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A fisherman based in Montauk, Long Island, fell off his boat in the very early morning hours last July, 40 miles off shore. He survived 12 hours in the 72 degree water by his own capacity to think rational in an unfamiliar set of circumstances. No life preserver, no gadget to show his location. He was found by a Coast Guard helicopter. I read the story in the New York Times.
Ok. I am on a history binge, catalyzed by a book a friend gave me, "The Atlas of Past Times." A very brief world history, ancient to 2000, with lots of maps showing all kinds of empire boundaries, trade routes, battles and more.
So I have been watching You Tube documentaries. Many of the documentaries include current scholars explaining what was happening at the time along with reenactments - costumes, sets and actors dramatizing the action. I suspect its all pretty accurate.
One documentary I saw last night about Louie the XVI of France. Louie presided over the French monarchy from 1774 to 1792, leading up to the French Revolution. He was stuck with a huge debt thanks to his grandfather, Louie the XIV, who spent lavishly, very lavishly, building the palace at Versailles. At the time, the Church and aristocracy paid no taxes while all the top nobility and government ministers hung out at Versailles in the lap of luxury - food, parties, sex, intrigue, excess, excess, excess.
During his turbulent reign, Louie XVI made several unsuccessful attempts to improve social conditions for the poor and middle class, he supported the American Revolution against France's much hated foe, England. That added enormously to the debt. Louie had several finance ministers over a period of years who all told him, he needed to raise more money and taxing the Church and nobility was the most sensible way to do it.
Although Louie understood the need to tax the rich, he could never commit to it. Conditions in France deteriorated, especially for the poor and middle class. Those with little voice were becoming agitated, the Third Estate, the 80 to 90%, wanted to talk with Louie, to find solutions to the problems. Louie would not talk with them.
At one high level palace meeting, the finance minister showed all the gathered decision makers a loaf of bread to illustrate the dire circumstances so many poor lived under. The ministers mocked the finance guy. The masses knew they were being stiffed and finally, they rose up and took matters into their own hands. This included the mythical storming of the Bastille and also abundant use of the guillotine.
No faction had lock on virtue. The French Revolution was a bloody affair. Unlike the American Revolution, the French were fighting among themselves, the product of a grossly unfair political and economic system and lack of will and humanity by those in control to make the needed changes. The 90% had enough and open bloody revolt was their only option.
This pattern of events has repeated itself countless times over the ages - government by and for the privileged few. Our time is a bit different. Those in control now have a very effective tool for maintaining life the way they like it, far more effective than brute force,,,,,, they have entertainment - movies, sports, portable devices, celebrity voyerism, TV,,,,,,,