November 11, 2008

Armistice Day

I suppose the First World War was the last chapter in one facet of the great social upheaval ushered in by the French Revolution. It obliterated the last remaining wisps of the ancien régime throughout Europe, leaving behind a continent of resentful, exhausted survivors who, even in the face of the collective insanity of that horrible conflict, soon enough turned their nations to mutual slaughter once again. Everyone notices that the Second World War was caused by the First, and all the ancillary conflicts around the globe spawned by the outcome of the Second World War can be traced back through the Second and the First to The French Revolution and the utter transformation of social relations demanded by it.

If Chou En Lai didn't really say, "It's too soon to tell," when asked his thoughts on the impact of the French Revolution, history will insist that he would have had to have said that, being Chou En Lai, and ascribe it to him.

The Armistice, entered into on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, halted the age-old murderousness of Europe for a time, and for that we can all be grateful. Only a few short decades after Armistice had been achieved the murderousness returned, redoubled in viciousness and on a truly global scale, the Second World War, which we have not yet outlived, consequence of the First. But there is that oddly symmetrical moment, 11/11/11, the six ones of the Armistice, that pause of peace, to look back on in wonder.

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