Vive la r233volution

By By Nicholas Pappas

By Nicholas Pappas

Sit down for a moment. Your life is a busy one. As a student at the U, you are most likely going to school full-time and working at least part-time. You are pursuing a degree for knowledge — but mostly for wealth.

You are in debt. You will be in debt for a while. It’s the American way.

This is a history lesson. This is a story of a society that existed more than 200 years ago — and a story of a society that still exists.

In 1789, a French nobleman reminisced, looking back at France during the years leading up to the fall of the Bastille, “…We believe our lifestyle to be indestructible…Never was there a more terrible awakening preceded by a sweeter slumber and more seductive dreams.”

Such was the life of the French aristocrats — a world full of excessive and seductive dreamers. Their parties were lavish as children starved in the streets. The aggrieved peasants and urban wage-earners brimmed over with resentment and stormed the Bastille. It was a revolution. It was time for a change.

I don’t condone violence. The French Revolution was known for turmoil, the guillotine and the Reign of Terror. In the single month before the its end, 1,900 executions took place. It must have taken a lot to cause such tragic social outrage.

Historians vary on the exact causes, but a few are consistent. Listen.

1. After many fruitless wars, there were social and psychological burdens placed upon the lower class. There was a huge war debt — made worse by the ineptitude of the monarchy — and a lack of social services to war veterans.

Sound familiar? Pay close attention to the word ineptitude. Throughout his presidency, Dubya has asked for more and more from taxpayers, and total spending for the war has reached more than a half trillion. For what? So Saddam Hussein can be taken from a hole and buried again? So cameras can strategically videotape a statue being dragged to the ground?

We imposed our will on a nation under a vicious dictator, yet can anyone say that their lives are better because of it?

By the way, what happened to Osama bin Laden?

2. A poor economic situation and a completely unmanageable national debt, caused by the burden of a grossly inequitable system of taxation.

In a speech made in June during a fund raiser, mega-billionaire Warren Buffett pointed out that his tax rate was 17.7 percent of his income while those who work for him were taxed up to 32.9 percent. In the 1950s, the federal income from company taxes made up 33 percent of the total pie. Today, in at least one of the first three years of Dubya’s presidency, 82 of America’s richest companies paid no tax at all. Not one cent.

Trickle-down economics is a myth. In America, we are all salmon swimming up a stream for long enough to pass along a few dreams to our children and die of exhaustion.

3. The continued conspicuous consumption by the noble class (i.e. Marie Antoinette), despite the financial burden of the populace.

In 1985, there were just 13 U.S. billionaires — just a little more than a homeless child could count on his fingers. Today, there are more than a thousand. The wealth of all those individuals who make more than a million a year totals $30 trillion.

We’ve all heard a story of excess, and if you haven’t, let me tell you a few. NPR did a report on the Algonquin Hotel in New York City. A recent addition to the menu is their “Martini on the Rock.” For a mere $10,000, you’ll receive a drink with a diamond sparkling on the bottom. Perhaps afterward, you’ll write a check using a Mont Blanc pen — a high-end writing instrument that can cost $700,000. Then you can relax at a space hotel, far from the filthy lower class of Earth.

Another NPR report will tell you about Robert Bigelow, a hotel tycoon who has spent $500 million on developing inflatable hotels in space for the ultra rich to vacation — seems fitting for them to literally float around with their heads above the clouds.

Of course, it isn’t the same. Is it? There is no need for a revolution or an uprising. We are not the vassals and serfs of 1789. We are moralists and sissies. The difference between American capitalism and French feudalism is that any of us can rise above drinking the trickling drops of the rich and become one of them. The streets are paved in gold.

So shut up, finish your degree, start paying off your debts and get ready to swim. The stream can’t be that long.

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