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What happened to ...?

When in 1789 the French Revolution broke out, the ideals of the revolution - freedom, equality and fraternity - spread through Europe and beyond. These ideals offered hope to those who worked themselves to the bone, in poor conditions, trying to keep their heads above water, and awakened fear amongst many people who, on the basis of rank, position or possessions, were well-off.


At that time liberté, égalité, fraternité sounded as powerful new ideals and brought great promise with them. But the French Revolution degenerated into a reign of terror and fear. And freedom, equality and brotherhood ... - what has actually happened to those ideals in past centuries?


Different political tendencies nurtured these ideals. Liberal circles cherish freedom, but that usually means the ‘freedom’ of the free market, in which self-interest can be pursuit in the greatest possible freedom. Libertarian circles demand absolute individual freedom, where everyone takes care of himself and no one looks after the weak. Communist and socialist-inspired circles are thrilled by brotherhood and equality, but that mainly caused economic disruption, ideological oppression and an apparent equality where some were more equal than others.


There aren’t many ideals that have been so abused as the ideals of the French Revolution. And yet, in moments of reflection: Who can honestly say that he or she is indifferent to these ideals?


If we look back at the fate of these ideals, we see that humanity has had great difficulty understanding them. As if they shone so brightly in a promising light, that it became impossible to grasp and fully understand them.


"Liberté, égalité, fraternité: beautiful! But can we people both be free and equal, and what about brotherhood? "


Somewhere in the last century this changed, and now, in the 21st century, it has actually become quite easy to understand freedom, equality and brotherhood correctly: by placing each ideal in its own area. This way, all three of them, each in their separate field, can become a reality:

  • freedom; there where people develop themselves (think of: education, art, science, religion, health care, etc.);
  • equality in the area where people formulate and decide about agreements, rules and laws;
  • brotherhood in working together in the economy and by sharing what the economy has produced.


What has happened to freedom, equality and brotherhood? Not enough by far!


John Hogervorst, December 2014

John  |  2014 12 09  |  Permalink  |  Share


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