Contrary to popular belief, Marie Antoinette never uttered the phrase, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche“. The phrase appears in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s autobiography where he attributes it to a ‘great princess’ however the dates of publication and her tenure on the throne do not match up. Not to mention that the attitude was uncharacteristic for her. It likely became attributed to her because of her extravagant lifestyle and her considerably waning popularity prior to the French Revolution.
But there is no mistaking the meaning behind the phrase. It was a flippant observation about the starving peasants having no bread that conveyed obliviousness by the royalty to the plight of the peasantry during France’s financial crisis. There have been more than a few of these types of comments of late in America.
Herman Cain recently said that if you’re unemployed then it’s basically your fault for not getting off the couch and finding a job; a statement that belies a general economic obliviousness about the state of the economy and manufacturing jobs in particular.
In response to the initially largely media ignored Occupy Wall Street protests, Eric Cantor Stated that he was concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and cities across America. So we’re a mob now instead of real Americans with grievances that can just be ignored? Paul Ryan on Meet the Press accused President Obama of sewing seeds of class envy and political unrest to stoke fear and division among the population. Glenn Beck (yes, who still has a radio show but with about 1/5 of the listenership) has come out and said the protestors are going to drag the rich into the street and kill them and take their property. While this sometimes precedes a revolution, it’s absurd to think we’re at that point.
Perhaps most disturbing is Congressman Peter King admonishing the media for giving coverage to the Occupy Wall Street. He said:
…it’s really important not to give any legitimacy to these people because it might end up influencing policy.
That’s not just an implied obliviousness but a direct call to quash the protestor’s first amendment freedoms. None of these politicians and conservative media types raised any objections when the Tea Party showed up with guns and badly spelled, racially tinged signs last year. Where was the outrage and indignation then? If anything they were actively promoting (and exaggerating the size of ) the Tea Party protests as Fox News did. Of course it influences policy: it’s supposed to. Perhaps congressman King needs a refresher in civics; particularly what a participative democracy consists of and what a politician’s (note the root word of policy in that) role in it actually is.
In a great exchange on Real Time with Bill Maher‘s show last week former Congressman Alan Grayson got a standing ovation after conservative P.J. O’Rouke told Grayson to get a ‘bongo drum’ and forget ‘where to use the bathroom’ (this is a damn dirty hippie argument from the sixties) and invited Grayson to own the protests. Grayson’s response was classic:
If I am the person who needs to be the spokesman for people who do not believe we should have 24 million unemployed in this country, that we shouldn’t have 50 million people who can’t see a doctor when they’re sick, that we shouldn’t have 47 million people who need government help in order to feed themselves, that we shouldn’t have 15 million families who owe more on their home than the value of their house, then okay, I’ll be that spokesman.
The Tea Party was backlash for America’s collective desire in 2008 to change the way government works. The Occupy Wall Street is delayed back lash to the Tea Party and their collective stranglehold on Republican politicians who refuse to recognize the call for change. ‘There’s no bread? Let them eat cake’ as the ruling class implied in France just before the Revolution, is not going to be a successful strategy for Republicans.
- OccupyWallStreet and the Panic of the Plutocrats (octoberrevue.org)
- Alan Grayson New Occupy Wall Street Spokesperson? (bilerico.com)
- S.F. Foundation to Homeless: Let Them Eat Cake (blogs.sfweekly.com)
- Video: Alan Grayson takes PJ O’Roarke to school on Occupy Wall Street (americablog.com)
- Audience Cheers as Grayson Explains Occupy Wall Street to Maher, Guests (firedoglake.com)