In 1789, a bunch of people in France decided their nobles were a bit too tall and began shortening them by use of the guillotine. A little over a hundred years later, bored Russian intellectuals raised an army and killed off the Romanovs for want of anything better to do (the above might be a slight simplification of actual historical events).
In both cases, the earlier aristocratic way of life was wiped off the map, supposedly forever.
Of course, by the time of the Russian Revolution, the French had replaced their aristocracy with captains of industry who drove enormous motorcars and drank expensive champagne and made the court of Louis XVI look like a bunch of unwashed yahoos (all right, the French are always unwashed, but you know what I mean).
I suppose that if one takes a socialist view of things, you could say that it’s only natural that the capitalist society born of the Industrial Revolution would spawn gross inequalities, but that would also be a lie. If one looks at the Soviet state a few years later, one would find the same inequalities between the Party elite and everyone else. Within the limits of the disastrous Soviet economy–communism is not a system that motivates people to generate wealth–there existed an aristocracy. Sure, they had crappy cars and their Dachas were not particularly sumptuous, but compared to everyone else, they lived like kings.
And the pattern is repeated everywhere. Among every single group of humans whether living in free market economies or closed systems there arises a group that everyone else envies, that has more stuff than others, or access to a more enjoyable form of life.
An aristocracy in all but name.
Why, though. Weren’t aristocrats supposedly a cancer on society that the countless revolutions were aimed at eradicating?
Supposedly. But reality says that the revolutions only succeeded in changing the names, not the structure. There is still a tiny portion of the world that has all the fun while everyone else is on the outside looking in, resentment growing day by day.
And this is why I never listen to the people who argue for the redistribution of wealth on a global scale. They’re ignoring every lesson history has ever taught, and expecting everyone else to blithely ignore them as well. Of course, fanatics always have a “Yes, but that was a special case” argument, but when every single time turned into an exception, one begins to suspect that those exceptions are actually the rule, and that the utopians are a bit misguided.
So, instead of spending our time trying to give the wealth of the planet to a completely different minority group, I propose that the readers of Classically Educated dedicate their lives to hedonism and itellectuality. You can’t see the flaws of the world through the bottom of a bottle, and, as Blake said, we should open the doors of perception (the substances you use for that purpose are your own business…).
I know this isn’t my greatest insight ever, but one needs to understand that it’s Monday morning, and you can’t expect too much.
Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine novelist whose latest book, Timeless, has a lot of hedonism wrapped up in the trappings of intellectuality (a romantic thriller hinging around a book written by a monk is almost the definition of that combo). You can check it out here.