Take a deep breath

I came across this paragraph as I ate breakfast this morning:

“In 1848, revolutions broke out again in Europe. For several years economic recession and hunger had provoked food riots in parts of Germany and France. By early 1848, almost a third of the workers of Paris were unemployed. In February, as the crisis rapidly worsened, the Parisians rose and overthrew the July monarchy”.

The citation comes from David Gress’ fascinating “From Plato to Nato: the Idea of the West and its Opponents” (at page 327).

Now that the Covid-19 plague is upon us, and as everything shuts down to slow the rate of infection, we can read paragraphs like that with fresh eyes:

hunger riots

one third unemployment

As recently as 1848!

Our current crisis is being met with cancellations of large meetings, shutdowns of sporting events, self-monitoring, isolation, quarantines, and concerns for whether the wine collection would last more than a week. My pension continues to arrive via electronic transfer. I may be seriously inconvenienced. Mrs. Dalwhinnie may not be able to visit some of her aged patients. The crisis is serious, but it not catastrophic.

In the duration I may finally be able to finish Gress’ book. It is highly recommendable for anyone whose interests include western civilization: does it exist? (yes) What does it stand for? (quite a lot) Has its meaning changed over time (yes). I thought I was learned in history before I read this book; clearly I was in error. Gress appears to have read and remembered everything since the pre-Socratics. A tour de force.