Monday, October 28, 2013

Let Us Eat Cake

Are We Headed for Another French Revolution?

I'm a big reader (in case you haven't guessed by my other site) and although I read a lot of different genres, I love historical fiction. Being the inquisitive mind that I am, what tends to happen is that I obsessively read fiction about a certain era, and then I start researching, because I want to know the truth, or just MORE.

A year or so ago, it was the Tudor era. Lately, it's been the French Revolution.

The more I read, and the more I research, the more it scares me.

A really quick, non-historian rundown of the French Revolution:
  • Louis XVI (the 16th, for those with Roman numeral issues...) came to power in 1774. He was married to Marie Antoinette, of Austria, and together they had 4 children, two of whom died in early childhood.
  • By the end of the 1780s, France was going through a very bad economic time, partly due to its participation in The Seven Years' War, and the American Revolutionary War.
  • However, while the common people were struggling to survive, the aristocracy was living as if nothing had happened. Tales of royal excess were legendary, often focused -unfairly or not - on the Queen (we've all heard the "Let them eat cake" story, right?)
  • VERY long story short, the people - lead by some lesser nobles (whose motives are more than likely questionable) - decided that they wouldn't take any more, and rebelled. After months of rebellion, The Palace of Versailles was attacked, and the Royal Family forced into a house arrest-type situation at a palace in Paris. They made a rather pathetic attempt to escape France, at which point they were locked down even further. As different factions fought for power in the new republic, the King and Queen - despite being stripped of any power - were considered a threat and were eventually executed. 
  • As the rival factions continued their feuds, the "Reign of Terror" began and tens of thousands of people - both nobles and commoners - were executed, mostly by the newfangled guillotine. The unheaval led to the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, and went on for decades. 
  • The "rebellion" depicted in Les Miserables actually took place in June, 1832 - nearly 40 years after the executions of Louis XVI and his Queen. During those years, as I mentioned, Napoleon was in charge for 11 years (1804-1815), and the monarchy came and went several times, ending for good in 1848. This all just goes to show that there were DECADES of upheaval before France's current political system was finally settled.
So, what's the point of all of this? Why does it scare me? Because the more I read about the French Revolution, the more it starts to sound eerily familiar.

No, we don't have a real monarchy anymore - not in the way that the French did - but instead of the "First Estate" we have "The 1%" (who, incidentally, pay almost no tax in many cases - similar to how the nobility in pre-revolutionary France paid no tax, while the commoners were highly taxed.) Instead of lesser nobles claiming to have the best interests of the people at heart, we have celebrities advocating not voting as a means of rebellion. Instead of the satirical pamphlets handed out on street corners, we have bloggers who can (although not all do) write whatever they want - whether it's true or not with no repercussions (and yes, I see the irony in this statement). Corporations continue to make higher and higher profits, while their workers struggle to figure out how to pay rent and buy food at the same time.

Think that I'm blowing the similarities out of proportion? In just a few hours yesterday, these two news stories appeared in my social media feeds (the Russell Brand video I linked to above has also been posted all over everywhere recently):
Every day, there is more and more unrest. Every day there is more division between the "Royalists" (the conservatives) and the "Constitutionalists" (the liberals.) More and more people are wondering aloud how it is fair for the gap between wealthy and poor to keep getting wider. Median income - when adjusted for inflation - is actually LOWER than it was a decade ago. The government in Canada - oh, sorry, The Harper Government - claims that the number of people on Employment Insurance is going down, but they neglect to mention the number of people whose Employment Insurance runs out before they find work, or those forced to take part-time and/or low-wage work. In the US, people are forced out of their homes because of predatory lending practices, and people go bankrupt just trying to pay for life-saving medical treatment for themselves or their families. Meanwhile some CEOs are making 1000x the pay of their average employee.
No matter which "side" you're on, you have to admit that our society is broken. And people are getting angry. What frightens me is to think of the violence that can come of a large group of angry people. In the Women's March on Versailles (the event that led to the Royal Family fleeing their home) there were an estimated 6,000-10,000 people who attacked the palace, leaving death and destruction in their wake. Really, when you think about it, there have been VERY few major societal revolutions that didn't involve violence.

So what does that mean for us? The "Occupy" movement was essentially a peaceful protest. Will people continue to utilize peaceful resistance, or are we looking at a future of angry violence? It seems that those in power have no interest in changing the status quo: corporations are intent on continuing their pursuit of profit for the few at the expense of the many; housing prices are becoming completely unsustainable; there is little in the way of job stability for anyone; people are now considered a disposable commodity (AKA "collateral damage".)

What continues to amaze and sadden me is how the economic issues plaguing us are causing those of us in "the 99%" to turn on each other. We say that younger generations have a sense of entitlement, and no work ethic; we say that the Baby Boomers refuse to give up power and revel in the failures of their own children. We blame everyone but those who are truly to blame.

Before you ask, at this point, no, I don't have a solution. Most of what needs to be done will never happen voluntarily under the current "nobility." They - or maybe we - have succeeded in creating such a gap between our factions that instead of working together, we just create barriers to prevent any real progress. I'm just trying to point out what I'm seeing, and where I'm afraid we're heading, and hoping that someone will be able to come up with a solution before it's too late.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

I'm Baaaaa-aaaaack...

Yeah, kind of disappeared for a while there, didn't I? Nothing sinister, I've just been focusing on my "author" blog over at Cynthia Hill Books. But lately I've had a whole lot of opinions that I didn't necessarily want to get into over there, and it's been frustrating. Not to mention, as I've learned more about blogging, and sponsored posts and reviews, etc, I wanted to do more of that sort of thing, but again, unless it has something to do with books, or pop culture, I didn't feel comfortable with it over there.

So, here I am. I'm going to have to do some renovations, probably, and may even eventually move to a self-hosted site if I can manage to keep up with two blogs, and still do some of my fiction writing. But for now, there's a post that I've been dying to write for a while now, and I'm hoping to put it up in the next few days, so stay tuned!