Hey y’all. I decided to come back to DC after all. Possibly suffering from the after-effects of a food coma and probably at least 5 pounds heavier, but return I did. It was marvelous to see the family. Great reminders of sanity in a world with an otherwise generally fractured psyche. And you have to know I never believed I’d think my family was sane compared to anything. But, wonders never cease, they are. So, that was rejuvenating. Also, I started 4 books — the first in the Wool series, David Mamet’s “The Secret Knowledge” (on the advice of my sister to counteract some of the ideas in the next book on the list. “Just for some context and perspective,” Juli said. Which brings me to…), “The New New Deal” (on the advice of someone who wants me to acknowledge bi-partisanship where I’ve been reticent to admit it exits. We’ll see if this book can melt my cold, conservative heart), and the first in the Outlander series (because NPR said it was good and romance is one of my things).
I have finished none of them. But I will. In fact, I’ll be quoting in this space from Mamet fairly frequently (possibly from the New New Deal as well if something strikes) because he has some nuggets of brilliance worth repeating. Anyway, progressing forward…
I’ll have to get pretty heavy back into work here shortly so I’m going to sign of and get to it but I did want to tease you with a few thoughts:
First, if I hear one more child complain about their massive student loan debt and how they can’t pay it off (which is the first of like four conversations that culminate in “maybe a government bailout of student loan debt would be a good thing…”) and then immediately switch topics to how they’re getting ready to vacation in Nice or they’re spending New Year’s in Vegas (a conversation I overheard in CVS just before the holidays) or going skiing in the Rockies or whatever, I’m really going to say something, strangers or not. And I don’t care the context. I’ll be polite but GOOD LORD these children must be informed of how incredibly selfish and spoiled they are. And that the rest of us are tired of suffering for their pathetic senses of entitlement and bratty “rebellious, I-Get-What-I-Want” mentalities. It’s annoying, childish, unethical, rude, stupid, self-absorbed, and monumentally BORING to be the spoiled brat cliche. The worst — the absolute worst — is they DON’t KNOW they’re a cliche and there are a million other seemingly bright (but, as my father is fond of reminding me, you don’t have to be smart to pass the test. You just have to know the answer. Brilliant.) but probably just lucky kids out there who are EXACTLY LIKE THEM. Jeesh. It’s little wonder the idea of robots and cyborgs and zombies is so prevalent and beloved in our culture. We live it don’t we? Anyway, it’s because of you my darling young ones that the film based on this book — Anne Hathaway’s stirring rendition of “I Had a Dream” nothwithstanding — has gripped us all again (it is my all-time favorite musical because I saw it at 17 when I was lucky enough to travel to London and it has never left me). An excellent piece my friend George posted yesterday speaks volumes. Javert is the tragedy of the story. His final musical number is heartbreaking as one of a man who must admit that he has lived a life of stupidity and statism and that he was, as a believer in justice, ultimately unjust in that course. It made me cry as a teenager and now, when I understand it better, it hits me even deeper as a cautionary tale. For that all-important context, here’s a short description from the wiki page for the French Revolution. Do you see yourselves children? Is that a good thing? Seriously, knock it off…
At a governmental level the sequence of events leading to the revolution was sparked by France’s effective bankruptcy due to the enormous cost of previous wars. The attempt to challenge British naval and commercial power in the Seven Years’ War was a costly disaster, with the loss of France’s colonial possessions in continental North America and the destruction of the French Navy. French forces were rebuilt and performed more successfully in the American Revolutionary War, but only at massive additional cost. France’s inefficient and antiquated financial system was unable to finance this debt, a problem both partially caused and exacerbated by a grossly inequitable system of taxation. Faced with a political impasse, the king called an Assembly of Notables in 1787.
Meanwhile, the royal court at Versailles was seen as being isolated from, and indifferent to, the hardships of the lower classes. While in theory King Louis XVI was an absolute monarch, in practice he was often indecisive and known to back down when faced with strong opposition. While he did reduce government expenditures, opponents in the parlements successfully thwarted his attempts at enacting much needed reforms. Those who were opposed to Louis’ policies further undermined royal authority by distributing pamphlets (often reporting false or exaggerated information) that criticized the government and its officials, stirring up public opinion against the monarchy.
Many other factors involved resentments and aspirations given focus by the rise of Enlightenment ideals. These included resentment of royal absolutism; resentment by peasants, laborers and the bourgeoisie toward the traditional seigneurial privileges possessed by the nobility; resentment of the Catholic Church’s influence over public policy and institutions; aspirations for freedom of religion; resentment of aristocratic bishops by the poorer rural clergy; aspirations for social, political and economic equality, and (especially as the Revolution progressed) republicanism; hatred of Queen Marie-Antoinette, who was falsely accused of being a spendthrift and an Austrian spy; and anger toward the King for firing finance minister Jacques Necker, among others, who were popularly seen as representatives of the people.
Okay, that’s all I have for now. I’ll leave you with a diversionary link in the event you find yourself with some downtime. The Mister Rogers remix was amazing. I give you the video below.