Updated: Aug 1
Painting: "Dow Jones Industrial Average, January 2, 1981" 2018. Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 35"
[A re-post from from April 15 to celebrate Bastille Day]
This morning I spoke to my wife about the lack of easy-to-read non-fiction covering the guillotine craze of the French Revolution. Not too many modern books in print about the greatest social upheaval in history. None that are fun to read, anyway. The non-scholarly prose that can flow like a good action flick from the pen of a popular author or screenwriter. Makes sense for big media not to publish good reads about real, successful popular uprisings and the filling of wood crates with human heads—readers might too easily imagine a Rupert Murdoch sneer removed from a Rupert Murdoch body.
Oh there exists an entire genre of fictional dystopian literature, where the oppressed beat back the oppressors. And these days, every third Hollywood blockbuster models some ragtag space clan defeating the evils of the universe in light speed machines manufactured by a slave society on an unnamed planet.
I am here to tell you that The French Revolution happened, and neither the Pope nor your neighbor will ever remind you. About 17,000 decapitations in just one year! And humanely administered with the guillotine, instead of the unpredictable hacking at the neck from an axe or a sword that was state procedure with the Ancien Régime.
Wow, 17,000 heads! Why so many? Did Louis XVI share the wealth and corruption more widely among the populace? I can think of thirty heads removed in America that would hasten the return of the bluebird to my back yard. (I would name them too if this were a free nation.) Honestly, I think 17,000 heads is a bit much, but a good number to aim for to save 8 billion souls, kill lethal microbes, and cut the extinction rate by half or better. Their decapitations won't stop the ocean from climbing over Miami, but they will have Miami think twice of ever happening again.
Donald Trump is a bad leader of government. So was Barack Obama. And George Bush was (is) a demon war criminal. And now 4% of the world's population that uses 28% of the world's resources is poised to elect Joe Biden, who is further right in toothy smile policy than Ronald Reagan was in cowboy boots. Neither celebrity Joe nor celebrity Trump will set a sustainable path after the virus takes its hiatus. Kings of America are facades of popular bullshit. Louis XVI was also a stylish celebrity loser. However, the French knew that it was not just the unpopular King who was guilty of starvation suffering. Justice was going to be meted out against all state and private corruption. Unlike today's corporate media, thinking people of 18th century France would not unload all of society's faults on just one stupid man.
So, now that the microbe has us frozen, have any of you given a horse's last crap about Tom Hanks? How about Joaquin Phoenix, Tom Brady, Al Roker? I know, it's all on pause, and as soon as the Microbe goes into temporary hiding, we'll rush back into identifying our submission to authority with the correct celebrity moniker to express our disquiet with our true selves and impending doom. Revolution? That's not what Jeff Bezos wants. How else am I going to get that inane birthday gift to my niece on time? NPR told me that 17 million people lost their jobs, and the stock market has never seen a better week. See, everything is a-okay as soon as the virus goes away! Governor Cuomo quips with his doting brother Chris, who broadcasts chipper death propaganda down in his basement man cave. Joe Biden's got a political army ready to rerun the "Back to Normalcy" campaign of Warren G. Harding. History repeating itself in the worst way. To implement a "Roaring Twenties" culture tomorrow, after coronavirus, and among real doom scenarios (nuclear war and climate change catastrophe) ensures for us a Great Depression untold to future generations because history stops when we do.
The Microbe has given us a beautiful opportunity. The human machine has slowed as it has never done before on purpose. You can join the optimist in me, and set aside a few thousand heads for a tomorrow worth living.
Take a walk out under the star sun. Can you feel it? The earth is vibrating less. It had an itch and then a twitch and was just about going to scratch away its parasitic fleas when something wonderful happened. Capitalism got the grippe.