October 6: Love In The Time Of Terror

The Upper Crust. Is this sublime? Beautiful? Where is Burke now that we need him?


A far smarter discussion of today's reading -- Burke's famous passage of lamentation for the arrest of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette -- can be found here. Read on if you enjoy smartassery and political stridency (Burke is thrown around so often by conservatives, I feel it's OK today).

First of all, this is probably the most famous passage in the book:
It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then the dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she just began to move in,—glittering like the morning-star, full of life, and splendour, and joy.
This orb, which she hardly seemed to touch. Down, boy! Let's see if our modren conservatives can bring it like the old school. Rich Lowry, ladies and (especially) gentlemen:
I'm sure I'm not the only male in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, "Hey, I think she just winked at me." And her smile. By the end, when she clearly knew she was doing well, it was so sparkling it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America.
I prefer orbs over starbursts, but then, like Burke, I have a great affection for the old ways. To be conservative is to be in love with love!
Nothing is left [under the new regime] which engages the affections on the part of the commonwealth. On the principles of this mechanic philosophy, our institutions can never be embodied, if I may use the expression, in persons; so as to create in us love, veneration, admiration, or attachment. But that sort of reason which banishes the affections is incapable of filling their place....There ought to be a system of manners in every nation, which a well-formed mind would be disposed to relish. To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely.
I actually agree with this. By logic your country is little more than a flag of convenience -- especially if you're religious, I would think, for how interested could a transcendent God be in border disputes? But no one really feels that way. That's the big Burke point I think he's right on -- declaring a Year Zero and starting over with human relations probably won't work. The fundamental things apply, as time goes by. ( What he might have noted was that, as we saw above, the ancien regime was lovely to Burke. The people of Paris must have been looking at the other end of it. )

And I think he's right when he pointed out, before the Terror, that a state that officially gets off on murder and torture is heading down a slippery slope indeed.

However, Burke's political philosophy can also be summed up by the great Fran Lebowitz:
"The 3 questions of greatest concern are:,
1) Is it attractive?,
2) Is it amusing?,
3) Does it know its place?"
There's a passage about how the Assembly is now full of "vulgarity." I should be making fun of this, but as a half-assed aesthete myself, I'm in sympathy. Less so with his views on education, for example, which violated principle 3:
Learning paid back what it received to nobility and to priesthood, and paid it with usury, by enlarging their ideas, and by furnishing their minds. Happy if they had all continued to know their indissoluble union, and their proper place! Happy if learning, not debauched by ambition, had been satisfied to continue the instructor, and not aspired to be the master!
Yes, because we're much better off with the idiot sons of former rulers. I like Burke anyway. He just argues so hard you can't help arguing against him.

P.S. -- I almost forgot. Louis XVI apparently got in trouble because he wouldn't raise taxes.

1 comments:

beche-la-mer said...

I love how your mind works! Do you think Kirsten Dunst will play Palin in the movie version?