Tuesday, July 17, 2007

14th of July (Bastille Day)

Each year, on the 14th of July, France remembers the fall of the Bastille back in 1789. This prison was considered a symbol of tyranny and injustice: the same reasons that led to the French revolution.

Before the revolution, the French society was divided into two parts: the first consisting mainly of the nobility and the clergy who were both rich, and the second part was mainly the common people who suffered poverty and famine. A society so divided like that, was ready for a revolution.

It was the financial crises of the country, the spending of the aristocrats, and the increasing taxes upon the common people, that probably sparked the beginning of this revolution. After some political stand offs within the country, anarchy prevailed.

The fall of the Bastille was a symbol of defeat of tyranny and injustice, however, the revolution brought more tyranny and injustice in its first years. Many people were butchered in prisons, while many others were guillotined (some based only on suspicion). It was a period of time called the 'reign of terror', in which violence was considered as the only way to save the revolution. This form of anarchy continued until Napoleon Bonaparte was able to restore order within the country.

One may ask, was all this violence inevitable? Looking at the facts, we will find that many of these death were based upon mere revenge. Many of those who ordered others to be guillotined, were themselves guillotined by others when they were out of power. This kind of extremism was the main reason of the terror; it deviated the revolution from its original track which was to bring justice.

While remembering the 14th of July, one may only relate what happened within the first years of the French revolution with what is happening in the world today. There's no way better to explain this except by using the words of Madame Roland when she was about to be guillotined:

"O Liberté, que de crimes on commet en ton nom! "
(Oh Liberty, what crimes are committed in your name!)

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