Over a century ago, the French thinker Gustave Le Bon wrote a book called The Psychology of Revolution. It’s stunning how little the mentality of the world’s ‘revolutionary’ ideologues has changed since 1913. But then they never learn anything from the real world.
In my recent post on the other blog, I wrote a rather hurried question about the viability of ”democracy” in today’s world, and I had been thinking about all these issues which Le Bon addresses in his book. There are reasons why the French revolutionary ideals still linger on, despite their having been discredited by reality time and time again. And let’s be honest, the three ‘pillars’ of the French revolution have succeeded in infecting much of our own political discourse and thought, especially that political Idol of the American people, ”equality”. That, and the magic word, ”democracy.”
Of the ‘three pillars’, Liberty used to be the most often mentioned, and it too is a favored shibboleth of Americans, although its presence in our society these days is dwindling. Back during the early days of the Iraq war, at least among those of us who opposed that war, the idea of ‘democracy’ being the goal for Iraq and for the world, actually — many sane people pointed out that the people in far-flung countries may not have the same conception of ‘liberty’ or ‘democracy’ than we, here in the U.S.A. If it comes to that, even our different generations have different notions of what those idealistic words mean. For a lot of people, ‘liberty’ means ‘license’. Libertarians have their own ideas of what it means, and their definition does not always jibe with that of the Founding generation, much less the ‘Framers’ of our system.
It’s obvious to people with the ability to discern that Thomas Jefferson and the designers of our system stating ”all men are created equal’ meant ‘equal before the Law‘, not that all are born with equal capacities, character, and physical abilities. But the manipulative members of the ”leadership” class insist on presenting it that way as a lure for the simple-minded. Le Bon, in his book, points out this flexible and tricky interpretation of those key words and ideas as an obvious problem. He points to the idiosyncratic definitions:
Le Bon says ‘to the young modern “intellectual” [I like the scare quotes around the word intellectual there] it means only ‘a general release from everything irksome: tradition, law, superiority, &c. To the modern Jacobin liberty consists especially in the right to persecute his adversaries.‘
Is that statement ever true today. The left do consider that they have not only a right but a duty to persecute those who disagree with them, even only tacitly.
Liberty is sometimes still invoked in political orators’ speeches but according to Le Bon (and I agree) they generally don’t mention ‘fraternity’ anymore.
“It is the conflict of the different classes and not their alliance that they teach today. Never did a more profound hatred divide the various strata of society and the political parties which lead them.’
Yes, and again, we follow in the same pathway, the same pattern. There is profound hatred in this country not only of the 21st century Jacobins vs. the rest of us, but of various other groups whose members clash: the North vs. the South, the urban vs. the rural, men vs. women and vice-versa, and then there is that small matter of ”ethnic group vs. ethnic group’, to use the literal translation of the Bible’s words.
So liberty is in ever shorter supply, as our First and Second Amendment rights are under attack, not to mention our Fourth Amendment rights having been destroyed. The ‘revolutionary mentality’ mob don’t even promise greater liberty or freedom, nor does anybody else.
Liberty is not looking so healthy and Fraternity is all but gone, as it’s all against all. And with ‘equality’ being the last survivor of that trio of ‘principles’, there’s more demand than ever for equality — the thing which is not naturally present in this world. Of this insistent demand, Le Bon says:
This craving is so powerful that it is spreading in all directions, though in contradiction with all biological laws. It is a new phase of the interrupted struggle of the sentiments against reason, in which reason so rarely triumphs.’
Le Bon describes how an idea like democracy or equality has different meanings to different men, and that when an idea like this is transmitted from one cultural context (a people, for example) to another it undergoes transformations. The same thing affects religious beliefs, according to Le Bon, when they pass from one people to another.
“Unhappily the democracy of the “intellectuals” would simply lead to the substitution of the Divine right of kings by the Divine right of a petty oligarchy, which is too often narrow and tyrannical. Liberty cannot be created by replacing a tyranny.”
Le Bon writes of the natural differences which are inevitably in conflict with the popular ideas of ‘equality’.
‘The democratic ideas which have so often shaken the world from the heroic ages of Greece to modern times are always clashing with natural inequalities. Some observers have held, with Helvetius, thato the inequality between men is created by education.
As a matter of fact, Nature does not know such a thing as equality. She distributes unevenly genius, beauty, health, vigour, intelligence, and all the qualities which confer on their possessors a superiority over their fellows.
No theory can alter these discrepancies, so that democratic doctrines will remain confined to words until the laws of heredity consent to unify the capacities of men.”
Le Bon then suggests that the usual result of trying to bring about intellectual equality is ‘the creation of an intellectual aristocracy’ — to the dismay of the would-be levellers, because their desire is not to raise anyone up, but to ”beat down the superior elements of society to the level of the inferior elements.” Which is what we have seen happening, not inadvertently, but by design in Western countries.