…Say you want a revolution…

I hope everyone’s holidays have been safe and joyful.

Paris has been quiet, with our 8pm to 6 am curfew still firmly in place. (Apparently, we just dodged being thrown into a third lockdown as infection rates have plateaued at about 12,000 to 15,000 cases per day. Still too high, but not rising…yet.)

I continue to study French, write, and work on various film and music projects, holed up in our 4th arrondissement apartment here. Christmas was an uneventful event. My wife and I mutually declined to exchange gifts, having little need for more material possessions. American friends here in the city remained isolated, sending best wishes via texts. French friends had left for the country.

Mommy Dearest continues her isolation, leaving her Southern California abode only once in about 125 days to get her hair cut. The kind and thoughtful owner of the salon cleared the place out for an hour one morning to accommodate Mummy, who retains her clear preference for staying alive and outlasting the pandemic. She remains even-tempered and optimistic that things will get better, if slowly.

A Zoom conversation with friends in the states brought less cheery emotions to the forefront. Exhausted and exasperated, a few of them were in tears. The isolation and disruption of the pandemic has touched all of them, with family members infected and professional colleagues in intensive care. These revelations, ironically, came in the same conversation in which they confided that they had attended weddings, hosted a houseful of extended family members on Christmas eve, that they were planning on having their grandchildren visit them in the coming days, and that they had traveled (with apparently about 84 million other Americans) over the holidays to visit loved ones.

I was surprised, but not shocked. I was saddened, but not entirely sympathetic. My wife and I have been sitting in an apartment for most of 2020. We’ve spent months in lockdown, only going out to buy groceries, exercise for 1 hour per day outside and within 1 kilometer of our residence. We’ve been required much of that time to fill out and carry an ‘attestation’ form which documents where we are going, when we left, and where we live. Police patrols roaming the neighborhood and stationed on bridges have frequently stopped us and asked us to produce these papers. And we have willingly complied.

We have not left the city of Paris since we returned from the states on November 20, 2019. Cafes have been closed. Museums are shuttered. Hotels sit vacant. Streets are empty at odd times.

We’ve worn masks. We’ve washed our hands. We’ve rarely seen friends, save the infrequent on-the-street encounter to exchange a quick word, bump elbows, and be on our way. An exception has been an elderly friend with lung issues who we purchase groceries for. When my I arrive, he opens the door, opens the windows, and brews me a cup of coffee. We sit across the living room from each other, huddled in the cold but fresh air, and chat for a few minutes. He tries to give me money for the groceries. I try to refuse. We argue, then laugh. Then I bid him farewell until next time. And I have been the only person he’s seen for weeks at a time during this mess.

We’re all paying a price and toeing the line here, and France is still struggling with this virus. So how I am supposed to be sympathetic when people suffer due to a lack of common sense and self discipline? I care about my friends, but I can’t comprehend their thought processes. Weddings? Flying around the country? Exposing loved ones?

It’s a pandemic. There’s enough risks just conducting your daily lives. No need to wave a red flag at the virus by being reckless.

But I kept my mouth shut. I truly hope for the best, for everybody, everywhere. I am, however, starting to feel more French as each day passes. A recent conversation with a South American expat here in Paris brought this subject to the forefront. “There is a different spirt here,” she said, quite accurately. I could only nod, and think about my future as an American.

* * * *

Our erstwhile correspondent David found an interesting article on the French nobility…and the modern-day organization that endeavors to help them out when times are tough. You can enjoy a quick read on that HERE.

As archaic as the ideas of noble or aristocratic class sound today, especially in the United States, the values that they espouse remain remarkably sound, and probably eerily familiar to the ones I advocate on this blog and in The Old Money Book.

I had heard one aristo sum up the ‘noble obligation’ as simply setting an example and keeping his country safe for democracy. Another armchair anthropologist commented once that Americans have an obsession with celebrities because they lack a visible, titled (or entitled) nobility or aristocracy that is engaged in, yes, setting an example and shining a light on important causes or issues.

Of course, most of the coverage ‘royals’ get in the media today is what I refer to as ‘cheap ink’: a prince walks his dog in the park and the newspaper takes up a half page to run a full color series of photos and a 1000 word piece on the sighting. It’s a space-filler and lowest common denominator brain-sugar gossip for the masses.

A better use of the privileged position was one taken by the late Princess Diana, who shined a light on the AIDS epidemic and landmines, to name just two issues. Of course, calling attention to a problem is not solving it, but it’s a start. It opens a door, certainly. It make people think, hopefully.

And the next time the issue is raised, perhaps by an activist or a politician, people will consider or reconsider, and progress will be on the table, ready to be negotiated.

So let’s hold on to our nobility in whatever form it takes, and more importantly, let’s hold onto our noble ideals.

Happy New Year.

  • BGT


8 thoughts on “…Say you want a revolution…

  1. The complete lack of consistency in government messaging in the United States explains much of the behavior seen. One month we are told masks are unnecessary and the next we are told they are mandatory. The same month it is not safe enough for me to go to work it is apparently safe enough for my children to go school each day. Large crowds protesting in the street is safe but it is not safe for me to bury my mother after her death from COVID while languishing alone in a nursing home. We are left to fend for ourselves. The government at all levels has failed us and no matter what anyone tells you it is a bipartisan failure. The worst has been the behavior of the scientific community working for government. Many have sold their souls for camera time and fame (Dr. Fauci). Now, we are seeing the same government ineptitude in the administration of the vaccine. Less than 20% of the doses shipped have been administered! What could possibly be more important at this moment? I grant friends and family a good deal of grace in making decisions. Most of us are just trying to survive with our health and economic security intact. My heart aches as we watch millions of Americans facing hunger and eviction.

  2. Dear Byron, I wish you and your wife all of the wonder and beauty 2021 will bring. I wish for you, smiles and sunshine. I wish for you, beautiful flowers, good wine and wonderful friends. But most of all, I wish for you, happiness and peace. Jane Keller

  3. I also have a kinda blog on linkedin,where I have numerous posting about my past work experience but also as it pertains to emotional intelligence and being fully human. Below is my latest entry that I feel is needed during this time. Just ignore the business aspects.

    Do you have Grit?
    Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term and meaningful goals. It is the ability to persist in something you feel passionate about and persevere when you face obstacles. I am taking a course where the instructor indicated that you will need a certain amount of “grit” to get through the course. The programming projects have material that is not covered in lecture and you must work with other students and use the internet to get through them.
    Every project manager needs grit. They all have horror stories about how they were treated (I may write on book on that). My view is “so what”. Disruption is part of work life and as I said Management never takes going into Enterprise projects lightly. Let’s look at our current situation.
    Put on a mask, get vaccinated and cancel the 24 hour news channels. Rebuild your business. Don’t let anyone “coddle” you into thinking “we will get through this together”, this has been going on for a year. Unacceptable timeline. Get Masked and Vaccinated as soon as you can. Cook and wash your hands.
    Just working puts you at an advantage. Work the extra hours, bombard your management with ideas no matter how inane.
    Speak up , get things done and potentially make an a%^ out of yourself. Your customers and jobs depend on it

  4. I’m afraid this wasn’t the tone of the shared blog post.

    The hypothesis that the aristocracy is morally superior is debatable.

    -Decorum and virtue are different qualities. One doesn’t imply the other.

    -On generosity: There are many ways to help the poor and vulnerable. One way is to donate an amount of money one can miss, to help them survive, but without lifting them. It’s the least effective and most paternalistic approach — and it preserves the status quo.

    -The relationship between aristocracy and faith is well known. The fact that there are opposing forces within the church is also well known. The fact that certain elements within aristocracy connect with certain elements within the church is also well known. Let’s be a little less vague…ultra-conservative right-wing ideology doesn’t contradict certain of these associations.

    So, one would preferably be cautious before using aristocracy as a symbol of virtue. Let’s guide ourselves by the facts, not the appearances.

  5. The nobility themselves, however distant they might keep and hold themselves, will be the first to admit that they are not paragons of virtue.

    While some might be linked to ultra-conservative elements in the church, at least (someone) is standing up for the Church. The Lord Himself knows, it is in short supply.

    Happy New Year.

  6. Happy New Year to you and your wife, Byron. May 2021 bring happiness, health, and prosperity.

    My husband and I have been watching the third season of The Crown this month, and debating the idea of a constitutional monarchy. As an American, I’d never support a monarchy (let alone fund their lavish lifestyle), but I do see how the British have a maternal figurehead who is not political, who has outlasted many prime ministers, and that might feel somewhat comforting. The show has sparked many conversations about duty, responsibilities, obligation, philanthropy, religion, as well as the allure and problems of individualism and elitism. They will continue to color my approach to 2021.

    We may look askance at the royals, but it seems as though we tend make our own aristocracy, whether they be silicon valley billionaires or celebrities i.e. the Kardashians or the common YouTube variety. It might be human nature to make idols. As it was once said, the line between good and evil runs through each persons’ heart. I myself will focus on the positive qualities of the royals as something to aspire to, and discard the rest.

  7. We are also viewing The Crown. As we live in a constuitional monarchy here in Canada, it is something we are just used to and prefer than living in a republic. Again, that is our preference and we have not experienced living with another system. Elections are called and over with, done and dusted in a few short months here. Cannot imagine endless elections being tolerated here by anyone, including the politicans.

    To assist with keeping a keen perspective on things, and to begin 2021, I have just pulled out of a special folio I keep an article that our host blogger, Byron Tully wrote.

    It is dated 7 March 2019 and entitled French Thinking. He speaks of attitudes and tendencies. Preconceived-notions and the love of art, creating your own art in each and every special thing. Rather like a fibre of one’s being in Paris.

    His post was written pre-Covid, but I find it still has relevence. Perhaps, if he reads this, he will consider reposting.

  8. “Another armchair anthropologist commented once that Americans have an obsession with celebrities because they lack a visible, titled (or entitled) nobility or aristocracy that is engaged in, yes, setting an example and shining a light on important causes or issues.”

    … In most normalized societies, Donald Trump would be considered a non-serious comic figure. For tens of millions of Americans who are not rich, the Trump family is their idea of wealth and royalty.

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