Forty years ago, Paris witnessed ‘Les Événements’.
The startling and exciting outburst of radicalism involved students, in alliance with trade unionists, taking to the streets to demand an end to the old conservative system of inequality and corruption. The elderly President De Gaulle was so impressed by the intensity of the street violence that he went briefly into exile. The protesters wanted not only cultural liberation but also direct participation in government and business. The revolutionary demands were idealistic, but they failed to win the day. Shortly after May 1968 the Gaullists were re-elected.
Today, the Paris Conference* and this Newsletter address the theme of promoting fruit and vegetable consumption. This may be seen, forty years on, as yet another retreat from the ideals of social solidarity. Such a view would be too simplistic: indeed, simply wrong. Social inequalities in health are among the most important consequences of stratified societies. Large health inequalities persist in rich countries and, as noted by the ‘Marxists, tendance Groucho’ of 1968, they have both material and cultural roots. The focus on strategies to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among people on low incomes is a sign that industrial interests, reflected by IFAVA, can change in a progressive way. Distinctly less romantic than university occupations, but if put into place with creativity and determination, it is likely to do more for the health of the socially disadvantaged.