‘In the middle of Covid, it’s really not the time to quit your job’
I’ve heard that phrase about 50 times this year. With the pandemic, it was certainly not in 2020 that we had to take risks. It’s never really the time. There is always a good excuse not to leave your comfort zone:
You have to build your career, wait a few more years and you’ll see
You know the future is uncertain, it is better to wait and see.
‘Your retirement, it is now that it is prepared!!!’
Yes, it is. And it is because I am preparing for my retirement that I am quitting my job. I’m afraid I can’t retire quietly. Not because the State will have no more money (when they want it, they find it), but because the world will have been largely transformed by the ecological catastrophe we are living.
This article will be more personal than what I usually write. That’s on purpose. I wish that my friends, my family, my former and future colleagues as well as the people who have been reading me for the past two years understand what motivates this choice and what motivates me every day.
2020, the last straw
I think this is the first time in my career that my job ticked all the boxes: intellectually stimulating work, a comfortable salary, nice co-workers and hours that allowed me to have a life on the side. Beyond being very rare, it is a privilege. I already talked about it a year ago in a somewhat autobiographical (and self-deprecating) text, where I presented myself as a Parisian wanker: ‘able to lead a conference on high frequency trading, unable to tell the difference between two trees‘. A singular way of expressing what I have felt for years: there is something wrong with our society.
Still in the same text, here is what I wrote, more than a month before the confinement: ‘what does my work concretely contribute to society? Does my job bring more than a nurse for example ?’. I can now answer you with certainty: no. If there is one year in which Graeber’s bullshit jobs have not contributed more to society than our nurses, it is in 2020. Yet, guess who is underpaid, works in deplorable conditions and is despised by the government?
Refus de parvenir
This search for meaning in my work is not new. For several years now, I have been trying to align my beliefs and my work, and the least we can say is that the financial world in which I evolve does not allow me to do so. How can we continue to close our eyes when we are living through the worst economic crisis since 1929 and when all stock market indices are at a higher level than before Covid? How to stay calm when thousands of French people see their company become ghost companies, when they have not already simply gone bankrupt? Finally, how to stay calm when banks claim to be green while they lend billions to oil and gas companies?
I am not interested in ‘succeeding‘ under these conditions. It is nothing other than a “refusal to reach”, sublimely highlighted by Corinne Morel Darleux in Plutôt couler en beauté que flotter sans grâce: ‘cease to harm, cease to cooperate with a system that destroys the conditions of habitability of the planet’. It is not a matter of lacking ambition (I will come back to that) or of sulking about success, but of realizing how much these two notions would benefit from more singularity.
In the end, the Covid was just a trigger to give me the courage to take the step. Taking the plunge to find what I was missing the most: meaning.
In a previous article, I concluded by asking two questions: ‘what am I doing for the climate and the environment, and what more could I do?
The answer to the first question is quite simple. For the past two years, most of my free time has been spent writing articles for Bon Pote, a website I created 2 years ago. In 2020 alone, I have published 81 articles (each article takes me 20-30 hours of work on average) and more than 100 articles are in progress. I have also greatly reduced my carbon footprint over the past two years. This brings us to the second question ‘what more could I do?
The answer is again very simple: devote 100% of my time to it when I leave my job. It may be the most idiotic choice from a career point of view, but I believe (and hope) that no one will hold it against me for devoting 100% of my energy to saving the environment. I want to make it clear that I am neither the first nor the last to be in this situation. Many others have made this choice before me and I hope to inspire others to do what they love and not what they have been told to love.
End of anonymity?
I hesitated for a long time about the form of this article. What to say exactly? Should I just announce that I quit my job out of conviction and continue writing anonymously, or kill two birds with one stone? I had explained my choice of anonymity in an article by underlining that it was an individual choice and that there was no right or wrong answer. I loved those two years where only the message mattered. It is a real pleasure to be able to focus the debate on the ideas and not on the person, and I hope this will continue to be the case.
I am well aware that coming out of anonymity will not have only good sides. Some of my articles, like the one on airplanes, sports or man’s part in global warming, have already provoked somewhat… epidermal reactions. I have been compared to Stalin, a green Khmer, a potential Nazi dictator, an opportunistic warmonger… I have also been accused of being paid by the nuclear lobby, of being racist, misogynist… I even got a death threat! And all this, of course, before tackling in 2021 subjects that are absolutely not controversial and on which everyone agrees:
– The nuclear industry
– Renewable energies
– The meat
– Civil disobedience
It should go well, right?
I also hope that the people who refused to debate until now because I was anonymous will accept to do so from now on… I would not want to miss your explanation on green growth or on the zero-carbon plane! I also want to dream ! pass, no?
I didn’t quit my job to take a year off and travel the world. Firstly because it is not possible… And especially because there is a lot of work to do! Can you honestly imagine me on a beach in Miami reading a book and drinking a mojito? The horror! Sorry, but I’m not interested. I have articles to write.
Coming back to the refusal to achieve, I confirm that this does not reflect a lack of ambition or achievement (and even if it did, it would not be a problem…two more notions to deconstruct). I will work relentlessly until all French people have the orders of magnitude in mind and the tipping point is reached. Given the content of my exchanges and debates over the past two years, I think I have easily a few years of work ahead of me!
So I will continue to develop Bon Pote in 2021. This is the main objective. In addition to the articles and podcasts, there will of course be other projects that I will tell you about in the first quarter. Between the release of the next IPCC report, the 2021 regional elections and the 2022 presidential elections, we should not be bored!
Finally, one question always comes up when I say I quit my job: ‘what about the money, what are you going to do? The goal is to make a living from Bon Pote and I will work accordingly. I would like to take this opportunity to thank again all the people who support me on Tipeee. Your support is precious and I will do my best to give you back your confidence on a daily basis.
The last word
Helen Lewis says that change requires sacrifice. So I went one step further and left my job without any regrets.
Society was sick before Covid came along, and this pandemic has only highlighted what was already there. We need systemic change and I don’t want to wake up at 60 feeling like I haven’t done anything. What lies ahead requires profound changes in our societies and each of us must do our part: citizens, companies, NGOs, communities and politicians. We will need everyone.
I couldn’t conclude this article without thanking the dozens of people who have taught me so much over the past two years and who have supported me in my efforts.
Paul, Jérémie and Loïc, thank you for putting up with me for several hours each day and for making me avoid JAITOUTCOMPRISM. Your entry into heaven is assured.
To the people I met with whom I shared a coffee, a drink or a little too much pizza via zoom, I hope it continues in 2021.
To my family: I love you and no I’m not crazy, I just read an IPCC report.