Sunday, May 07, 2017

Interesting Random Facts--History Repeats Itself: The First Time as Tragedy, The Second Time as Farce

In the 19th Century, France got itself trapped in a repeating cycle of history.  First they had a King, then there was a republican revolution, then the republican revolution descended into chaos, and then Napoleon Bonaparte led a coup detat and proclaimed himself Emperor.
Then France eventually went back to having a king.  Then there was another republican revolution in 1848.  Then that revolution also descended into chaos.  Then another Napoleon Bonaparte led a coup detat and declared himself Emperor.

Karl Marx wrote a pamphlet about the 1851 coup detat in France which was called: The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon (W), which included this famous passage:

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. Caussidière for DantonLouis Blanc for Robespierrethe Montagne of 1848 to 1851 for the Montagne of 1793 to 1795, the nephew for the uncle. And the same caricature occurs in the circumstances of the second edition of the Eighteenth Brumaire.  (Via Wikipedia)

But, that line wasn't quotable enough, so the famous axiom is often paraphrased and quoted as:

Everyone knows that history repeats itself.  But what they forget to add is that the first time it plays as tragedy, the second time as farce.

I was thinking about this quote the other day when I was reading the news about the Religious Liberty Bill.
Apparently the actually bill itself is pretty toothless (see NPR) but regardless of which, all the usual suspects were lined up on both sides supporting or attacking the bill.
And it it struck me that we've done this all before.  We've been having all these arguments and culture wars since the 1960s.
But back in the 1960s, it seemed to actually mean something.  People were genuine about their beliefs.  The Left really believed that it could change the world, and the right really believed in traditional American values.
Now, the Left has become powerless and its obsession with PC language has made it largely a caricature of itself.
And how did Donald Trump (a man who regularly bragged about his sex life on Howard Stern, bragged about how he was allowed to go in and girls' locker room and watch them change, bragged about how as a star he could grab woman by the pussy, and appeared in pornography) become the champion of religious values?

We are repeating the culture wars of the 1960s and 1980s, but this time, we are repeating it as a farce.