John Adams once said
“I must study war and politics so that my children shall be free to study commerce, agriculture and other practicalities, so that their children can study painting, poetry and other fine things.”John Adams
We as a society have gone so far past that we’re heading back to when our children or grandchildren will need to study war again. The excesses of the powerful in the century or so before the French Revolution in all honesty have nothing on the excesses of the powerful in the current era. The French aristocrats weren’t half as nihilistic, for starters.
Decadent, overblown, idle twits who wouldn’t have a clue how to survive in a world that didn’t bow down to them that they were, the ones who had half a brain were, as far as I can tell, loyal to France and loyal to their kind. Sadly, as far as I can tell today’s decadent, overblown, idle twits seem to think that the “correct” thing to do is to destroy everything so that something better can magically arise from the ashes.
It doesn’t help that fiction has a tendency to give the impression that this is how the world works. Sure, authors will happily topple the Evil Overlord’s regime – which pretty much inevitably destroys everything in the process – but most of them including me have buggerall idea how to make the long, painful rebuilding process something to write about so it gets skipped in favor of a kind of assumption that some version of “happily ever after” happens somewhere along the line. Very few have stopped to consider that if corrupted government processes don’t get reformed and reformed properly you end up with another Evil Overlord sooner or later.
Now, I’ll admit that a mostly benevolent Evil Overlord who makes the effort to govern without mass purges of whatever happens to be the current flavor of the Undesirable is probably going to be a reasonably effective and non-damaging tyrant. The problem is that if said Evil Overlord doesn’t delegate his power (and risk being overthrown by someone who sees the delegation as a weakness), when he dies, whether by natural causes or enemy action (which could be argued as being natural causes for an Evil Overlord), he’s going to leave a honking great power vacuum behind him which will promptly generate a new Evil Overlord and a lot of fighting over the bits around the edges. Not to mention everyone who was the Evil Overlord’s enemy is going to try to carve up his former territory for themselves.
That way lies failed states and all manner of unpleasantness – and yet the modern aristos (who would likely cause any lamppost they were hung from to corrode from the sheer nastiness they exude) seem to think that they and their ilk will automagically be recognized as the leaders in the Brave New World they believe they’re bringing around by undermining and destroying the imperfect – but functional and frankly the best we humans have managed to produce so far – society we live in. Sorry kiddos, but it ain’t happening. Maybe you’ll get your dream of being recognized as the
Right :ahem: Correct Sort for a little while, but every time a functional society and culture has been shattered from within – ever – the ones who did it came to the kind of bad end that involved public executions at best. At worst it involved the kind of drawn-out torture that make public executions seem like a blessing.
There is nothing to suggest that this rather fundamental aspect of human nature has changed: most people recognize that anyone who would betray their own kind – for whatever value of “own kind” you wish to give – is not someone a sensible leader or ruler wants to keep around. This is why spies have such a bad reputation, and why “traitor” is a dirty word. Anyone who will turn on their own is unlikely to have any moral objections to turning on their new master – and when that maxim is applied to those who proclaim that morality is relative, you’ve got a group of people who are likely to be, as Douglas Adams said in the Hitchhikers Guide books, first against the wall when the revolution comes. (I personally think they’ll be second. First are usually those in charge at the time. Once the new bosses are in place, they consolidate their power and eliminate the ones who turned traitor on the old regime).
The reason the American Revolution didn’t go through this ritual bloodletting was that it wasn’t a classical revolution. There was no tearing down of the existing society. Instead, the culture and societal structures were pretty much adopted directly into the new Government – something for which we all should thank a small group of extraordinary men. These men didn’t just fight the war, they spent a great deal of time making sure that if they won there would be a society – a nation – afterwards.
Yes, this is ridiculously oversimplified. I do that a lot – looking at the bigger than big picture where the trends show up. It’s why I get irritated when authors don’t give so much as a nod to the hard work that follows overthrowing the Evil Overlord.
Then I think, well, there’s been no shortage of countries that neglected to consider what happens when they overthrow a government, so why would an author realize it needs to be mentioned? At which point the even longer rant about inadequate education suppressing any desire or ability to think for oneself comes out and the whole thing gets ugly.
So enjoy the featured cat picture instead (Bugger curled up asleep on a quilt I made).