2011/11/12

Napoleon and His Effects on Revolutionary Ideals

At first blush, Napoleon appears to have left the ideals of the 'Revolution' in the dust behind him as he moved forward towards his goals and desires. However, it would be remiss to make this statement without actually discussing what some of the ideals of the revolution were... and it appears that in some ways, we are still discovering some of the smaller pieces of knowledge that gives us new ways of looking at the actions, ideals, and desires of the major and minor players in the revolutionary process. Without a long discussion, most of the ideals that were hoped for with the French revolution and its 'creators' can be seen in its motto of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” The idea that people were and should be treated equally, that people had inherent rights to be protected from their government and have representation in that government, and that class and rights to only a few in a stratified society should be abolished. Other reasons for the revolution were problems with severe poverty, lack of safety or protection for the majority, and the inability for most of the individuals living in France to have any real way to take care of themselves or to be self sufficient... let alone able to advance themselves or their children.

Many of Napoleon’s ways of expanding his power, controlled territory and, of course, his ambition can be seen to be directly scaling back the benefits and rights that the Revolution had been 'fought' to win. Women had been granted through the revolutionary government equal rights to divorce and to help control or make decisions on their children and family property. With Napoleon, many of these protections were scaled back... and women found themselves once more with restrictions on their desires for divorce and their rights to make any decisions in equality with their husband on children of property. Males were once again legally and socially over women in even these private family matters. Women could even lose their French citizenship if they married a male that didn't have French citizenship.(This is a bit remarkable to me. As Americans, we require other people to give up their citizenship to become an American, but many other countries allow you to hold citizenship of more than one country. A friend of mine was born in Australia and has citizenship for both England and Australia. She married an American and so her children have access to citizenship to all three countries, but only if she continues to keep a green card and never becomes a American citizen. This experience was one I thought about when I read about this restriction and thought about how it limits her choices if she wants to expand her offspring's choices in this world.... and I wondered how much more it was limiting for women in the time frame of the early 1800's...? The revolutionary law that required equal distribution of property to children upon parental death was abolished, allowing male parents to distribute property to their children as they wished which was very likely to cause the traditional problems of disinheritance of daughters and even younger sons. (I am certain that kind of tradition dispersment also limits woman’s choices and makes the majority far more likely to live in poverty.) A true irony is that truth, wisdom and many virtues in French society are portrayed as women.

Other minorities also found their rights and new-found protections were curtailed of removed as well. The few rights that some group of Jews were given were pretty much removed. Napoleon, like many in his society... and even today if I think about it, really mistrusted people who formed Jewish groups- no matter what “Jewish” group they participated in. In one stance, Napoleon passed a law giving amnesty to peasants who owed members of the Jewish population money.... but he stood by and did nothing for peasants who owed other populations or people money -clear discrimination. While law had abolished slavery, blacks now had the misfortune to no longer have that protection... and Napoleon even went out of his way in some attempts in re-enslave black populations in colonies and have free blacks in France register with the police – again, clear discrimination.

Other freedoms that had been extended to all and not just to minority groups were curtailed or removed all together. Censorship became the norm not only for newspapers and other forms of entertainment like the theater, but also in relation to free speech. A secret police force was developed and funded to hunt of dissidents and the vocally 'disgruntled' and its existence must have made people much more wary about expressing themselves to others. Plays and other entertainment eventually had to be approved through the police/ government before any attempt at public performance could be had. There is documentation that Napoleon would 'edit' even specific lines in stories, articles, plays etc... to be sure that things read or were seen the way he wanted them to be. He also moved religious freedom back a little bit and while he allowed the worship of other religions in many ways, he put the Catholic religion at the top of governmental support and, as before, all clergy and other religious leaders were paid by the state to assure their loyalty to the state... and not to the Pope.

Lastly, one clear ideal of the revolution was representative government. Napoleon clearly had no wish to have any kind of representative government... unless it represented his view only. :) Bureaucracy was set and controlled in such as way that over time, Napoleon become the only leader and even other 'leaders' must get his approval for everything... and anything! In many ways, he was to return France to the form of government it had been following for hundreds of years – a hereditary absolute monarchy. His relatives and children were given territory and ruling positions over much of the conquered territory of Europe and it appears that his relatives in many ways answered to him as well. This was clearly not the ideal situation that most of the revolutionaries had fought for.

When we look at France through these ideas, it seems clear that Napoleon is a man that could be classified along with other 'enlightened' despots in history. Many of the changes that had been won through the costs of fear and blood were carefully and strictly removed. That said, he didn't disagree with or change all of the hard won changes of the revolution. The achievements of personal and private property were kept so that people could be assured that the government couldn't just swoop in and take their land... there had to be a good and lawful reason (which he only ignored in some instances). Religious freedom was still kept... OK, freedom of 'Christian' religions were kept... but that was certainly an improvement. :) Feudal rights continued to be abolished and were not reinstated... except for a few situations which again Napoleon conveniently ignored for his gain. A constitutional monarchy- even if in name only- was still a small step forward towards democracy. And certainly, one consequence of the revolution and its other great leader was control and terror. This standard and form of rule Napoleon would continue. With censorship and a virtual police state, Napoleon may not have used the guillotine to achieve his ends in the same way that Robespierre did, but he too used his intelligence, his oratory and persuasive abilities, ambition, and the addition of his military prowess to create a country in his image... and to take that image and use his armies to paint it across the entire European continent. Thankfully, life had in many ways improved for his constituents and they were able to have a chance at a more satisfactory life.

2011/11/07

Attila the Hun and the Rise of the Catholic Church... and a Touch of 'Vandal-ism'

When the Huns and the Vandals came upon the Roman empire, a few changes had happened from the beginning of the Empire. The Roman empire had been too large to control between one person in the form of an Emperor and so it had been divided into two sections – the Eastern empire and the Western empire. Rome had also changed its major religion and the pagan religion had fallen slowly from the top of the heap to be suffocated by Christianity. The Huns offered other groups the opportunity to live in a society that was similar to the Roman past of a few generations previously. They offered a society that was rich in wealth, militarily strong, and a culture that still worshiped Pagan gods without harassment or trouble. It seems that the Huns could be seen as a different political group than the Romans and charged no taxes. So many people and groups would join this 'anti- Roman' alliance even though this lifestyle was tougher in theory. It is beginning to be thought that there was no actual “Hun Nation', but there were groups of Huns... and so you could join the 'group' but it wasn't the same thing as the leadership under the Roman empire (it sounds sort of like converting to Judaism... it gives you a new culture and lifestyle, but not necessarily a new land. However, if you were already pagan, then the Huns allowed you to practice the religion that you had been practicing anyway.) At first, the Huns lived peacefully in the lands near Rome and in Rome. Sometimes, Roman officials would pay for the use of the Hun's military groups in their own boundary battles. Under the reign of Attila the Hun, this relationship changed and this leader used the Hun armies to devastate and take power of many cities in the Eastern part of the Roman empire... causing enough devastation and fear that the Roman leaders agreed to pay Attila the Hun 150,000 solid gold coins a year if he would stop the military campaign. This gold payment kept Attila as the leader of the Huns and he used the gold to pay his armies and warriors and to also help his groups and their cities/civilizations thrive- Attila had developed a system in which he could profit from Rome whether they were at war of peace and he depended on the constant supply of Roman gold. Attila took great care to stay out of the Roman empire and he took great pains to keep his people out as well. One Roman diplomat, Priscus, was sent to negotiate with Attila the Hun at one point and he has given us a good description of the Hun court. His description included his difficulty in actually finding the Huns because of the 'one hundred mile dead zone', a camp that was surrounded by polished wood that was clearly for decoration and appearance, wonderful feasts where individuals drank out of gold goblets and used silver plates (although he states that Attila used wooden dishes and that Attila seemed to be a soul of 'temperance'), and the enclosures had bath houses. Attila also unmasked a Roman assassination plot and instead of killing the individuals that were involved, he gave them their freedom and sent them back to Rome.



There is some evidence that members of German tribes imitated the Huns in their culture. In a graveyard that was found in Hungary, many bodies were found that 'looked' like the bodies of Huns due to the elongated heads, but all the artifacts and evidence around the bodies was German. This evidence helps to suggest why we cannot find huge areas of Hun artifacts... as the culture and society of the Huns was assimilated into the groups who already lived in the lands they conquered – in this case the Germans. In essence, the Huns didn't slaughter everyone around them and built up their groups by assimilating nearby groups of people that were willing and interested in joining- Germans, Goths, Iranians and even disaffected Romans.

Attila the Hun, after finishing up with the Eastern Empire and was collecting an obscene amount tribute, he turned his attention to the Western Roman Empire and attacked the land of Belgium. With the legitimate excuse of trying to rescue a (Roman) emperor's sister who had written for help, he attacked and quickly took over large cities in Belgium and Italy as well. It was at this time in 452 CE, a Pope of the Catholic church negotiated with Attila the Hun and ended the fight. Pope Leo I negotiated a peace and Attila and his armies withdrew- it has been suggested in some sources that the negotiation probably also came with a large sum of gold and other tribute- other sources suggest a combination of events including food shortages, plague, other military actions, and that Attila was already overladen with plunder and this strategy would allow him to take it home and save face … and then come back and fight. (It should also be stated that this was a 'temporary' peace and that Attila agreed to a basic 'ceasefire', but was quite open with the fact that if he didn't have all of his demands met, he and his armies would be back.) Because of the successful negotiation of the Pope with Atilla (and a good deal of wonderful traditional propaganda about the angel/apostles Peter and Paul coming to fight against the Huns who then promptly turned tail and ran), the Pope gained more political clout than the Roman emperor. For the next 1000 years, the Pope became the unquestioned leader of the Roman Catholic church and a real political force that had to be reckoned with by all secular leaders and rulers of European lands. Pope Leo one became the first pope to be called 'the Great.' It can be stated that the creation of the Pope and his 'power' was, in essence, created by Attila the Hun and is Attila's only lasting legacy to our modern world. A few years later, Pope Leo I tried to negotiate with King Gaiseric... with less success (I guess the angels were busy that day...? ; ) The Vandal King refused to leave, but he did agree to keep the bloodshed and destruction low. He conquered Rome and returned to North Africa flush with treasure and plunder.

It must be stated that the Roman empire's collapse was really caused by quite a few factors, including the political prominence of the Roman Catholic Pope, the actions of Attila the Hun... and the actions of Gaiseric and the Vandals. King Gaiseric was born around the time of the birth of Attila and his childhood was spent living as a refugee in these tough times. He rose to rule his community which were called the Vandals- which meant the wanderers. Eventually the Vandals arrived in southern Spain and in 429 King Gaiseric and his followers numbered at 80,000 people sailed across the sea to Northern Africa. Once there, he and his army conquered these rich, fertile lands from the Roman empire and these areas included Carthage... which was the city that the Romans used to transport all the riches, growth, oil and wheat grown in Africa to the rest of the empire. Much of this grain was given to the male citizens of the empire for free to keep them from revolting against the emperor. By taking over Carthage, the vandals found themselves in a land that was plentiful and had huge political ramifications. It gave the Vandals almost full control of the Mediterranean Sea. Roman lost the fertile lands of Africa as well as the huge tax moneys and it was this loss that caused the already cracking empire to crumple into the dust. The Catholic church survived and thrived and the Latin language is the language in which we get most of our history. As the winners of the 'battle', all other groups became monsters and barbarians in their eyes....and these thoughts and 'truths' have been passed down to us today.

The Vandals were considered worse than the 'pagan' barbarians (by the rulers and members of the Roman empire) because the Vandals were 'Christians' but the wrong sort of Christians. Roman Catholicism believes that Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father were equal in status and both of the same essence. Vandal groups tended to believe in a form of Christianity that was known as Arianism- developed by Arius who taught that Jesus Christ was subordinate to the Heavenly Father as the 'son' was created by God... so they in necessity must be distinct and different. The Pope also saw himself as God's man on earth and in many ways equal to God. So if you are Catholic, you know you need to follow the Pope because he is God's man.
Being a member of Arianism, you are stating that not only do you believe differently but you are probably not following the political rules as set by the pope and his allies as well. One Roman bishop described the Vandals as 'worse than Jews and pagans; inspired by the devil', but most North Africans saw the Romans/ Catholic church as 'corrupt and vicious.' King Gaiseric gave freedom of religion to the people in his lands for everyone except the elite of his government- which were required to follow Arianism. He was not know for torturing or prosecuting people of different beliefs and when Catholic members were looking for ways to complain about King Gaieric's ill treatment toward them, one of the few ways they could find was to complain that the King would not allow them to sing their hymns.

2011/11/05

Building A Support Team.....

Do you have a support system? After doing some study this week, I pretty much realized that I do not have a solid support system and I need one. The ability to learn how to develop one is not only a much needed skill, but something I truly want. I want to not only have a support system, but to be an intricate part of other support systems. So I took the time to make two lists. One list was of current important relationships and one was of past important relationships. And there came the challenge. My most important relationship is with my husband and even though that relationship is changing, it still is my most important relationship and has been for almost two decades. But I will say that I am not sure how supportive it really is. I don't think that any relationship can be strong and supportive if only one person is interested in that and is uncommunicative. Rob is important to me for so many reasons. His strength and positive energy I have found supportive in times of trouble and confusion. His smile has always been a constant and it has never failed to give me a joyful lift every time I see it. I look to him for someone that I trust to talk to, to help solve problems, and as a friend. That relationship is clearly changing as we go through the beginning process of divorce and my husband works on changing the relationship. So I am at the beginning of developing a new life path and I have the wonderful opportunity to be able to learn and actively develop a new support system to help with that. What a cool thing!

My family of origin has had a lot of influence in my development as a person and as a leader. How much of my emotional and physical development that can be easily pushed onto my family, my original personality, society, etc... I do not know and I don't think that really dissecting it in the past has really done much but cause blame and anger. Needless to say, I left my parent's (almost said mother's -that' blaming I think :) home at eighteen years old with very little confidence in myself and with few marketable skills besides the motivation to please and a high energy level that allowed me to perform work faster than the average bear. I think that I carry almost literally the heavy burden of emotion and experience of the past on my shoulders. If I was to try and decide the role that my family played in my growing as a leader, I think that I would need to re-frame it. I think what I can do is to say that I learned to survive and to depend on myself. I learned to appreciate caring friends and I learned to understand and be more tolerant of differences and mental illness. These skills have served me well in my life and have really taught me an understanding, compassion, and service for other people that I think I wouldn't have gained any other way. A diagnosis is no longer something to fear... it's just a silly label and it doesn't change who the person is, what they think and feel, or in most ways what they need. So I am willing to step forward to help others that many people do not feel comfortable spending time with and I can laugh and become friends with someone and not focus on their 'labels.' One thing that I learned from my family is to please others and I am trying to find a medium ground where I please others, but I do not harm myself in the doing. I think that my genuine understanding and re-framing of my past family experiences can show me the positive aspects of the skills that I learned and help me to also grow and learn from the difficulties that I see people still struggling with in my family.

This might sound a little bit of a cope out, but I do not feel like I have any really important relationships in the past that was truly influential over a period of time in a positive way. I can think of many people that had influenced me for short periods of time and mostly in positive, 'friendship' ways. Maybe in some ways I am still seeing the term leadership in too rigid a construct. Friends do help me to learn how to be a better leader by being a leader in my own life. My friend Katey has been very influential in helping me to be introspective in a way that is positive and can sustain growth. She has helped my confidence and she always is willing to say the hard things- if she needs to tell me something hurtful that is useful, she will do it. How many people have such a real true friend? Katey has been instrumental in helping me keep my mental health in my current life situation and my ability to laugh and see many things in a positive light. I think that she will be an important part of my support system as I move forward.

I have mentioned before that I do not think I have really had any mentors... at least not in the sense of what the word means to me. One person that pops into my mind is a friend of mine who died a few years ago. Her name was Sarah Drew and she was sixty years older than me. I met her at church and she became my closest friend and confidant for many years. In some ways, I think she does count as a mentor as I did tend to take her advice when it was given and she also taught me how to survive through really difficult situations. She was a child of divorce and the Great Depression, had three divorces herself, four children and a nursing career. She was a wonderfully caring person. She would let me know that I needed to stand up for myself... and she was willing to stand up to people a lot bigger than her to protect me. She could be quite fierce when people were intolerant and mean and I will always miss her... and I wish I could have been closer to her age so we would have more time together. I think there are a few ways that she helped me develop important skills. She helped me to develop strength and stamina in adversity and there were many times I might have stopped coming to church without her loyal and calming influence. She helped me to learn that family was what you made of it and not necessarily what you were born with – my son still misses Gram Sarah. She would listen to me, give advice, and support me in my trials.... and I would give her rides to church and to appointments and help her to accomplish the things that mattered to her... but she wasn't physically able to do anymore. Our relationship has ended in this life and I will not see her again in the flesh, but I still find that some of the things she told me still inspire me today. I sometimes modify my behavior remembering things that were important to her and how she would want me to behave. It helps me to look stronger in my difficulties and helps me to find humor and joy in even the really yucky things.

I am not sure I would still be alive much less still be in college and working without my friends. I know which friends I can count on now due to my current situation and yes, my list has definitely whittled down and has fewer names on it. But those friends have been tested through the fire of my current challenges... and have stayed. I think I can depend on them for anything. While there are only five of them (and they know who they are :) A few of them will give me honest feedback and I can share everything- I will say that while I know I can share, I find it difficult to do so. It's truly a flaw in me and not my close friends. One of my close friends has been close to me for six years or maybe a little more. Some of the qualities that I think I bring to that relationship are compassion and love, energy, a blending of strengths and weaknesses and personalities that really seem to crave each other. I am a lousy cook and she is not and loves to cook. I love to weed... and she doesn't really find that really enjoyable. We can discuss the really hurtful things in our lives and know that neither of us will be rejected no matter what. She is safe in so many ways and has made my life more full and joyful. I can think of a friendship with someone else that did not work out for me and has in fact changed my whole life. I can think of a few things that I would have done differently. I do not think I was tolerant or understanding in the way I needed to be. I think that I needed to understand that she just couldn't trust anyone and so I shouldn't have felt so threatened. I should have believed in myself more and understood. I also should have helped to keep rigid boundaries so that the friendship could continue to thrive. That said, I learned a lot and it appears that no matter what I gave that relationship, my friendship was easily thrown away... so I don't think that it was a good friendship no matter what I did or did not do. But it was a lesson learned and I learned it in a big way. :)

I have never had or thought about having a personal support group. I will say that I think I need to contemplate it. It sounds like a great idea in my current situation. My son had a support group at one point and I will admit that it didn't really work... but I am not sure that was the group's fault. If I had a support group, I would run it in many of the same ways. I would have five members and I would have us set goals for myself over the next few years. We would meet and work together to help me move forward through my current trials. I would like to potentially add a few members that do not think exactly like me so they could have a different perspective on my situation. I have so much going on in my life right now- it would be nice to have others to clap me on the shoulder and help me with confidence and with making priorities. Being surrounded by people who genuinely want me to succeed and were willing to help me work towards it would be quite a gift.

I am currently actually working on building a professional support network in the job that I just managed to land/get hired. I am now working on developing relationships with other postal employees so that I can call when I have questions and hopefully increase the amount of hours that I can get. I have been driving to close post offices to introduce myself and I have been working hard to show my flexibility and to develop relationships that are positive with my co-workers. The relationships are not close, but I am hoping that they will become a good network that I can receive help from, but I can also provide help for. I would include the few employees in my post office but also a few employees for the other close post offices. I am also a BLS instructor and I have been trying to figure out how to develop a network that can make that job more stable and consistent for me. Figuring out how to network this job is really hard as it really is a lot like self employment. I need to sell myself against other people in the same job with very little work available in my area. What I have been doing is making fliers and hanging them up and faxing the fliers to a list of businesses that I have slowly accumulated numbers for and sometimes that is helpful and people call me and I get work. I would love to get a networking group together where we could work together to help each other get business. I will admit that I am not sure how to do that- I have been working alone for quite a while. But I think this is a good idea... and I think I need to try it! I would need someone from my training center as they could help me find clients, someone who works in the school system and maybe even someone who works for licensing for the state. Seems like a tall order but I do think it is doable...

I am not really sure about the idea of a board of directors for my personal life. Would it make my life less chaotic and crazy? : D Anyway, I guess I do not really understand the question because I am not really sure that I understand how a board of directors is really a lot different from a support group. Is it basically that a board of directors has more authority to get things done. So if I thought something was good and the rest of the group didn't... they could overrule me whereas a support group can give advice but I can totally ignore it...? It that was the case, I think there would be many positive and negative experiences with a board of directors. If I was too focused on something and couldn't see the pitfalls, the board members could actually force me to look at other viewpoints which might be good... or bad if they were wrong. Other good points would be the variety of experience and backgrounds that could bring more ideas and diversity to my life. I have closed so many aspects of my life up and having a group of people that could in some ways force me to be more open would be horribly scary... but I might really find that it would be positive for me and my life experience. I think that I would like to have a group that is stronger than a support group, but has a little less power than a board of directors. We could work as a group to help me move forward, but everyone could agree to some work or tasks and would be held accountable to the group... but mistakes or life happens and the accountability would be personal and in the group. I wouldn't want harsh accountability or authority because that might make people feel like they should be more accountable to my group then those other people and trials in their lives. That is why (in my opinion) corporations have a board of directors and the rest of us have support groups. Because corporations out of necessity try and get their employees to give everything to them... and that the employee's personal life is very much second. In a support group, everyone is important and your presence and how you feel and your experiences matter. If you are having personal problems that interfere with your attendance or participation in a support group, people are concerned and will try to help. In my experience, if your personal problems affect your job as a board member, you have very little leeway and you are very likely to lose your job or other negative consequences. The idea of creating a unit with traits of both groups is very attractive and I will take some time to think about it.

2011/11/04

The Decline of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Franks and the State of France

The early relationship between the rulers of the Roman empire and the 'Franks' was not positive- many of their leaders were given to the 'beasts' by the Roman emperors as a lesson and a warning to other Franks who might wish to raid Roman lands. In some of the lands that are now known as the Netherlands and Belgium, the Romans 'gave' the Franks this land to help the Romans protect their borders. For a thousand years there was peace between the Romans and the Franks, but difficulties arose over religion and neither side was willing to compromise. The Franks were pagan and happily so... and as the Roman empire started to collapse, the Franks began to move south in groups to live. When the Roman's needed to find armies to fight Attila the Hun and his armies, Roman leaders happily accepts the Franks and uses their armies to push the Huns back. The Franks help the Roman armies win the war and expect deference and appreciation from the Roman government. Unfortunately, the government seems to have taken the service of the Franks as their entitlement as governmental rulers. Later the Franks and their leaders will simply slowly conquer the Romans as the western empire collapses and take over their lands.

Merovich was a Frank leader (one of many leaders) who led his army of Franks against the Roman's military. He is said to have been descended from a sea god per legend to help give him a more noble and substantial genealogy. He became the first ruler of what would later become known as the Merovingian Dynasty. Merovich was the first leader to help pull several diverse groups of Franks together; to work together, fight together and to ally themselves with each other against other groups such as the Roman empire. Merovich led his army against the Romans at a battle in Tournai and he negotiated a treaty that allows his people to settle into new areas – new to them, the areas had belonged to the western part of the empire. Merovich is able to win more land and more power over time with his armies and, in agreeing to fight Attila the Hun alongside of Rome, King Merovich gives himself and his men an inside view of the Roman armies, better training and equipment and the knowledge and confidence needed to fight the Romans themselves in the future.

The relationship between the Franks and the Roman Empire under Childeric was a little cimplicated? Childeric, also said to have been descended from a sea god, became a king of the Franks and was able to unite a few of different groups of Franks.... despite himself and his poor behavior (he was banished for a short time due to poor behavior with young, beautiful women.) It is not known whether Childeric I was a son or a relative of King Merovich (although the documentary states that Clovis is a grandson of Merovich which would make King Childeric the son of Merovich.) Childeric I becomes a great chieftain and he is seen by Rome as a great ally. The Franks would take over certain areas that were good for growing food and producing stock/animal husbandry. He would fight as an ally with Rome in their continued battles and even though there are a few rulers of the 'Franks', Childeric will stand out from the others by courting Roman favor. He would help Rome fight other barbarian groups to keep the land of Gaul under Roman control and it was Childrec's armies that made it possible for the Rome to beat the Visigoths and keep most of Gaul... just as his father Merovich gave Rome the ability to beat Attila the Hun. Childeric died in 481 after a rule of 24 years. His burial place was discovered in the seventeenth century with lots of objects, jewelry etc... unfortunately, most of the items were stolen and later melted down.

Clovis is the son of King Childeric and he becomes the king upon the death of his father. It must be stressed that even though he received the royal title, there were many groups of Franks and Clovis was only one of many rulers. Clovis was full of ambition and he was truly a traditional Germanic warrior king- his goals were to get treasure and land, gain honor, and subdue people to his will. At the beginning of his rule, Clovis would get along with the Roman government and would curry favor. However, after gathering military and diplomatic ties with other groups of Franks, he would attack and takes over parts of the crumbling Roman empire. Clovis was willing to deal with Roman and Catholic bishops with diplomacy... sometimes using Catholic bishops against Rome itself. Later, he would attack other Frank groups and assimilate them as well as other Roman groups into his control. Clovis gains his eventual one man rule position by carefully eliminating his enemies, using his bravery in battle, and using deceit and treachery to trick others into removing his competitors... he was able to keep his hands clean of those murders and take over leadership of those groups. At one point near the end of his life, Clovis gave a speech lamenting his lack of close loyal kin... he seemed to forget that he had killed or had murdered as many of them as possible to control things himself and to name his own heirs unconstrained. Clovis also recognized that he must build unity in the diversity of the Franks and he was successful in that. Clovis gave those he conquered equal status with the franks giving the 'conquered' good reasons to like him, to fight in his armies, etc... In a sense, he helped to blend the cultures of the Romans and the Franks. He became a Christian and converted the Franks from paganism (there is some debate about this and some historians believe that he originally converted to Arianism from paganism... and then to Catholicism later in life and maybe only three years before his death.). By converting, he brought his new Roman subjects into his rule more cleanly and gained their loyalty faster and he continued to expand his kingdom until his death in 511 CE. His one major mistake is that he didn't spend enough time working on his succession. He ordered his kingdom that he took so many years to gather and unite, divided into four pieces and given to each of his sons in his will.... where the separated pieces fell into civil war, fratricide and bloodshed. His name becomes the early derivative to the name 'Louis' which became the principle name of most of the kings and rulers of France since his time.

There is a saying about this time : “The Franks took a rib out of the old Roman corpse and gave Western Europe its backbone.” This statement describes the consequences of the rule of Clovis and his ambition and success of his legacy. He becomes the founder of the modern French state and his capital is Paris- when he dies, he is buried in Paris at the Church of the Holy Apostles that he had built (an ironic end-note: his sarcophagus was left alone until the time of the French revolution in which it was opened and his ashes scattered to the winds... I find this ironic due to my current studies of the French Revolution. It is like a common 'loop'. :). King Clovis was in many ways a pioneer- he built up the area of Gaul in Europe that(an area that encompasses was is now France as well as parts of modern day Belgium, Italy and Germany) was once one of the most prosperous areas of the Roman empire. By gathering and conquering large areas and claiming it into one single 'state', Clovis and the other early members of the Merovingian dynasty may have been quite violent and in so many ways, terrorists in their time, they were able to gather many people together in a solid group. These people were held together by their leader and by Christianity. This group gave the land a solid and secure status- as much as could be had at that time- giving the people common goals, common religion, and common needs. This solid kingdom would be held together for the most part over the next several decades and centuries.

2011/11/03

“La Revolution Devore Ses Enfants” - The Revolution Devours Its Children

Living in the time and space of a revolution is always a dangerous business. There is the difficultly of picking the right side (which tends to be the winning side), surviving through the death, destruction, and mayhem... and of course figuring out all the new rules and changing your lifestyle and mindset to suit. However, some revolutions last over a period of time that allows the combination of anger, fear, desire for change, passion and blame to spiral into a level of violence, death, and fear that is more than the average war, revolt or revolution. I liken it to a small candle, beautiful and glowing in a light wind on a dry night... and then you throw a few gallons of gasoline on it- not a good idea! :) This was the path that the French Revolution took in the desire for 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.' The candle was lit and gasoline was poured on slowly until the inferno was difficult to control. I would like to analyze the process by which the French Revolution became so radical that, as the saying goes, it “devoured its own children.”

If the process of radicalization must be described in two words, it would be 'fear' and 'anger.' And this emotion touches over all aspects of the revolution causing more and more extreme reactions. While some historians have blamed Enlightenment writers (or 'radical critics' of society) for some of the more extreme behavior, modern historians see these works as only a small piece of the puzzle. Another piece of the puzzle is governmental censorship. In France, censorship was a bit more lenient than other countries and so many documents could be written that criticizes the government... as long as nothing was named and it was discussed as metaphor. This got the majority of French readers studying and discussing 'forbidden' topics which also helped radicalize the very thoughts in the heads of the populace. Paris and the country of France were really at the heart of Enlightenment thinking due to some basic differences between France and the other states of Europe- some differences include religious differences (France had more control over the Catholic Church in its borders than other countries which interesting enough caused only the most extreme and radical forms of Protestantism to come to France), class differences (France was more stratified in class than other European states and the stratification was beginning to weaken and crack), censorship, etc...


When the nobles pressed the king to call for the Estates General to assemble, about 1200 deputies arrived in Versailles for the event. Some of the deputies were already radical and were articulate on the wish for a huge transformation of public life. Deputies from the Third Estate were fearful that they would have no say due to the tradition rules of voting so all members of that caucus as well as a few members from the other estates joined together to stop any discussion unless the the voting rules were changed. Fear of the Third Estates actions by the monarchy and the nobles caused King Louis XVI to lock out the rebelling deputies. Anger at the king's response caused the outside deputies to get together and swear to not leave or be sent home until they had helped France get a new constitution. The delay in getting a new constitution and agreement at the National Assembly caused unrest and frustration in the rest of the country. This frustration bubbled up and with some unknown event, riots broke out and within a month or two, the famous 'storming of the Bastille' in Paris... and the revolution had begun! Riots and uprising in other cities forced local officials to follow the wishes of the rioters... not the king. Royal authority, once it began to dissolve, diminished quickly and the National Assembly held a special session to abolish feudalism and do away with all privileges from that institution. They also wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen and set up a constitutional monarchy. Violence would continue as the 'extremes' in the country continued to mistrust the other extremes- Catholics against Protestants, peasants against nobles, etc.... And as violence was 'accepted', it became acceptable. As with all boundaries in life, we as humans push those borders of acceptable behavior... and when a boundary falls, we are more likely to push against the next boundary if we do not acknowledge that a boundary has disappeared. And so, violence not only happened more often, but became more brutal and almost inhuman (the September massacres entered my mind as I thought about this.)

King Louis XVI tried to run with his family to another country to safety, but was unsuccessful. This action broke apart the constitutional monarchy and was the beginning of the end for the National Assembly. Election brought in more of the bourgeois members and fewer nobles and those new members were more likely to want more radical reforms. As more people started to feel that the revolution hadn't actually worked and started pro-royalists groups as well as counterrevolutionary agitation in public, both sides became more and more polarized. The Revolutionaries became fearful of the future of the revolution itself and moved more to the fringes. Unrest in the country stepped up, the National Assembly voted to declare war on Austria, and so any internal descent was now seen as treasonous. Emergency measures were set up, and a new form of government was born called the National Convention. The King was put on trial and the decision to execute him was made- by executing the king, the convention was making a clear statement to the opposition... there was no possibility of compromise. The Montagnards ruled in the Convention, Maximilian ruled the Montagnards and after the development of the Committee of Public Safety... the Reign of Terror had begun. The fear, passion, and anger that the revolutionaries in the National Convention felt towards anyone who might possibly be against the Revolution was focused and turned against the perceived enemies of the state. Anything, any disagreement or difference of opinion could be seen as treasonous... and it is now that the revolution began to 'devour its own children'

In the country, there were many counterrevolutionaries in different cities.... and many people who were tired of the violence, hungry and wanted things to go back to a better space. But at this point, the revolution had lost control. In the National Convention, the Montagnards led by Robespierre and another highly ranking member Georges-Jacques Danton had a difference of opinion. Danton was one of the original revolutionaries and was considered quite the hero, but he was too moderate in the end. He gave a speech in favor of ending the terror and restoring regular legal and civil procedures in January 1794. This disagreement cost Danton his life one month later and gave us the quote mentioned above: the full quote is “the Revolution may soon, like Saturn, devour its own children.” No one was safe once the revolution was out of control and Danton and many of his followers were only the first of the 'children' to be fed to le guillotine. Ironically, Maximilian Robespierre's death on the guillotine was one of the few things that ended the Terror... and help stabilized the revolution and its violence a little bit.

There are quite a few ironies that can be found in the study of the details of this long event. The largest irony is that this movement which was begun in the name of freedom and individual liberty caused so much death and destruction. Another irony is that Maximilian Robespierre, who was an intelligent, passionate advocate of human rights... could have become the main advocate of the Terror (which caused such a large amount of unnecessary bloodshed.) While some things did change for the better, this period of time was a time of fear, anger, terror, passion and bloodshed. Until the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, it would continue.

2011/11/01

2011 Poetry Corner # 3 : The Journey of Recovery

Why so many challenges
I think as I fall
The fall doesn't hurt
The impact breaks all

I struggle to stand
The earth starts to shift
My heart feels torn
My mind feels adrift

How to recover – I do not know
This massive pain
Will it help me grow?

As I recover and life goes on...
Will I feel safe?
Will I ever feel strong?

I will stand up and try to pray
To think nice thoughts throughout the day
And watch for the light that shows the way
To charity, to life, to love secure
All I need is to but endure.