I have never been quite able to make up my mind whether there is no new thing under the sun or whether we live in completely unprecedented times. When we look at events close up and nearby in time and place, we are inclined to think that nothing like them has ever happened before; but with the passage of time, and a little calm reflection, we find analogies all over the place. I suppose the wise man is alive to both the similarities and the differences, but keeping both in mind at the same time is hard, like trying to see the old crones and the candlestick simultaneously in the famous diagram beloved of gestalt psychologists.
In light of the recent events in the United States and elsewhere (the elsewhere that has long imitated the United States in completely decerebrate fashion, while at the same time being anti-American), I flicked through a large picture book of May 1968 in Paris, the upheaval of spoilt brats, by spoilt brats, for spoilt brats. I hesitate to quote Georges Marchais, the leader of the Stalinist French Communist Party of the time, who was not in favor of the upheaval, but who said, with some prescience: Admirable Evasions: Ho... Best Price: $12.26 Buy New $13.35 (as of 11:00 EST - Details)
In general, it’s all about the sons of the haute-bourgeoisie who, disdaining the students of working-class background, will soon extinguish their “revolutionary flame” in order to go and manage Papa’s companies and exploit the workers in the best traditions of capitalism.
Spot-on, Georges, if one goes a little less hard on the poor capitalists and includes in the stricture the former Maoists who later joined the upper echelons of the French state apparatus!
Another Georges, this time the soon-to-be president of France, Pompidou, said something pertinent in the French National Assembly in the middle of May 1968:
At this stage, it is, believe me, no longer the government that is in question, nor the institutions, nor even France, it is our civilization itself.
One can’t help thinking that good old Georges was onto something, even if, in the 52 years that have so far elapsed since then, I have personally managed, as have millions of others, to lead a perfectly satisfactory and even fulfilling life, as no doubt did many Romans in the run-up to the collapse of the empire.
Socialism Sucks: Two E... Best Price: null Buy New $23.39 (as of 07:10 EST - Details) What is quite clear from the photographs is that the students who made a mess of Paris and threw up barricades that made the streets of the City of Light look temporarily like those of Port-au-Prince (where disposal of garbage is not very well-organized, if I recall correctly) were far from the horny-handed sons of labor. On the contrary, they were clearly the children of the bourgeoisie, and could not hide the fact, however casually (for the time) they dressed. Social class does not spare physiognomy in its effects, any more than it spares longevity.
The students obviously liked to make a mess; it was, so to speak, their natural milieu, as maggots like carcasses. When, occupying offices, they put their feet up on the antique desks of authority that they were soon to sit behind, they thought that they were being revolutionary rather than merely savage and insolent. They were privileged, but not privileged enough in their own estimation. They were earnest, but not serious; and earnestness combined with frivolity and armor-plated self-righteousness is not very attractive. Evidently, however, earnest frivolity is a permanent temptation of youth, which does not yet appreciate that deterioration as well as improvement is possible.