Isidore Helman’s engraving of the execution of King Louis XVI invariably draws you to the gruesome visage of a man displaying the severed head to the assembled lines of National Guard troops. Something more apt for our contemporary eyes, however, is an unremarkable concrete plinth in the back right of the then Place de la Révolution. You can tell from its jagged edges that something had been violently removed from its top. This plinth had held a statue of Louis XVI’s grandfather, Louis XV, until pulled down by revolutionaries five months prior to the King’s execution.
It is easy to dismiss the statue desecration and ‘cancel culture’ that we are living through as trivial and of no great concern to everyday matters. Does it matter much if a few statues are no more? Is it a serious problem if we can no longer struggle through four hours of Gone with the Wind?
The thing is, though, that no one in 1789 predicted that within a few years a king would be executed and unimaginable terror would be unleashed on the streets of Paris. As Alexis de Tocqueville’s history of the French Revolution noted, ‘there never were events greater, better prepared, longer matured, and yet so little foreseen.’ Maximillien Robespierre, the author of the Terror of 1793, had just two years earlier argued that the death penalty should be abolished without exception.
I am not predicting any such outcome from today’s events but I do think we should reach further back in history to explain the forces attacking Western culture. There is always a tendency to view current battles through the prism of the last battle; in our case between capitalism and communism. Hence, the protestors are often described as Marxists. The labels are not always used pejoratively. Patrisse Cullors, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter, describes herself as a ‘trained Marxist’.
But are these people really Marxists? How many of the organisers, let alone the protestors, understand dialectical materialism, or could explain Marx’s labour theory of value? And, I don’t see too many of the proletariat among their ranks on the street. So if Antifa and the like do not seek to own the means of production, how could you define them? Do they really have much in common with Marxists?
Like many past revolutionaries, their main objective is to destroy. Destroy our history, destroy our culture and destroy civilisation as we know it. Their destructive instincts are bred from a self-hatred of their own country. A hatred that we have foolishly let spread among our schools, universities and media over the past generation. As de Tocqueville also said in his history ‘it may be strictly said that one’s love for despotism is in exact proportion to one’s contempt for one’s country.’
They seek to replace patriotism with identity. They don’t so much seek a dictatorship of the proletariat as a dictatorship of the alphabet. Instead of feeling you belong to your country you should be defined by what letter you are in the LGBTIQ+ universe. Humans naturally want to feel part of a tribe. The wonder of modern Western civilisation is that we have created ‘tribes’, or nation states, not defined by race but defined by principles and values. Anyone can be an Australian provided you subscribe to a set of universal values largely based on freedom.
Our alphabet revolutionaries want to re-establish tribes based on old concepts like race, and new ones like gender and sexuality. These concepts are inherently divisive within a community or a nation, especially a multicultural one like ours.
When membership of a tribe can be decided by elastic concepts such as identity, basic rights can be overridden. The French Revolution started with high ideals of the Rights of Man but within a few years a member of the Committee of Public Safety, Collot d’Herbois, could say ‘the rights of man were not made for counterrevolutionaries, but only for the sans culottes [common people].’
Second, like most revolutionary movements, they have a propensity to eat their own children. In the French Revolution, this happened to almost all of the revolutionaries as the radicals of the past raced to prove themselves as radical as those of the present. A hero of 1789, the Marquis de Lafayette, was lucky to escape into exile. Eventually the Girondins, the Jacobins and Robespierre himself suffered the same fate as the king they helped execute.
Third, revolutionaries have a tendency to ban things they don’t like and rename things that remind people of the past. Somewhat forgotten today was the French Revolution’s anti-Christian philosophy – the greatest atrocities occurred in staunchly Catholic areas such as the Vendée. During the revolution, the ringing of church bells and the wearing of crosses were banned, towns named after prominent Christians were renamed and a whole new calendar was enforced. Today we have movies being cancelled and calls for the renaming of our states.
Fourth, these revolutionaries, like almost all, have no sense of humour. Even woke comedians have been some of the first children eaten for various crimes against the orthodoxy. But a similarly humourless approach is the hallmark of almost all revolutionaries. Parts of the Reformation had similar iconoclastic impulses to today’s protestors, which still can be seen at many ancient cathedrals where statues and stained glass remain destroyed as memories of an orgy of anti-Catholic violence. Erasmus once vividly described the ‘surly’ parishioners of early Protestant services who came out of church with ‘anger and fury’.
The vast majority never join revolutionary ranks. Bolsheviks, Jacobins, Khmer Rouge, cancelistas and their ilk are always only a small number of the overall community. We can see the majority dismiss their efforts with the renewed popularity of Gone With The Wind, Colonial beer and my renewed appetite for chicos.
However, these minorities sometimes still succeed almost invariably when the majority stay silent and do not defend what others seek to destroy. While there is no need to over-react to the adolescent attempts to establish autonomous zones, they are clearly a symptom of an inadequate defence of our civilisation.
If we don’t do that with more zeal we may be surprised how quickly we can lose what takes generations to build. The only fragment left of King Louis XV’s statue is its right hand. Whatever your thoughts on the ancien régime, this small artefact shows the remarkable artistry of the 17 foot statue that took 15 years to create, but just one night of violence to destroy. We must do more to promote the fundamental merit of Western society before more than just statues are torn down.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.
You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10