We can despise the extreme wings of our politics all we want, but we seem to have them: Little mobberies pushed by the lies of tyrants -- perhaps the revenant Marxists, and the eruptive reactionaries, anyone willing to boil the stew. Anyone crying that compromise "makes you look weak"!
We have no better example of the instructively negative consequences of extremism than what can be drawn from the modern epoch's history of France. Of course, it is difficult to avoid the simple allure of the earlier milestones composed by the ancien regime, the Revolution, and Napoleon. None of those events, however, glittering, bloody, and instructive, were "modern".
The tumultuous era from 1830 to 1905 has been narrated by Frederick Brown, author of FOR THE SOUL OF FRANCE (2010). In this period, France ingested four different Constitutions, three dynasties, two republics, three revolutikons, one coup that worked and two that did not, two civil wars, one defeat in war that led to the German occupation of one-third of the country, two major financial scandals (neither of which involved Jews) that destroyed most savings accounts, and of course, the "trial of the century" -- the judicial and military scandal known as the Dreyfus Affair.
Now here is the lesson: What was The Cause of this turmoil? How did a nation that had brilliantly used accomodation and compromise to finally recover from centuries of corrupt oppression (Bourbons), the extremes of ideological terror (Robespierre, Orleans), and loss of almost all of its fighting age men (Napoleon), only to erupt again into chaos? What was the unrelenting driver for this self-destruction?
We know there is almost a genetic tension between Conservative and Liberal. In France, according to Brown, most of the turmoil during this period in France stemmed from battles between the conservative royalty/church clerical camp on the one side and the liberal or communard seculars on the other. And the conflict was painfully self-destructive. Even when the Protestant Prussians invaded in 1870, the two camps failed to reconcile.
Interestingly, the defeats and injuries suffered by France only further inflamed the idiotarian extremes of both these wings. Die-hard reactionaries (notably the L'Ordre Moral, and the pretender to the throne, Count de Chambord) took the defeat as God's punishment for the sin of failing to adopt the papal infallibility of Pope Pius IX. Secularists insisted that the losses were the result of betrayal of the Enlightenment thinkers who had created the Republic. Grace, whether divine or inspired by human creativity, was taken off the table. Again, as before, blood ran down the gutters, coloring the Seine red.
What is striking in this conflict is that as the tide of history rises against the clericals, they resort to more extreme and outlandish behavior, and ultimately, to an unprecedented degree of Hate-Mongering. After the misbegotten coup of 1889 led by the reactionary general, Georges Boulanger, the clericals sought to rally the public by claiming religious affiliation. Ironically, the means they adopted was to launch an anti-Semitic campaign. Thus, the attention of the world was diverted from the crimes, corruption and incompetence of the French rulers and military -- which had NO Jews (except for draftees and a jr. officer, Captain Dreyfus) -- to the fictions and false accusations made against shopkeepers and cobblers, the Jews. The hate-mongering took the forms of false charges against Dreyfus (blaming a Jew for the collapse of the French Army), the virilent fiction of the "Elders of Zion", etc.
The take-away point today is that we see the reactionaries now taking the same course -- in response to the rise of Obama liberals, the conservatives resort to hate-mongering and the scape-goating of blacks and Jews (compare, Dreyfus Affair). The Conservatives -- the true Conservatives -- should not do this. However, it is irresistable to the royal houses trying to stay in power and fearing the anger of the mob should the public ever demand an accounting.
- Did Socrates say "Know Thyself", or was he misunderstood, as all are. Show Thyself is all we can do. The knowing is unknowable. I am filled with joy. It can't be helped.
Became a Farmer, Builder, Musician, Tank Commander, Librarian, Lawyer and Minister. I have failed at many things. And now retired. Filled, just filled, with Joy.