One of the abiding mysteries of this most mysterious age in which we live — to put it mildly — is the persistent popularity of our chosen Leader who seems to be totally without any qualifications whatever to hold the highest office in the land. His popularity continues despite the revelation from day-to-day of his determination to bring shame to the office which he ought to be determined to respect and venerate.

One of my favorite blog buddies recently expressed her puzzlement over this fact, the alarming fact that this man continues to amaze, fascinate, and maintain his hold over the minds of thousands of people in this country. And despite the fact that I swore never to read or write about this man out of my very genuine concern that it raises my shackles and my blood pressure, I do think it worth a moment’s reflection. I suggested to my friend that it is what the French saw in the eighteenth century as they experienced the reign of terror that was their revolution, a time when the rise of what they called “sansculottism” — an extreme form of republicanism that roused the very poor against the aristocracy and the wealthy who refused to pay their way in France, shifting the entire financial burden onto the shoulders of the poor and disenfranchised, thereby making them and their country weak and sickly. The word used to describe the mind-set of those who rose against the power-mongers is the French word “ressentimnent,” which we loosely translate into “resentment.”

Ressentiment is an ugly beast and it grows and festers within the heart of those who see around them others who have what they think they ought to have. It is not simply jealousy, though it is certainly akin to that most ugly passion. It breeds a form of hatred that is directed against those around them who have the power and the wealth and seem to be rubbing their faces in their own privileged position. The French aristocracy knew the country was on the brink of starvation and insurrection and that an increase in their own pathetically small tax burden — which was a joke — might bring about some sort of balance or at least quiet down the growing unrest among those who suffered deprivation. But they refused and the resentment grew until it finally erupted in the reign of terror directed against those with wealth and position who remained in France — those who had not already fled in fear.

Clearly, there is no exact parallel between the French in the eighteenth century and today’s Americans. But there are broad areas of resemblance as those who regard themselves as deprived of power see around them wealthy men and women who lord it over them and who refuse to bear any of the political burden, except in so far as it increases their own wealth and prestige. Indeed, the power-brokers seem to find new ways to shift that burden to the shoulders ย of those who can least afford it. And in this atmosphere there appears a man who is full of bloat and rhetoric, but who seems somehow different — like them, a womanizer, a crass fellow with bluster who promises them a piece of the pie that has been denied them for so long. The things this man does that horrifies many of those around him endear him to those who would be like him, arrogant, proud, domineering those around him, and abusing those who differ from him.

In a word, one might have expected something like what we are at present living through if we had thought about it a bit. It is really not all that surprising and it will not end until or unless those who have been denied access to the halls of power can somehow find themselves within those halls and portioned at least a small share of that power. This is the only way they can possibly gain some semblance of self-respect and cool down the passion of ressentiment that festers within their hearts.

It is doubtful that a revolution will be the alternative, since the passion doesn’t seem to have reached a fever pitch, but there will be continued attacks on the intelligent, the wealthy, those who seem to have what others lack, and those who pull the strings of power that makes life a burden for so many who are chronically deprived. And folks like Our Leader will continue to bask in the glow of popularity cast by those who see him as The Answer, one of Them, one who will lead them out of the mud that surrounds them.


13 thoughts on “Sansculottism

  1. Hugh, when he said to kill the drug dealers, I don’t know if I was more disappointed in him or those who clapped. So, I guess we should kill all doctors and CEOs for getting us hooked on opioids as well as the street dealers?

    I felt for a brief moment we were living in a Banana Republic. There are many things to highlight as deficiencies in this man’s character, but a metaphor might be his fascination and better relationship with strong armed leaders.

    We need more people like Retired Lt. Colonel Ralph Peters who just resigned from Fox News as he was ashamed of what they have become in support of the unsupportable or like Retired General Barry McCaffery who said the man in the White House is a “serious threat to national security.” Then, there is Retired CIA director who is pulling no punches about this man.

    They tried to warn us. Several hundred retired intelligence and military people said this man was trouble before the election. Six authors who wrote biographies for the man said the man was trouble and had a hard time with the truth. Several of the best conservative pundits like Gerson, Will, Brooks, Douthat and others said the man was trouble. And, if that weren’t enough, sixteen women said he sexually assaulted or harassed them, all of whom he called liars, while admitting to such on three occasions.

    He is acting like he has always acted. Truth is fungible and character is lacking. We should have paid attention to his history and these warning signs. Keith

  2. Good post, my friend! It further clarifies what you said in our earlier conversation, which I’ve been pondering. The more I ponder, the more I see the point and am inclined to agree with you. But now, the next question I have for you … how do we fix this, preferably without bringing back out Madame Guillotine and without blood in the streets? And also preferably before irreparable damage is done, not only to our nation, but to the world. I’ve long said that we, as humans, keep failing to learn the lessons of history … this would seem to be another example of that and lends further support to my thought that the human species is bent on self-destruction. Now, go for a nice walk in the snow and get that blood pressure down!! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Build a snowperson! โ˜ƒ๏ธ

    • Ah! You want solutions! My answer is always the same: education. But not what we are doing now. An education that frees the minds of the young and helps them become autonomous. An education that stresses history and civics that teach us lessons and help us work our way through the dreck that passes for political wisdom. Now, how do we get there? That’s the million dollar question.

      • Well of course I want solutions! What fun is a question if there are no answers? But as always, I am in agreement with your solution, but I don’t know how we achieve that. A million dollar question indeed, and I, unfortunately, have under a thousand in my bank account … ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Thanks for the post. I think for the first time since I have been reading your stuff you have offered a piece that looks past your strong dislike for the president and tries to understand the underlying problems that caused his election. I think your analysis is very good.

    If you consider the legislation that was signed today, it is a perfect example of the disenfranchisement you discuss. This time, however, Trump did not play his part, which could cost him.

    May I suggest that the reason we are in this bind has something to do with the red vs. blue mentality within our political culture? We no longer look at the merits of political positions, but which party is affiliated with the position. Speaking more specifically, the fact that the people in Washington who passed today’s spending bill went against their constituencies in most cases will not result in any negative consequences for them. They will be re-elected in the fall because they are “the lesser of two evils,” even though they have different values than their voters.

    • I dare say you are right. And thanks for the observation that I tried to look past my bias. It is at times difficult to do and I have tended not to write anything about Our Leader in recent months rather than to simply “vent.” It accomplishes nothing!

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