Our Dickensian Revolution

Going back to read Charles Dickens’ masterpiece on the French revolution “A Tale of Two Cities” messes with my head, specifically due to how relevant it is to what we went through for the past 18 months, and continue to go through. All of this truly has happened before, and will happen again, and no one will learn from anything. I am leaving you with a few quotes, and as always, just let me know when it sounds familiar:


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”


“Monseigneur had one truly noble idea of general public business, which was, to let everything go on in its own way; of particular public business, Monseigneur had the other truly noble idea that it must all go his way–tend to his own power and pocket. Of his pleasures, general and particular, Monseigneur had the other truly noble idea, that the world was made for them. ”


“A revolutionary tribunal in the capital, and forty or fifty thousand revolutionary committees all over the land; a law of the Suspected, which struck away all security for liberty or life, and delivered over any good and innocent person to any bad and guilty one; prisons gorged with people who had committed no offence, and could obtain no hearing; these things became the established order and nature of appointed things, and seemed to be ancient usage before they were many weeks old.”


“The miserable bakers’ shops were beset by long files of them, patiently waiting to buy bad bread; and while they waited with stomachs faint and empty, they beguiled the time by embracing one another on the triumphs of the day, and achieving them again in gossip.”


“What private solicitude could rear itself against the deluge of the Year One of Liberty–the deluge rising from below, not falling from above, and with the windows of Heaven shut, not opened!”


“In seasons of pestilence, some of us will have a secret attraction to the disease– a terrible passing inclination to die of it. And all of us have like wonders hidden in our breasts, only needing circumstances to evoke them.”


“In short,” said Sydney, “this is a desperate time, when desperate games are played for desperate stakes.”


“Well, well,” reasoned Defarge, “but one must stop somewhere. After all, the question is still where?”

“At extermination,” said madame.


“Then tell Wind and Fire where to stop,” returned madame; “but don’t tell me.”


“Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.”


“I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out….

I see that child who lay upon her bosom and who bore my name, a man winning his way up in that path of life which once was mine. I see him winning it so well, that my name is made illustrious there by the light of his…

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.”


“I hope you care to be recalled to life?”

And the old answer:

“I can’t say.”

11 Comments on Our Dickensian Revolution

  1. Publicola
    July 22, 2012 at 10:47 am

    great post – great quotes – thank you so much

  2. Folan
    July 22, 2012 at 11:30 am

    Hello, it’s nice to meet you 🙂 (are you following me ?)

  3. 2face
    July 22, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Finally you are doing something that really makes sense, congratulations. I’m kinda relieved.

    Next step – go read some constitutions. Some of us live in countries that have been doing this democracy thing for 150+ years. My country’s first democratic constitution was written in 1849. It was based on constitutions from Belgium and Norway. There is no shame in copying good ideas from other people.

    The process of a revolution is essentially a process towards a new constitution. If you don’t know where you are headed, how are you gonna get there? You really, really, REALLY need to know exactly what you want in your constitution and why.

    Some of the stuff in democratic constitutions is counter intuitive. But it is there for very good reasons. For instance you’d think that the most important function of a democratic constitution is to outline that the elected majority decides the laws, right? Wrong, the most important function of a democratic constitution is in fact to protect the minority against laws decided by the majority.

    It is simply impossible the stress enough how important it is to focus like a laser on getting a good constitution.

  4. Adina
    July 22, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    I think the most important aspect of the Democratic side is being more organized. Everything I ever learned has leaned toward this being the biggest issue alongside Alienation (Marx 101) and/or disenchantment (Weber). I think it’s more, how to bring people together and a matter of how to instrumenatlize that this IS the revolution – instead of it just being this thing we’re just looking at from a distance… Then I think we’re taking the next step to something happening soon. For example, Occupy is nice but that’s going to work for the long term, not so much change is going to happen right now from that – again most of the people involved aren’t taken hold of it and owning up to that this is the revolution and we’re in it (much like the late 60s and early 70s).

  5. Tallulah
    July 23, 2012 at 1:55 am

    Amazing quotes. Who would have thought that something written so long ago would be so in tune with today! Here is another, written about another revolution:

    “Do you hear the people sing? Singing the song of angry men? It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again. When the beating of your heart echoes the beating of the drum, there is a life about to start when tomorrow comes.

    Will you join in the crusade? Who will be strong and stand by me? Beyond the barricade, is there a world you long to see? Then join in the fight that will give you the right to be free!”

    The adversaries may have changed, the focus is altered, the people are tired and disillusioned, but the revolution continues. Once that door was opened, there was no going back. Change is inevitable.

  6. Claire
    July 30, 2012 at 6:55 am

    For some reason, this post makes me think you’ve been drinking. Lol. That’s not good for you, you know. Believe me, you’ll feel a lot better about life if you lay off the sauce. No joke, I’m serious. It’s true.

  7. Claire
    July 30, 2012 at 7:05 am

    I think it’s Dickensonian anyway…could be wrong though. You generally have a great sense of the English language tho esp generational slang

  8. Claire
    July 30, 2012 at 7:31 am

    You’re right! It is Dickensian! That just sounds funny. My apologies to the writer.

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  10. Gwitreg
    August 21, 2012 at 4:54 am

    after the revolution you get restauration, then another revolution with chaos and finally a right authoritatarian republic,

    you’ll be old then


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