Lessons from the French Revolution – A Matter of Principles

I recently finished a biography of Madame Roland, a woman who played a key part in the 18th century French Revolution. I was familiar with late 18th century French politics but it was never an area that I studied deeply before, mostly looking at the time from the Royals and from the Americans’ point of view, as well as the Jacobin side. Madame Roland was a part of the Girondists, a more moderate faction of the revolutionaries than the Jacobins. Her life is fascinating, and I’m planning on reading her memoirs that she penned while in prison in the future.

Reading about Madame Roland and the revolution reminded me of the horrors of the mob, and also how the mob can be roused and utilized by individuals or small groups of people against others. And it also got me thinking again about liberty and the rights of individuals and morals and principles both in general and personally.

The brutality of a portion of the poorest people whipped into a frenzy in France was horrifying. The streets literally did run red in blood. So me being me, I immediately tried to put myself into that situation. Do you ever do this? Ask yourself – what would it take for me to be so angry, to dehumanize or blame someone so much, that I would relish in witnessing their public murder and be gleeful at the blood? Or what would it take to be swept up in the tide of a mob and how far would you let that tide take you, if there were rioting? We mostly want to think of ourselves as too civilized, too intelligent, too above the common herd to fall sway, but what if we were chronically on the brink of starvation and freezing to death?

And the flip side – have you ever asked yourself if you have a cause or a principle that you would be willing to die for? Or to try to manipulate people to achieve the goals of that cause? The Girondists really believed in the Grecian ideals of liberty and freedom for France, but the general population at that point mistook licentiousness for liberty, something many still do today. And that’s a point I think everyone really needs to reflect on. I do firmly believe in liberty and self-governance, but I also know that not everyone is ready for self-governance, so the best thing we can be doing is to help others become more aware of their power and responsibility over themselves as individuals because without that, society is pretty much doomed to keep repeating the mistakes of the past.

While I’ve been having all this swirling in the background of my mind that past week, a quote of Alfred Adler’s came up on a podcast I was listening to – “It is always easier to fight for one’s principles than it is to live up to them”. And that just kind of turned everything around and made me consider things even more. It is an interesting and instructive exercise to reach into the dustiest, darkest corners of your inner self, even when it is uncomfortable.

Anyway, I hope we never have to repeat something like the French Revolution, and that the revolution, when it does come, can be a more enlightened and less messy one.

“Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam” A Poem – AKA I Finally Wrote a Thing

I wrote the following and it was super cathartic to do, but I think I would describe it more as a “piece” rather than a “poem” due to the discordant rhythm and the dialogue involved, but that suits the mood. Hopefully this means my streak has been broken. We’ll have to see.

Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam

Lady Liberty weeps
In the corner on the floor,
Torch extinguished.
Uncle Sam says
“Smile! Don’t you know
You are so much
Prettier
When you smile?
I can’t abide
Your ugliness.”
“Oh Sammy,” Liberty wails,
“Your games have gone
Too far,
And I feel such pain
That smiling is an
Impossibility.”
“You’re too temperamental,”
Uncle Sam replies.
“You let your
Emotions
Get the best of you.
Swallow it down, like me,
Until you are
Numb inside.”
Standing, Liberty shouts.
“No, I won’t allow myself
To become internally
Dead.
Nor will I hide
From the truth.
You have done terrible things,
And my name no longer means
What it did.
Payment is coming due, Sammy,
And I fear it has all been for nought.”
Uncle Sam snaps
And knocks Lady Liberty
To the ground.
“You’re a bitch and a whore.
How dare you question
My authority?
I know better than you
The way to control
These masses.
Fear and pain
Are tools of the trade.
Get used to it.”
He looks at her and laughs.
“You may be stupid,
But I’ll keep you around,
As long as you’re leashed.
I like that you
Do my feeling
For me.”
Lady Liberty rises once again
And lights her torch anew.
Calmly, gently, she sets
Uncle Sam ablaze.
“There are times,”
She muses to herself,
“That you just need to
Start over.”

Copyright 2017, Kat Micari.

Liberty for All – A Poem

What have we done to Fellowship?
Where’s the love for our fellow man?
The insular lives we now lead
Means that we don’t do all we can
No more living the Golden Rule
Each for theirself, so weak, so small!
No help for your neighbors, nor hope!
It’s one for one, not one for all.

Can we e’er find Equality?
So elusive, it seems to hide.
It’s us verses them ev’ry day.
To walk this path, always deride.
Rather judge a person theirself
By thoughts, actions, and their deeds.
Instead of what we still look at:
Gender, race, sexuality, and creed.

Whence has flown great Intelligence?
Where have our brilliant minds all gone?
No more knowledge for its own sake,
The focus is on rich gains alone.
The latest big consumer toy
Or vanity pills down our throats
Learning reviled, hated, in vain.
Party lines are our only quotes.

How can we now achieve Justice?
That lovely and resilient song?
Impartial code for all to see.
Two rights can never make a wrong.
No more destruction or violence.
Each working to remove that stain.
Natural rights for ev’ryone.
The end of strife and futile pain.

Who knows how to speak out the Truth?
Unbiased and clear as a bell.
And could we even recognize?
We may not know and dare not tell.
It still is there for us to hear.
All it takes is for us to start.
The clarion sound can ring out loud
If we carry it in the heart.

Who now remembers Liberty?
To get it, will you make a stand?
Rights and responsibility,
Alway together, hand in hand.
Never yet in our history
Have we seen this, but let’s begin.
To grow beyond our current fate,
Search the mirror, dive deep within.

Copyright 2017, Kat Micari