Enjolras-as-tyrant?

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Enjolras-as-tyrant?

Postby sophiedegrouchy » Fri Apr 13, 2012 12:07 am

(Let me preface this by saying that Enjolras is near and dear to my heart. I love him to bits and I think it’s fair to say that many of his words are a part of who I am.)

I think it’s safe to say that most of us on here know and hate the old trope of Enjolras as a petty tinhat dictator. You well know the character I’m describing: he’s cold, cruel, intolerant of dissent, and bullies his ‘friends’ into compliance. We complain about this characterization with good reason; It’s tired, it’s boring, and we understand it as being deeply wrong.

And yet.

Take away from Enjolras his beautiful words, his otherworldly radiance, and what remains? He is the leader (officially? unofficially?) of a group of students who get together to drink and argue in the back of a café. When violence breaks out on the streets, he takes charge of a barricade and, unelected, takes the life-and-death power of justice into his own hands. He calmly shoots Le Cabuc, then justifies himself to the crowd with a pretty speech. He hands Javert over to the justice of a stranger. He goes on to kill government troops in nasty ways, even when it is clear that his cause is doomed. In his glorification of martyrdom, he leads dozens of others to their deaths, and inspires them to contribute to the killing of more soldiers than they would’ve had they surrendered when all was lost.

We accept these actions for two reasons. Firstly, we trust the judgment of the rest of the Amis. Courfeyrac and Combeferre and all the rest would not fall under the sway of a tyrant, and they would voice their reservations if they had them. Their consent at the barricade, even as things turn grim, stands in for that of the rest of the crowd. Secondly, we understand Enjolras as an unerring bringer of truth. He lives and breathes the truth of progress. He does not glory in the necessity of revolution, even though the moments of insurrection are the ones that give him wings. He could not be a despot because he could not be a despot. It would go against everything that he is and does and believes.

The second of these is the more important, and it only works, I think, because Enjolras isn’t entirely human. No mortal could be so absolute in his connection to the Right. He is the archangel of justice, the high priest of the ideal, ablaze with the light of the future. A mortal would need to be questioned, formally appointed to leadership, constrained and balanced in his exercise of power. Enjolras, however, chaste and beautiful and terrible and pure, can be the object of our absolute trust. He’s Antinous farouche, I would argue, not just because he’s pretty but because he’s also half a god.

This is why he’s scary from a 21st century perspective. We’ve seen people with claims to absolute social truth come and go, leaving a lot of bodies in their wake. Hugo anticipates this sort of figure with Ninety-Three’s Cimourdain, who purportedly inspired Stalin. Cimourdain sees the revolution for the revolution and seems to take a grim pleasure in seeing the blood of the unjust.

I don’t know exactly what Louise Michel intended to imply when she signed her letters to Hugo as ‘Enjolras,’ but while I find the move really cool as a fangirl, I find it a bit terrifying as a citizen. Michel was too human to make that sort of claim. I’ve seen not a few people lamenting that we don’t have any Enjolraic figures in modern politics. I’m all for more honesty, more driven idealism, more belief in progress, more kickass speeches – but I don’t want a full Enjolras in my public square. No regular person could embody the telos of a progress-driven history as he does. And I’m not willing to hold out for the intervention of an angel.

It actually reminds me a bit of something that C.S. Lewis once wrote about Jesus (and I’m not endorsing CSL, here, but it’s a useful comparison): Many people would like to frame Jesus as a nice, universal teacher of morality. However, Lewis says, it needs to be all or nothing; Jesus called himself the messiah, so either he was the savior of mankind, or he was a liar, or he was a madman. Enjolras, likewise, needs to be the high priest of the ideal who already knows the revolutionary apocalypse. Take away that transcendence, and it’s impossible to free him from the whiff of fanatical demagoguery. Hugo, thankfully, makes that otherworldly light beautifully clear. But it might be a nearer thing than Enjolras’ fans would like to think.

Again, I speak in love. Characterizations that rob Enjolras of ange portray not him but a de-aged, badly written Cimourdain. But we need to be careful and cognizant in how we deal with his actions and their implications.

Y/N/STFD? How do you deal with the fact that Enjolras is someone who speaks of love after shooting a guy in the head?

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Re: Enjolras-as-tyrant?

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Fri Apr 13, 2012 3:36 am

I think part of the reason that I can accept/deal with Enjolras in all of his contradictions is because of my growing up in a 'post-revolution' society that has seen its share of figures that have tried to approach that sort of revolutionary ideal. I understand how and why drastic actions such as deception, killing, and so-called treason have to be done in order to reach that higher goal, even if it's an abstraction. Of course historical censure didn't spare these revolutionary/post-revolution leaders.

I also have to bear in mind that Enjolras is a figure that could only have been written FOR the nineteenth century. Then, the ideals and ways of getting there were quite different from those of today. In the present, we tend to emphasize the rights of the individual as being on par or over the rights of the majority, or over the trajectory of a movement or country. That wasn't entirely so in Hugo's milieu.
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Re: Enjolras-as-tyrant?

Postby Martine Robespierre » Fri Apr 13, 2012 4:27 pm

When violence breaks out on the streets, he takes charge of a barricade and, unelected, takes the life-and-death power of justice into his own hands. He calmly shoots Le Cabuc, then justifies himself to the crowd with a pretty speech. He hands Javert over to the justice of a stranger.


I completely quote Aurelia Combeferre here, all af this is quite usual in a revolutionary context, in particular in a 19th century revolutionary context.

In his glorification of martyrdom, he leads dozens of others to their deaths, and inspires them to contribute to the killing of more soldiers than they would’ve had they surrendered when all was lost.


Well, as for leading dozen of others to their deaths,It wasn't Enjolras who led them to their deaths, it was their choice, that's quite evident when Enjolras wants to send the fathers of children away and no one volounteers, and even if there wasn't that episode in the book, no one obliged them to go at the barricades, they could stay at home and be safe; if you choose to fight you must be ready to face the consequences.
Regarding killing soldiers, they decided to rebel, violently, so they have to kill soldiers without asking too much questions, now we can discuss about the need or not of a violent uprising, but if we approve the insurrection, we have to recognize that killing enemies is necessary, even if it's not pleasant. Moreover, I daresay they were trying to create a society without war, violence, hunger and injustice, they were "getting their hands dirty" to avoid that someone else had to do the same in future, and in my opinion this is one of the deepest acts of goodness and generosity a human being can do.

We’ve seen people with claims to absolute social truth come and go, leaving a lot of bodies in their wake. Hugo anticipates this sort of figure with Ninety-Three’s Cimourdain, who purportedly inspired Stalin


I see your point, but in my opinion Enjolras is not like Cimourdain, he resembles him, but while you caould describe Cimourdain as a cold, somewhat cruel and intolerant of dissent, you can't do the same with Enjolras, who firmly believes in his ideals but he's open to discussion, in fact he's influenced by Combeferre and he has no problems with that.

Here, end of the epic :wink: I hope that my horrible english is comprehensible.
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Entendons nous sur L'égalité; car, si la liberté est le sommet, l'égalité est la base.
Enjolras

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Re: Enjolras-as-tyrant?

Postby MmeBahorel » Sun Apr 15, 2012 6:21 pm

Death also has a different meaning in a) a world where death rates are far higher and b) a world that is being wracked by the first ever cholera epidemic in the West. Our characters were children during the Napoleonic Wars, so they grew up with deaths and horrific injuries both at a distance and all around them - Marius is the youngest at 5 years old when Waterloo happens, so everyone would have encountered returned soldiers all their lives. I don't think you can use horrific deaths and injuries in a battle situation as a data point when you consider that the results of these were a part of the daily lives of the characters and anyone had the opportunity to object to or not use the acid.

So let's remove the vitriol (which was obtained from a historical figure) and the general fighting to the last man as evidence, since they are part of the general milieu (remember the "infernal machine" as evidence of the use of technology in the service of political assassination - using chemistry in warfare is on the same lines), and look instead at the things that are decidedly Enjolras: the way he takes charge, Le Cabuc, Javert. Can and should these things be isolated from his intention to exchange Javert for Prouvaire, the choices the other guys have in following him, and the reason for Le Cabuc's execution? And the way he tolerates Grantaire through the whole novel.

But then there's also the question of authority. No one challenges him, yet we have no idea where the workers who are with the group came from (witness Le Cabuc, whom no one had seen before, and he doesn't seem to be the only one). They are a cluster of the protestors who are now running from the national guard, people who happen to be in company with our boys either through desire or proximity. Le Cabuc proves to (maybe) be a riot provocateur - if he is indeed a police spy, then shooting the guy is a deliberate action to push this cell beyond revolt and into a full scale riot against the populace. This happened a lot, or at least it was perceived to happen a lot. Everyone present, and Hugo's readers, would know this, as it was a constant contention of the radical left. The spark has to be stomped out immediately, before it spreads, as a cell like this is a powderkeg. Enjolras is, at that point, given the authority to lead by everyone who assents to Le Cabuc's execution. The lack of dissent here is almost certainly because everyone knows what they are seeing, and they stand behind the man who is first to act. This is the point at which he has real authority, and his actions after that (symbolically giving authority to Marius, insisting on the escape of the men whose families can least spare them, even the final stand after the vitriol) come from the fact that he has been, in essence, given this authority by others and thus is using it not against them but in their favour - the decision for the final stand was made when no one wanted to escape.

He can't be analysed from a 21st c. Western perspective because he was created within a vastly different socio-political milieu. If you don't know the extent of the fears and uses of agents provocateurs, the Le Cabuc thing looks more radical than it may be. The importance is the swiftness of the action, the lack of dissent over how it should be done, AND that Enjolras sentences himself to death for his action. The action itself is, well, a general cost of doing business. Other barricades might argue over how to neutralise him, but the neutralisation of this type of threat is constantly on the minds of everyone acting politically on 5 June 1832. In a few years, with the invention and spread of photography, people will be taking deathbed portraits of their loved ones and even their newborn babies, and displaying them for years. A very different interaction with death than we have today. They are much closer to a major war than we are - full conscription, wounded veterans on every corner, a major economic downturn as the war machine is shut down. (Algeria, which was lately begun, is more Iraq/Afghanistan - they are a country at war right now, but only the sense that the US and various allies are today, with limited impacts on most of the population.)

And then there's the definition of tyranny - what is a tyrant? Does Enjolras take away the rights of the men who have chosen to follow him? Can tyranny exist in a battle situation (since that's all we have - Enjolras is a general, here, not a political leader)? Does the ability to choose which men will stay and which men will leave mean Enjolras has given these workers not only a right to political decisionmaking but also the right to determine their own life or death? Or is the decision to make them choose an acknowledgement that all men have the right to life over death and thus a way of upholding natural rights that are often ignored by the state and society? Either way, this seems to have no analogue in the consideration of tyranny as the removal, by power, of men's political and/or natural rights.

And then, what is the 21st century Western version of Enjolras? An Occupy protestor? An Animal Liberation Front terrorist? A community organizer in a post-industrial Michigan city that has been forced into receivership and is now being controlled by an unelected supervisor nominated by the state? He cannot exist, because he is the embodiment of the major 19th century fight, the expansion of political rights to all the people.

I may be getting stuck in definitions again. I kind of see where you're coming from, I think (the paragraph beginning with Louise Michel makes the most sense to me), and it's a deliberately limited view prior to that in order to illuminate a thread, but I don't know that one should isolate the warp from the weft in this tapestry - we see the pattern, but it's held in by something that must also be considered. I think Hugo gives us just enough that isn't the avenging angel of pure revolution that we cannot limit the analysis or inquiry to merely those aspects. Otherwise, we're looking at Anna Karenina from the perspective of a society and legal system that accept no fault divorce and shared custody of children - Anna's still a selfish twit in many ways, but her options are different enough to make her tragedy rather than soap opera.
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Re: Enjolras-as-tyrant?

Postby Saint Jolras » Mon Apr 16, 2012 7:12 pm

Fully agree with all the others that came before. The only thing I have to add is this:

In his glorification of martyrdom, he leads dozens of others to their deaths, and inspires them to contribute to the killing of more soldiers than they would’ve had they surrendered when all was lost.


The wording in that seems very off to me. How did he glorify martyrdom for the others? I can see him utilizing it for himself, but when he sentences himself after Le Cabuc incident, he does so grimly. The only joy or anything close to that, that he feels on the barricade is when he realizes that he could share his vision with the world rather than solely the people of France, and that has nothing to do with martyrdom.

Also, you say you speak out of a love for Enjolras, but at the same time, you say that he leads dozens to their deaths.

I take issue with this because Enjolras is not the king. He didn't take away the rights of people. He didn't create the cholera epidemic. He's not raising the price on bread. He is not angering the people to take arms against an unjust government. He is just one chief of one barricade our of several others. He leads them at the barricade, yes, but as has been explained, the reins of leadership were handed over to him. There was no dissent regarding that. Enjolras passes over said reins to Marius for a time, but it soon becomes clear just who the people on the barricade trust more. Enjolras never said he wanted to be the leader. Nor did he hold people there at gunpoint, quite the opposite in fact.

So your wording throws me off. He didn't lead them to their deaths. He led them to what should have been a victory, to what could have been a victory had the barricades of '32 followed the patterns of the past. It seems as though with that wording, you make him responsible for everyone being killed at that barricade. I doubt that's your intent.

As to the whole 'inspiring them to kill more' bit, I'm confused again. Should we feel sorry for the soldiers that are killed who are protecting the divine right of kings? Should we feel more sorry for them than we should the rebels? It's a rebellion. People are going to die. One fights for their ideals and rights, the others fight to protect their government. Or they fight simply because that's their job.

In short, I don't understand your reasoning regarding that statement. It's clear pacifism isn't going to work. And there's no guarantee that they would survive if they had surrendered anyway. It's fairly clear that no one wanted to surrender, not just Enjolras. Les Amis weren't willing to do so. When Jehan was caught and executed, he didn't beg first for mercy. They had a rebel in their custody. They executed him without any real provocation. He couldn't very well fight back against them. The only weapons he had were his words.

And everyone on the barricade heard it. So exactly what do you think would have happened if they were all to just lay down their arms and come out of that barricade?

Aside from all that, again, people refused to leave the barricade when Enjolras ordered them to do so. They clearly had no desire to surrender if they didn't care to leave. So I ask, how did Enjolras convince them to not surrender when he can't even get them to leave the barricade to see to their families?
But I don't feel like dancin' when the old joanna plays
My heart could take a chance but my two feet can't find a way
You'd think that I could muster up a little soft shoe gentle sway
But I don't feel like dancin', no sir, no dancin' today.

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Re: Enjolras-as-tyrant?

Postby MmeBahorel » Mon Apr 16, 2012 11:23 pm

One quick correction, Saint Jolras - divine right was pretty much smashed with the removal of Charles X two years earlier. This is liberal social democracy fighting against the constitutional monarchy, whose power is quite literally derived not from divine right but from the assent of the business class, and Louis Philippe remained cognizant of that.
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Re: Enjolras-as-tyrant?

Postby Saint Jolras » Tue Apr 17, 2012 1:23 am

Fair enough.

Was the idea of Divine Right removed from all countries at that point or just in France?
But I don't feel like dancin' when the old joanna plays
My heart could take a chance but my two feet can't find a way
You'd think that I could muster up a little soft shoe gentle sway
But I don't feel like dancin', no sir, no dancin' today.

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Re: Enjolras-as-tyrant?

Postby ancslove » Tue Apr 17, 2012 4:09 am

Not all countries, although at this time, Divine Right and Blood Right are a bit mixed up. I think Spain still had a full monarchy at the time, although I'm far from certain.** 19th century isn't really my period. England had a constitutional monarchy that still had an anointed monarch who reigned by right of blood, and by consent of Parliament. That's an oversimplification, but it's still pretty true today.

I agree with everyone above, especially with the point that Enjolras has to be judged and analyzed as a product of his time. Context is everything.

Also, OP, in places it seems that you imply that any leader of a group is really a tyrant. Do you mean that? In my mind, Enjolras exercising leadership by common consent doesn't make him a tyrant. The others agreed to look to him for decisions, and even before the barricades, they did more than just sit in a cafe and talk together. They had contacts and tasks they undertook for their cause. Bahorel was involved in active, violent Republicanism long before Enjolras came on the scene.

**ETA: Spain's royal line did get messed up by Napoleon, but they eventually got back to blood royalty. The Scandinavian kingdoms weren't absolute monarchies, but also operated under bloodlines.

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Re: Enjolras-as-tyrant?

Postby sophiedegrouchy » Wed Apr 18, 2012 12:57 am

To Saint Jolras and others:
I'm afraid I gave the wrong impression! Perhaps I've been too long absent from these circles, that I can't assume others will take my real fondness for the character as a given. The bit about the leading others to their deaths etc was the least sympathetic reading that I could muster up. I was hoping that others would help me address it; I wasn't trying to advocate or ascribe to it. Yeah, the title's an eye-grabber, but that's because I'm in search of a more complete response to the tyrant trope than I've seen us produce. Plus, it's got people talking. :wink:

But to get to the meat of it -
The lack of a moment of explicit consent from the non-ABC fighters is what I find the most troubling. Even if the workers and the boys from Aix and all the rest are somehow associated with the group, we don't know how the leader (and in what capacity?) of the Amis gets the unwavering life-and-death power over the goings-on. Sure, no one contests the execution, and that can be seen as the moment he takes charge - but I maintain that there has to be something kinda inhuman about the surety with which he is the one who suddenly swoops in with the gun for me to be comfortable with it.

Martine-
Please never apologize for your English!
I still think we have to take a lot about the openness of his leadership on trust. We know "he's influenced by Combeferre," but being slowly tempered by a close friend over the course of years can't really be equated with free discourse. Now, I'm really really really not saying that he would stifle dissent! Again, that's the Cimourdain route and that's emphatically not him. But we know that more from Hugo's description of his character than from what we see of his actions. I argue that this trust in his goodness has a fundamentally otherworldly base.

MmeB-
Bless your existence. Especially the following:
if he is indeed a police spy, then shooting the guy is a deliberate action to push this cell beyond revolt and into a full scale riot against the populace. This happened a lot, or at least it was perceived to happen a lot. Everyone present, and Hugo's readers, would know this, as it was a constant contention of the radical left. The spark has to be stomped out immediately, before it spreads, as a cell like this is a powderkeg.

Useful useful useful. Everyone and their dog knows you're the queen of political theory stuff (and here's my assent to your reign, long may it last), and all your comments are accordingly great.
However, we can't help but see Enjolras from our own time. I don't think he has anything like a modern equivalent since we no longer have that same take-to-the-streets tradition - but our political instinct is to be wary of the man with the dream and the pretty speech and the gun. It can't be a coincidence that I don't think I've ever seen a Russian member of the fandom who's partial to the guy (although I'm more than open to counterexamples!). Trying to discuss this in any depth probably demands waaaaaay more literary theory than I know, but suffice it to say that if I as a 21st century lady am going to like a character, I want to be able to provide a
why
for my contemporaries who have their real doubts about him.

So maybe this discussion's as good as over. But first: what do we make of the strange silence at the end of Enjolras' speech in "Quel horizon..."? It's disconcerting, the way he keeps moving his lips as no one dares applaud. I've actually heard someone propose that he's undergoing some sort of mental breakdown, indicating Hugo's wariness of the strength of his idealism. I absolutely disagree with this interpretation - but can't explain it without again turning to the image of him as a primarily religious figure. I see it as the moment where he does traverse that revolutionary apocalypse, going from the tomb to the coming dawn where no one else can yet follow. He's speaking words from another reality, so human language fails him. What is it, if not glossolalia from beyond the grave? Is there any way to make sense of the eeriness otherwise?

Here's a strong endorsement of this religious interpretation from "Les morts ont raison..." (my lazy and rough transl): the men who fight in the true revolution "give their life as a pure gift for progress; they accomplish the will of providence; they perform a religious act." Ils font un acte religieux! Now, Hugo also says in that chapter that the French Revolution was an act of God. We know that it was undertaken by flawed humans, not angel-priest-saint-soldiers. However, Hugo never has a single character so fully embody that first, great revolution as fully as Enjolras embodies its continuing tradition. Thus, if the movement of progress is God's movement, Enjolras as its unfailing voice and eye and sword needs to be God's actor.

Am I...even making sense here? I think my point is that (at least for me, and you're free to disagree, etc etc etc)
a) I see Enjolras' unfailing authority as coming from his practical coexistence with a divine ideal.
b) Since Enjolras is Hugo's character preaching Hugo's religion in Hugo's book, I can unflinchingly accept him as a true prophet of the true faith, and I really love him for that.
c) However, as soon as I step back from the novel, the entire premise of a one true oracle for the one true revolution is a bit uncomfortable to my 21st century mind.
I think I can therefore hold out for the proposition that his actions are potentially problematic but definitely right within Hugo's narrative. Is that fair? I swear I really do like the guy!

Oh, and to close out - yes, Saint Jolras, I do think we should feel sorry for the soldiers who die under their idiot commander because they haven't yet been converted by the light of the ideal. Enjolras cries. Why shouldn't we?

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Re: Enjolras-as-tyrant?

Postby ancslove » Wed Apr 18, 2012 3:07 am

I think the lack of any scene giving Enjolras explicit "leadership powers" is simply a byproduct of the fact that this book is not about Enjolras and the Amis and the 1832 uprising. It's overlooked because Hugo is more interested in Marius and Valjean, and how 1832 affects them.

We do know that there were other barricades on those nights with their own leaders. We can assume, if you like, that those barricade leaders were much like Enjolras in their quasi-official positions. We know that the Amis de l'ABC were much more than just Enjolras and his lieutenants. We know that Bahorel and Feuilly had connections to other groups, and that the Amis were actively reaching out to those groups and establishing firmer contacts - and those scenes happened quite a bit earlier than the barricade chapter. Finally, we know that by the time of Lamarque's funeral, Enjolras was the principal leader of that barricade, which included insurgents other than the core Amis. And, the barricade was very well organized with a fairly clear chain of command. We do not know how that organization came about, but personally I'm happy to assume that there was explicit consent to give command to Enjolras, and that scene was simply, in Buffy fandom terms, "passported over" - it wasn't entirely necessary, relevant, or interesting to Hugo, and therefore it was cut.

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Re: Enjolras-as-tyrant?

Postby MmeBahorel » Wed Apr 18, 2012 3:54 am

I think his actions are only problematic from two perspectives: a pure anti-war perspective and a 21st century Western perspective. And I keep emphasising the "Western" in that because I think you'd see a very different analysis from various other parts of the world that have had upheavals more recently than we in the US (I say US because I know you're also American) have had. Our best analogue might go back to the Black Panther movement, depending on which aspects of Enjolras' character one chooses to focus on. Because he cannot be isolated from revolutionary action, but is violence inherent to revolutionary action? Or could he be a Czech dissident in the 1980s? I suspect the answer is yes to the latter question, that action takes the form of violence in LM because that is the form action took in the period in which Hugo was writing.

And maybe that's what's necessary in explaining the character to someone who doesn't quite get what's so awesome. The Declaration of Independence is as grand and, in many ways, more important than Lexington and Concord. The Emancipation Proclamation (and the subsequent legislation for compensated emancipation in the District of Columbia) are the major legacies of the hundreds of thousands dead in the Civil War. Each of these - writing, executive order, legislation - is an action performed to advance social justice, in concert with military action to provide the force. Enjolras is providing the military action behind the writings of others, because he is living in a milieu that requires such military action. Military action turned out not to be needed in Prague in 1989, but it was in Bucharest that same year. Do we blame the Romanians for what they did to Ceaucescu, considering what he did to them?

Basically, action in service to social justice should be a noble goal; that action will take different forms based on the socio-political milieu. This is what is beautiful and noble about Enjolras as a character, that wholesale devotion of every bit of his life to a selfless cause (being rich, he'll end up an elector and thus he already has political agency; his actions will, if successful, decrease the influence he has in government). The way in which it happens, well, there are trade offs in life, eggs get broken if you want omelets, and that can range from legislative bargains that get halfway to a goal to hundreds of thousands of men dead on battlefields all across a country in a civil war because compromise proved impossible. Yes, the latter is deplorable, but the former is sad as well. And in the US, we're damned lucky that for all the talk some of the crazy wing of the Republican party is making about Obama bringing us on the verge of the destruction of the republic, we are so far from actual violence that their comments are comic.

Also, how many people in the US got their hopes up for Libya? Was anyone condemning the Libyans for taking up arms in defense of the peaceful protestors who were being slaughtered? It's the same thing, in essence, isn't it? (But again, I'm throwing more historical perspective in than a lay reader would. Too much research. The fact that the left did not give up in 1830 after Lafayette threw his support behind Louis Philippe means 1832 is merely another entry in the long struggle that pre-dated 1830 and of which 1830 was evidence that the means of action was the correct one.)

Maybe it's as simple as replacing "revolution" with "social justice" - to Hugo, they're the same thing, so it isn't really a bowdlerisation.
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

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Re: Enjolras-as-tyrant?

Postby Col.Despard » Sun Apr 29, 2012 10:16 am

I am SO half asleep and jet laggy and all, but a couple of things jump out at me:

...but our political instinct is to be wary of the man with the dream and the pretty speech and the gun.


Not all of us - remember, I come from an Irish political tradition. I relate very well to inspirational speech when it's coupled with a dream I believe is worth fighting for and a man with the practical means to achieve it. Two Words: Michael Collins. So I react very strongly when I see people who reach for a Soviet Russian analogy for Enjolras, as I'm steeped in a very different socio-cultural tradition regarding Revolution and the sort of methodology he employs. There has been a tediously long tradition of Irish revolutionary movements being betrayed by spies and informers, so I view the Le Cabuc incident through that lense. Collins devastated the British intelligence network through tactics that Enjolras would have understood, including summary executions of spies.

I also have huge problems with "leading men to his deaths" given that Enjolras very explicitly lays the situation at the feet of his men and tells them with blunt honesty that they have nothing to hope for - he is categoric and detailed about the results of his reconaissance . He is honest with his colleagues about their situation, and the decision to stay is one that THEY make. While he accepts their decision, he still fights to have them at least send away those with dependants.

And I know you love Enjolras :) I'd never doubt your affection for him...devil's advocate is good.
"The principles of freedom, of humanity, and of justice, will finally triumph over falsehood, tyranny and delusion, and every principle inimical to the interests of the human race" - Edward Despard, 1803
http://coloneldespard.deviantart.com/


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