French Revolution

Sit at the pier watch the sun go down
Another lost little boy in a big old town
I want to laugh I want to cry
But no matter how hard I may try
It won’t mean a thing in a hundred years
No, it won’t mean a thing in a hundred years

Ah, that old “It won’t mean a thing in a hundred years…” thing, and for many of our day to day worries and frustrations that’s great contemplative advice. Keep perspective. Take the long view. It seems as this may also the best way to parse even weightier matters in the world, for while we may feel we are constantly on the brink of our own lives we are in fact just travelling along the string of time, inching along, with today’s happiness often leading to tomorrow’s uncertainty and then next week’s breakthrough presaging the following month’s sorrow.

If we begin to look at this from a global perspective we can see that our social and political evolution can change its shape if we shift the telescope’s lens around. For example, the likely future of western governmental philosophy as viewed from, say, 1920, 1950, 1980 and (surely) 2020 would all reveal very differently projected landscapes as regards world power and styles or types of government and political process, even when imagined by the most brilliant of scholars (of which, history suggests, there may be too few).

Thus, much as we may care very deeply amongst the moment we live in about the apparently arrant decisions taken in our name, we must also strive to at least incorporate some bigger picture into our thoughts and a bigger picture seen from above, as it were, rather than inflated through the small keyhole of events we can understand and view at any particular moment.

Perhaps the best example of this, or at least a very clear one, could be heard at a press conference held upon the historic visit of then Chinese Premier, Chou-en Lai (sometimes¬†Zhou Enlai) to Washington in 197whenever it was. Asked by a broadsheet (read: supposedly serious) journalist for his thoughts on the effects of the French Revolution upon the subsequent political events in Europe and beyond, he answered, immediately and in the tones of a man who has considered this very question in great depth and knows its answer well: “Too soon to tell.

Mademoiselle tell me do you play
Well, if she shakes her head, well then that’s okay
I watch her walk away in haste
There’s just no accounting for some people’s taste,
And it won’t mean a thing in a hundred years
No, it won’t mean a thing in a hundred years

The French Revolution began in 1789.

Lyrics from ‘100 Years’ by John Popper (Blues Traveller)


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