Saturday, February 7, 2015

The French Devolution

“During the Enlightenment, God, truth, being, and the laws of nature were rejected as irrational limits on human desires; they were replaced by a deified Reason subject to the vagaries of the human will.” –David G. Bonagura, Jr.

Not necessarily, but that’s the direction the French revolutionaries of the 1780s and ’90s took it. They made the classic human mistake of confusing the means for ends. Instead of using the discoveries of the Enlightenment as a how to better their lives, they used its rationalist foundations to restructure their why of living, their raison d'être, leading to predictable catastrophic results.

@LibertySeeds links to this 1993 New York Times article about 20th century prophet Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:

The writer and former Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn called the French Revolution a mistake as he joined 30,000 people marking the 200th anniversary of political massacres that accompanied the upheaval in France.

“It would be vain to hope that revolution can regenerate human nature,” Mr. Solzhenitsyn, the 1970 Nobel laureate for literature, told a crowd Saturday night in this town in western France. “It’s what your revolution, and particularly the Russian revolution, had hoped for so much.”

Liberty, equality and fraternity—the motto of the Revolution and of the French Republic today—“are intrinsically contradictory and unfeasible,” he said. “Liberty destroys social equality. Equality restrains liberty.”

Support for the disastrous French Revolution revealed some fools among the Founders, including Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, who was ambassador to France during the Constitutional Convention. The former, contrary to his famous political pamphlet, lacked quite a bit of sense. Paine was acerbic in his espousal of a body politic radically separated from existing civil and social institutions, subjected to a destructive rationalism that lays man bare like an animal, naked in the wilderness. Nowadays liberals refer to biological and social realities within whose framework men work and thrive as “constraints,” it being their mission to break them to free mankind from the tyranny of nature.

This utopian enthusiasm was answered by more sober analysis in the writings of Edmund Burke and Alexander Hamilton, who recognized the chaos and suffering a mortal dose of freedom would have on the body politic. Fortunately their view was true about the American people. The 13 British colonies’ was a conservative revolution, a national determination to self-govern. France’s turned the country upside-down, embracing Machiavellian and hedonistic license.

The French Revolution turned bloody repeatedly after the French exchanged the Catholic Church for the cult of reason. The revolutionaries sought a radical break with the past. They even implemented a new calendar starting at year 1 to indicate the new epoch they were inaugurating. They held orgies in Notre Dame cathedral in honor of the goddess Reason. Without “proof” of a divine creator, one logically follows his own will wherever it leads him. Applied to the body, the strongest, most popular impulses hold sway. This means anything goes, and did, to France’s detriment.

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