David Bouchier

Revolution Now

Aug 19, 2013

Yesterday was Bastille Day, which is hard to miss if you happen to be in France. There are parades and patriotic speeches in every town and village, and often fireworks and festive dinners too. This year's celebration marked the two hundred and twenty-fourth anniversary of the French Revolution, and it had a special poignancy because of the ongoing turmoil in Egypt. Revolutions have a way of going wrong, or going nowhere, but this doesn't seem in any way to diminish their popularity. The Arab Spring has produced a whole series of popular uprisings since 2010, with no very clear result.

Do you ever get the uncomfortable suspicion that you are a fraud and an imposter? I've been feeling that way lately because I'm in France, and I have to pretend that I know what is going on. This must be a problem for everyone who tries to navigate a foreign culture. In order not to look like an idiot you must act as if you understand the language, the culture, the strange things for sale in the market, and even the driving.

It's the first day of July, and the big holiday weekend is coming up. We will be expected and indeed required to set aside our regular activities, and have fun. The question is: how shall we do this?