Plus Ça Change . . .

Offered without comment.  From Flaubert’s 1869 Sentimental Education (the Penguin edition of 1964, translated by Robert Baldick).

“’All the same,’ protested Martinon, ‘poverty exists, and we have to admit it.  But neither Science nor Authority can be expected to apply the remedy.  It is purely a matter for individuals.  When the lower classes make up their minds to rid themselves of their vices, they will free themselves from their wants.  Let the common people be more moral and they will be less poor!’

According to Monsieur Dambreuse, nothing useful could be done without enormous capital.  So the only possible way was to entrust, ‘as was suggested, incidentally, by Saint-Simon’s disciples (oh, yes, there was some good in them!  Give the devil his due) to entrust, I say, the cause of Progress to those who can increase the national wealth.’ Imperceptibly, the conversation moved on to the great industrial undertakings, the railways and the mines” (238).

“Most of the men there had served at least four governments; and they would have sold France or the whole human race to safeguard their fortune, to spare themselves the slightest feeling of discomfort or embarrassment, or even out of mere servility and instinctive worship of strength.  They all declared that political crimes were unpardonable. . . . One high official even proclaimed, ‘For my part, Monsieur, if I found out my brother was involved in a plot, I should denounce him!” (240).

One thought on “Plus Ça Change . . .

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