I have to admit, I do admire France's style. They harnessed the revolution. By making July 14th into their national holiday they are themselves one with the forces that once opposed them, stating how "avant-garde" they are and thus innoculating themselves against any further revolutionary actions. It was a brilliant move. They adopted all the ideals of the revolution officially even making "La Marseillaise" (Check out the bloodthirsty lyrics here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=laWIjgWDesE ) the national anthem.
The French Revolution, which set all the monarchies in Europe quaking with fear, was the natural consequence of the despotic absolute rulership by the French Monarchy, who were largely starving their own people to fund the war effort and allowing them only rotten food, if they could get any food at all. The complete lock down of the classes was too frustrating for the upwardly mobile merchant and scholarly classes - 1 % living on the backs of the other 99% - so they riled up the masses and stormed the Bastille prison. They were hoping to find weapons with which to fight and were disappointed. Nevertheless, they took the prison apart and eventually succeeded in their complete dismantling of the monarchy. The name of the prison stayed and became the name of the national holiday, although only a plaque now marks its existence.
That the monarchy was re-established for a time, is a sign of the lack of ability of the populace to envision something better but the revolution left its mark in many ways. One great thinker has remarked that the French Revolution is not yet over. I would agree.
Nor would I expect it to end. A revolution by definition can only follow a circular (or elliptical) track, it will always return to point "go". A revolution will never lead to freedom, only to a cathartic discharge of anger and resentment, which in time will build up again. It was a good "wake up" call for the Monarchy, to let them know that they could not forever operate with impunity. Since then they have become more shrewd. Yet I would still assert that we do not need another revolution.
What we do need however is change. In fact, we need a sweeping systemic change. But it must be change with a better vision of what can be, not simply change in anger, change for change's sake, as too often occurs. We need a better version of the future than our media seems to be able to come up with.
Too many of us are suffering from the ills of our civilization: the rents are too high, the pay too low and the quality of life for many too insufficient. We have forgotten what is important. Meaningful work, love and kindness, time spent with family and friends, time in nature and pursuing our own interests, all takes a backseat to earning a living. We are slaves who maintain our illusion of freedom, while actually experiencing very little freedom. And we wonder when we fall ill, often terminally so. We have created (or allowed to be created) a system which does us no favours and now many are at a loss as to how to extricate themselves or feel powerless to do so.
Yet freedom beckons. It is part of the human spirit to yearn to be free. There are some, increasingly, stepping up to the plate one way or another. New sustainable buildings, off-grid technology or new ways of growing our food are being invented daily. Technology is in place, or shortly coming into place , with 3D printers to allow food and other items to be replicated. If we can replicate food, we eliminate hunger. If we can ever learn to work together rather than work in competition, we could eliminate the need to work so hard. Life could become much more pleasant and less stressful A revolution will not do that but an inner evolution will - coupled with our evolving technology. As Margaret Mead said, " A small group of like-minded individuals could change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has."
So happy "Jour de la Bastille" to France! Let's look to our future - may it be bright and peaceful!
April 16, 2019 I am, I suppose, commenting on my own blog post. Today in the news, the roof and therefore at least some of the contents (if not all) of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris have burned I have had the good fortune of seeing it in person twice and although I believe it to be (or have been) a beautiful piece of architecture, it has long outlived its true usefulness. As sad as losing a part of history may be, it is history and not useful in the present, at least not in the same way and to the same magnitude.
Whether it is a result of the "Gilets jaunes" (Yellow vests) protests or not remains to be seen. They may be blamed for it regardless. It may be an attempt to turn public sentiment against them. If so, I doubt it will work.
The French Revolution slogan "Liberte, Fraternite, Egalite!" (Liberty, Brotherhood, Equality!) has never been realized after all. There are still the upper classes, who feel entitled to make all the decisions ( without input), set taxes and otherwise exploit those at the bottom of the economic chain. The Gilets jaunes protest is not just about carbon tax - it is about the fundamental injustices of our system and a need to allow for true equality and actual justice - neither of which we have.
If you doubt this, try, just try to change anything. What avenue will you take? A petition? They have not been read in the House of Commons since the '80's. A lawsuit? Even a class action suit is expensive and an incredibly lengthy process. Approaching your Member of Parliament? If it is an election year and you have a topic that will win votes - you may be in luck. Otherwise, good luck with that!
Understand why they have taken to the streets? They, like many others in France and elsewhere are tired. Tired of having money taken off our pay, which is never accounted for. Tired of the ever increasing taxes, which are not accounted for or truly used for the public. Taxes which instead fund, among other things porn movies. (Yes, courtesy of the Canadian government - "Your tax dollars at work") Tired of having no say in how taxes are spent or on what. Tired of not being able to get cures (not symptom relief) but actual cures for disease. Tired of hearing of how life is getting worse. Tired of being manipulated by people who clearly can not see their way forward and yet claim to be leaders.
France does not take that lying down. And good for them! If the Cathedral of Notre Dame, a national monument, built on the backs of the French people and a tourist attraction (which they get no money for) was burned down in the pursuit of more justice and equality - perhaps it is a small price to pay.