,000 people died from temperatures as high as 104.
The number of heat-related fatalities is 10 times as large as the record 1,021 recorded in the USA in all of 1995. The figure also dwarfs the losses this summer in Italy, where news reports estimate 2,000 died; Portugal, where an estimated 1,316 died; and Spain, where at least 100 died.
Most of the people who succumbed to the heat were elderly and living alone in apartments that typically do not have air conditioning. Critics turned on the French themselves for going on vacation while leaving aged relatives alone.
"These dramas again shed light on the solitude of many of our aged or handicapped citizens," Chirac said.
At least they have solidarity about when to take vacations--none of that evil American individualism and workaholism.