Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Terror: My education has been incomplete

Pol Pot. Mao. Lenin. Stalin. Rasputin. The modern era's A team of evil*. Tough to break into, but Robespierre qualifies. Indeed, he may be the founding member.

In Our Time
is usually reasonably calm, but a year ago things were intense. Mike Broers (Oxford), Rebecca Spang (University College, and pretty scary herself), Tim Blanning (Cambridge) and Melvynn Bragg (BBC) were going at it. Good. The Terror merits intensity.

Forget Marie Antoinette (thankfully she doesn't even merit a mention on this episode) or the King. What about 250,000 peasants slaughtered by the revolutionary army? The ten day week? The attempt to abolish Christianity? The new calendar? This is the "revolution" (madness really) that eats its own, ending with Robespierre guillotined after botching his own suicide.

My one criticism is the reluctance of these academics to call a spade. Robespierre was insane; probably severe bipolar disorder with psychotic episodes. That's not so unusual, but France seems to have caught the same disease for a few years. France gave democracy a bad name for a century and inspired the rest of the 'A Team of Evil'.

There's no way the French have come to terms with this bit of their history. They wouldn't be romanticizing their "revolution" if they had. It has taken America about 200 years to begin to come to terms with the slaugher of the Amerindians, but France doesn't seem even that far along.

I wonder if we could tie George Bush down** and have him sit through 100 episodes of IOT. (Lord, one can dream - alas, it would be cruel and unusual punishment to strain his brain that way). If he would listen he might reconsider the risks associated with democracy. It's not a trivial thing to put in place.

* I put Hitler in some other dimension of evil.
** Note to NSA: this is a rhetorical flourish. I'd be happy to put some episodes on his iPod however.

See also: Ta Mok.

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