A colleague sent me a You Tube video which is going viral: Annonymous: Bankers Are the Problem: The Root of All Evil”. This message is delivered in solemn tones by a voice- disguised speaker wearing a Guy Fawkes mask which has become the familiar icon of a leaderless movement known as Annonymous . If you skipped the course in British History, Guy Fawkes was a17th century anarchist executed after his attempt to blow up Parliament. This mask, however, was popularized by the 2006 movie, V for Vendetta which takes place in a dystopian future. The main character known only as V is a shadowy revolutionary freedom fighter who seeks vengeance upon fascist oppressors. In the Annonymous video the speaker advocates a need for “frontier justice” and for people taking the law into their own hands. If this wasn’t alarming enough, he then refers to the oblivious Bourbon monarchs, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette who lost their heads to the guillotine following the French Revolution of 1789. Anyone following the Wall Street Protests spreading throughout the country can see that the meme for rebellion is in the air. One can also detect a growing support for “The Second American Revolution”.
Scattered throughout the New York crowds at Occupy Wall Street, one could actually hear calls such as “off with their heads”. On October 4, 2011, People Like Us web site carried an article entitled, “Wall Street – Off With Their Heads” ( www.peoplelikeus.com/?=17190 ) featuring the image of a guillotine. Readers were referred to a recent RT (Russian Television) interview with comedienne/activist Roseanne Bar who says that she favors the return of the guillotine. According to Roseanne, if corporations are “people” as the Supreme Court recently ruled then they should be tried for murder, fraud, larceny and other mayhem and summarily beheaded. Here one can hope that she exaggerates in order to make a point and still her rhetoric invokes a disturbing historical precedent.
So far, the tens of thousands who have taken to media outlets and the streets to protest the “economic royalists” have remained peaceful. Should the ruling classes and their minions overreact with extreme and violent suppression, tensions are likely to escalate with bloodshed on both sides. Since both language and images from the French Revolution have been evoked in the early stages of this confrontation, it might be useful to review the dynamics of that historical event where the guillotine became the symbol of the revolutionary cause. A violent populist uprising in 1789, which began as a food riot (Let them eat cake) led to the overthrow of their oblivious Bourbon monarchy. King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and several other royals were eventually beheaded in 1792. This was followed by a period of violence and chaos that became known as “The Reign of Terror” (1793-94). Mass public executions were carried out as untold thousands of aristocrats and other “enemies of the revolution” lost their heads under the blade of the National Razor. Next in this cycle of horror, came executions of those who had both supported the revolution and carried out The Terror. It has been said that few who initiate revolution actually survive that which they have set into motion. Nightmares of The Terror soon gave way to the rise of Emperor Napoleon, who was eventually overthrown in favor of the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy. Full circle!
This dynamic has many names. Ancient Greeks described this as a principle of enantiodromia, whereby that which is extreme has a tendency to morph into its opposite. Other versions advise that “you become what you resist”, or “what you resist, persists” and “you become what you hate”. Swiss psychiatrist C.G. Jung held that a superabundance of any force will eventually produce its opposite. This, he believed to be equivalent to the principle of equilibrium in the natural world. Any extreme, therefore, will be opposed by a systemic need to restore balance. At this point, it seems somewhat early to be able to forecast the outcome of our nation- wide protests which seem likely to become global. Nevertheless, we can be sure that extremes on other side will, sooner or later, morph into their opposite.