It is easy to underestimate the peasantry, the little people. They appear well under control. All seems calm, unless one looks carefully. The means of control work smoothly: the legions, the church, the media, the secret police, the enforcers of political correctness. The serfs are cowed. Why worry about a distant peonage? Do we not have our castles? Let us dance and drink champagne.
And comes the guillotine.
I know three young women of exceptional intelligence and talent, all of them mature and disciplined. They cannot find jobs. It is not from lack of trying, far from it. One of them is married to a hard-working man in a highly technical field usually associated with wealth. He is paid a low hourly wage and forced to work on contract, meaning that he has neither benefits nor retirement. His employers know that if he leaves, they can easily find another to take his place. They have him where they want him.
Which may prove a mistake.
Yet this is become a pattern. In a country that prides itself on wealth and justice and boundless opportunity, none of these things actually exists except for our Bourbons. The rich in their palaces in Manhattan and Santa Clara prosper mightily, often by impoverishing the rest. It has happened many times in history. The results have been similar.
The guillotine was devised as a humanitarian measure to cut off a criminal’s head cleanly, the ax-wielding headsmen of the time being notorious for missed strokes and subsequent horror. When the meek and mild peasantry rose in 1789, proving to be less meek and mild than believed, the humanitarian aspects of the instrument were forgotten. The populace just wanted to see their betters bleed. They saw.
In the United States of today, clouds gather as the royalty toast each other with expensive wines. In numbers that a half century ago would have seemed impossible, the American young live with their parents, being unable to find jobs to support themselves. Waitressing in a good bar pays better in tips than a woman with a college degree can otherwise earn, assuming that she can earn anything at all. Employers having learned to hire them as individual contractors, they move into their thirties with no hope of a pension for their old age.
Desperation and hatred are close cousins.
Meanwhile, Jeffrey Bezos of Amazon makes spaceships and buys the Washington Post as a toy and the newspapers have reported that a Croesus of Wall Street has bought a Modigliani, it may have been, for $55 million dollars.
Marie didn’t actually say, “Let them eat cake,” but might well have. Instead they ate her. But it can’t happen here. Oh no.
The homeless in San Francisco are now described as “a plague.” There seem to be ever more of them. But not to worry. Never worry. The stock market remains exuberant. In nearby Silicon Valley, a man buys a new Lamborghini every year.
The Russians simply shot their royal family in a basement in Ekaterinburg. The Romanovs, or at least those Romanovs, were actually nice people, very much an Ozzie and Harriet family. Perhaps if you met Bezos, or Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates or Elon Musk, you would find them charming, even decnet. They probably give money to charity. So did Andrew Carnegie. The Romanovs just didn’t pay enough attention. Neither, perhaps, do newer Romanovs.
Unrest breeds surprises. Maybe Louis XVI thought, “It can never happen here.” Today the African population of America is openly insurgent, the middle class sinks, jobs continue leaving under the stewardship of the rich, the government either will not or cannot enforce its laws, the borders are open, half of the country seethes in fury at the other half, and the sale of guns is at record heights.
When people realize that they really have no country, only a collection of rapacious interests, history becomes…creative. In theory, Congress and the President have the well-being of the nation at heart and at least to some extent seek to effect the betterment of the whole. Really they are carrion birds picking the carcass clean and, perhaps, planning flight to the French Riviera.
Mussolini ended as an ornament in the Italian street, hanging upside down from a meat hook. He should have paid more attention.
A short walk from the Capitol in Washington, whole housing developments lie empty, their windows sometimes bricked up to keep the derelicts out. In abandoned houses turned shooting galleries, of which there are many, empty cans of Vienna sausages and old bottles of fortified wine lie among used needles and rags stained with things better not reflected upon. You can live for a surprising time on Vienna sausages, Night Train, and Ritz crackers. Many do. Their organs eventually fail.
No one sees these things, so they cannot be important. A forty-five minute walk away, in Colonial Village across Key Bridge in Virginia, I once bought an 835-square-foot condo for $140,000 and later sold it for $300,000. It is well that the economy flourishes. We live in a land of opportunity.
In this best of all possible worlds the wealthy buy homes for $100 million and sleep secure in their beds, knowing that only half of the country would love to hang them from lamp posts. True, the rise of Donald Trump may disturb the elites a bit as they enrich themselves by sending more jobs abroad. But not to worry. Trump is only Mussolini by Disney and the fury his supporters feel toward New York and Washington will go away once we have Hillary in office. Fly-over land doesn’t really matter anyway.
Unless of course it does. In which case Uber should stock up on tumbrils.