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  • Writer's pictureA.K. Lee

First Lines | For All Mankind

"No crisis in a people's history leaves the previous equilibrium undisturbed."

This is how Léon Blum introduced this book. In his cold and lonely cell, when Allied forces of WWII were struggling to gain ground, Blum wrote with certainty of democratic victory, even while elucidating his views and analyses of the strengths and weaknesses of the political parties of his time, in particular the French governing classes.

That opening line encapsulates so much of what he presented in his book. Every crisis, political or otherwise, upsets the status quo. A crisis as severe as WWII changed the landscape of Europe, figuratively and literally. The desire to retain what used to be, to have control over others in hopes of resisting or negating the disturbance of the "previous equilibrium" has led to great struggle and hardship.

Yet, looking at the world now, aren't so many authoritarians and fascists promising that very same illusion, that the world can go back to an idealized past, that people will remain in their place, that the status quo will not be disturbed, especially if power has to be shared out to those who originally did not have any power? The claim, the ludicrous claim, that progress is bad and harmful because it is different must be struck down. Crises are everywhere now, yet so many of the leaders presently in power are clinging, desperately, to the hope that the equilibrium of the past couple of decades will not be challenged or disturbed.

The rest of the first paragraph goes on to say:

"That is why a crisis is always something of a revolution, whatever its material consequences may be. At the end of a long war, victory, like defeat, changes everything." (emphasis mine)

I don't know what changes will happen at the end of the current string of crises. I wonder how long this war of capitalists versus everything else will be. I hope the changes will be for the better. I want to believe that the side which supports people's rights to live their lives how they want will win out.

And at the end, I wish that we as a species learn enough to truly change. That may be a fool's hope, of course, but if an imprisoned Léon Blum in the depths of WWII could believe in the downfall of authoritarians and fascists and the growth of his people, I could try to do the same.

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