Magazine article Newsweek

Let Them Take Prozac; the French Try New Paths to 'Joie De vivre.'(Brief Article)

Magazine article Newsweek

Let Them Take Prozac; the French Try New Paths to 'Joie De vivre.'(Brief Article)

Article excerpt

JOY HAS NEVER BEEN A PARTICULARLY Gallic virtue. The 16th-century French philosopher Montaigne called happiness "a singular incentive to mediocrity." And when a journalist asked Charles de Gaulle if he was happy, the general replied, "What do you take me for, an idiot?" So what was the weekly L'Express doing with a recent cover trumpeting HAPPY .. IN SPITE OF IT All--with pictures of blissful families, grinning interracial classmates and cheery waiters? reported that 95 percent of Frenchmen were happy "despite bombings, unemployment, ghettos and taxes." How very un-French.

France has discovered the pursuit of happiness. Faced with a rising tide of woes--from the terror bombings that continue to rock Paris (seven since July 25) to the first general strike in almost 10 years, which closed schools, airports and post offices last week--the French are increasingly looking for a quick fix a l'ambricaine. They'd already succumbed to the lure of fast food and "Baywatch." Now more than 400,000 of the French take Prozac; 2 million take other psychotropic drugs. No statistics exist for the number of French 12-step programs (for addictions to everything from spending to sex), but they suddenly seem to be everywhere--along with a spate of self-help books.

In France, alienation was once considered less an illness to be cured than a lifestyle to be celebrated. "Your neuroses were your identity card," says Agnes Loiseau, editor in chief of the monthly Psychologies. …

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