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Learning from history

Delacroix's classic painting

The elite has the money, but the workers have the dignity. The elite consumes; the workers produce. Future ages always forget the past elite or view its decadence with horrified contempt; the lower classes go on to found new societies and are vindicated. The masters die off, Hegel said, being collectively a parasitic excrescence, while the slaves birth new worlds. Think of the old American South: the slaves went on to form cultures of Christian love and soulful living—the Negro spiritual, gospel, ragtime, blues, jazz, arts of sublimated emancipation—while the slave-masters’ culture, based on idle leisure and violent exploitation of a productive people, withered away. Think of the French ancien régime: the aristocracy was good only for patronizing its artistic servants (Mozart and others), while the sans-culottes made revolutions that began the modern era. Think of ancient Rome: the grand empire collapsed under the weight of its own rot, as the despised barbarians triumphed and a more democratic Europe rose. Thus will our modern global empire collapse, our modern aristocracy succumb to its own decadence, and our sans-culottes lead the way to a new world.


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