A message to Felix Marquardt

Felix Marquardt a pris à nouveau sa plume pour encourager la jeunesse de France à quitter un pays sclérosé pour chercher la fortune qu’elle mérite; une fortune que des élites vieillissantes lui refuse. Ce billet a été rédigé à l’attention de Felix… in the original…

“Dear Felix,

We never met, despite your best efforts. Making it in this world ain’t easy when you grew up in the French provinces, so I have been rather busy eking out a living.

I thought I’d drop you a line after I came across your latest op-ed in the New York Times yesterday. In yet another scathing piece, you call upon the youth of France to flee the cold and reluctant embrace of the motherland to fulfill their destiny abroad1.

You see, I have a lot of sympathy for your argument and for your unrelenting attack on French intellectual and political parochialism. I have been out of the country for over 10 years now and every time I come home, I find a society that hurts, mired in a never-ending economic crisis, a nation that has been let down by two generations of conservative politicians; a country riven by a decade of right-wing, xenophobic populism, unwilling and unable to grasp, let alone meet, the challenges of the hour. I see the extraordinary resources of a multicultural, dynamic, and creative people wasted by mediocre and inconsequential business “leaders”.

You’re right, this cannot go on2.

Now it is all very well to encourage people to leave, but leaving is the easy part. For one “self-made” success abroad, thousands more come back defeated, broke, and browbeaten. A successful expatriation takes more than a desire to leave depression behind: it takes skills, capital, and hard work.

Notwithstanding the crass propaganda of neo-liberal morons, France is full of hardworking people. Finding them will be no more difficult than purchasing a flight out of the country.

Few, however, will have the relevant skills they need to make it abroad. Let’s take, for starters, the kind of linguistic skills you were born with. They are essential but costly and time-consuming to acquire.

Fewer still will have been born with the cultural capital you have accumulated and spent since your multicultural and international childhood. We both know how difficult it is to navigate different professional cultures and national customs. You don’t learn how to do this in a Mandarin phrasebook. The capacity to interact, network and negotiate across borders is not just a sine qua non condition for success as an international consultant. This can be the difference between a dead-end internship and a fulfilling career; between a Starbucks counter in Kentucky and a corner office on Wall Street.

Bringing these skills and this cultural capital to the disaffected youth of France will take more than a snazzy webpage. It will take time, money, dedication. It will also take a lot of personal and political courage to create the wealth of expertise, enthusiasm and experience that we ought to bring back to the country.

So here is my challenge for you, Felix: are you ready to put your money where your mouth is3? Will you prove that your barrez-vo2.us movement is more than some media-friendly fluff4?

I am keen to find out if this is just about trending on Twitter for a few hours and bringing a few visitors to your consultancy website, or whether – in true American fashion – you have set your eyes on your legacy.

Now, you may well be content with stealing a footnote of history for Marquardt & Marquardt. But in the long and distinguished history of transatlantic relations, you sure want more than a passing mention in obscure monographs, don’t you? The question is though: have you got what it takes?

To initiate and scale up the program that will turn you into a genuine world leader, you will first need the courage to contemplate abject failure. You will then need your address book of course and as much as €10 million. You must also be introduced to the French; those you don’t meet at Davos; those that your Atlantic dinners would bore to tears; those that you need to make it.

They are bakers and mechanics, teachers and civil servants, lawmakers and entrepreneurs, artists and academics. Be it in Sarlat, Dubaï, London or Valenciennes, they get the job done because they care. They don’t have time for op-eds in the international press but they embody your vision of a creative, successful and generous France. They can do and they can teach; they can impart their skills and their knowledge; they can offer the youth of France the chance to fulfill their potential. But they need a hand.

So, Felix, you game?



  1. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/30/opinion/sunday/the-best-hope-for-frances-young-get-out.html []
  2. Yet your withering attack on Hollande’s “flaccid” response to the story of an expatriate misses the point. What on earth do you expect from a Head of State, addressing a domestic audience through a TV programme? Felix, my friend, you know better. Committed though she may be to intra-european mobility, Merkel would have said the same thing in similar circumstances. []
  3. feel free to put someone else’s money, by the way, I am not fussy []
  4. http://barrez-vo2.us []

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