Sunday, June 26, 2011

Just Beachy



And very pleasant it was, too. Warm enough to slosh up and down in the water, cool enough to sit on the balcony and watch the waves rolling in. Despite the warning signs, I encountered no rattlesnakes and only one moribund jellyfish. And I now have a world-class collection of images of water foaming over sand.

When not in the water I was reading, among other things, Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, for no particular reason than that I'd never read it before and occasionally I get this incomprehensible desire to become better educated. And no, that wasn't all I took down to read on the beach, but you really don't want to hear about the old John Grisham thriller or the new sex-and-shopping trashy novel. Huh? You do? Well, too damn bad. Go buy your own soft porn. I want to talk about Edmund Burke. Who was not only an extremely good writer, but almost prescient.

A lot of Reflections can be summarized and translated into modern English as follows: "You idiots, you had a system that was (sort of) working, and instead of trying to improve it, you broke it. Oh, my God, did you ever break it. This is not going to turn out well. There is no way this can possibly turn out well."

Bear in mind that he's writing in 1790, before the execution of Louis XVI, before the Reign of Terror.

He also had things to say that are eerily applicable to the present day: "Nations are wading deeper and deeper into an ocean of boundless debt." Needless to say, he didn't think that was going to work out so well either.

But what really impressed me was this:

"In the weakness of one kind of authority, and in the fluctuation of all, the officers of an army will remain for some time mutinous and full of faction, until some popular general, who...possesses the true spirit of command, shall draw the eyes of all men upon himself. Armies will obey him on his personal account....But the moment in which that event shall happen, the person who really commands the army is your master - the master of your king, the master of your Assembly, the master of your whole republic."

He wrote that in 1790 - and in 1799, two years after Burke's death, what did the French get? Napoleon Bonaparte.

I expect his spirit was looking down from Heaven and saying sadly, "I tried to tell you."

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