Nothing could be worse than a fat tyrant, widely viewed as mentally incompetent, weak, and behind the times. Right?
Ask the French.
Today they killed their King and the bloodshed did not stop until ended by a meglomanical tyrant who plunged much of the world into war. Louis XVI was proclaimed Citizen Capet, revolutionaries are never much on history, and lost his head. One might mourn only briefly, he was not much of a king, if one did not know that everything would become much worse.
The moment you hear anyone, left or right, say “nothing could be worse than this” to justify a supension of their own morality, stop them. Make them think today of revolutionaries dedicated in theory to reason, science, and the world of tomorrow who became bloody butchers killing each other for failing to meet their social justice purity tests.
It happened, has happened again (ask the Russians), and has happened in my lifetime (ask the Chinese). Let’s be practical and learn three lessons from history:
If you live in a high civilization, things can always get worse.
The French under Louis XVI had serious problems. The monarchy had rejected the limits of the Christian Middle Ages to embrace a secular vision of absolutism. This never really worked and their last king knew it. He tried to make changes, but he was not capable of making changes fast enough to satisfy rising expectations, caused by rising French population and prosperity.
Oddly, educated, upper-middle class people often lead revolutionary movements, because rising prosperity gives them time to think. Instead of letting humility and realism check desire, such folk embrace quack ideologies (reactionary or revolutionary) that promise to bring heaven to earth in their lifetimes. They cannot tolerate delay because their own views are so obvious. You cannot reject their vision, you have simply failed to read them, or are a fool, or wicked.
Apocalyptic thinking is deadly.
The brilliant Music Man has a con artist who makes a living on crisis, usually one he generates, that must be solved now. He has the solution and if we only buy what he has to sell then we can be safe, but we must buy now.
We have trouble, O we have trouble, right here, right now.
If the left-of-center in the days of Louis XVI had waited, taken a bit, widened freedom, but then digested the freedom they gained, then Europe would be different. Imagine a Catholic, constitutional monarchy in France that had decades of population growth not sapped by revolution and unnecessary war. Would Germans have found unity under Catholic Austria instead of militaristic Prussia? Would millions dead now be alive?
We cannot know, but we can know that the cry to seize the moment transformed the moment from a possibility of liberty to an invitation to Napoleon’s tyranny.
Young people do not have the answers, but neither do backwards looking oldsters.
Energy can cover for stupidity. The “future” is never a good reason to listen to a person who has no particular qualifications or knowledge now. Tomorrow that generation might be the leaders of the nation, but today they are merely full of zeal without experience. Bloody mistakes are always empowered by people who think the answers are in the youth.
Bloody mistakes are possible, however, only because the generation that should rule today has developed hardening of the arteries. Instead of growing old and wise, they put degenerates in positions of power. One should never confuse wealth and age with wisdom and experience, but people do.
If you are an American, you owe him your independence. Take a moment to pray for the soul of Louis XVI and go read some Edmund Burke.