Absolute Monarchies were a major part of European History for centuries and the country where it reached its maximum glory was in France. One of the reasons that the institution lasted so long was that the Monarch was protected from any form of criticism and the punishment for those who dared oppose him was often extreme, either in long term imprisonment or even death. Yet the beginning of the end came not from political treatises, but from comedy and Satire. These lessons are useful reminders for modern day politicians beginning with President #Donald Trump.

The stage and the Aristocracy

The period leading up to the fall of the French Monarchy was one of great artists and thinkers such as Voltaire and Diderot, but the two who had the greatest impact were Molière and Beaumarchais who with their comedies were the first to break the wall of ridiculing the idiosyncrasies of the country’s aristocracy. While not directly referring to the King, these authors allowed future satirists to direct their attention towards Louis XVI and his Queen Marie Antoinette who would pay the ultimate price for their power.

French Absolute Monarchy created a huge disparity between the opulent life style of the King and his aristocracy and the poor lower classes. The French satirists and comedians drew from this disquiet and gave it voice.

Rather than deal with the issues of poverty and oppression the aristocracy pretended it did not exist and the satire fueled the anger and disdain for the rich who were no longer seen at their betters, but as oppressors.

Popular discontent

The failure of the French aristocracy was further highlighted when it sent soldiers to assist the newly born American Democracy.

These soldiers came home and their stories of rights and democracy fuelled a hunger for a freedom the population never knew. Thus it was no coincidence that the French Revolution occurred so soon after the American War of Independence.

In modern day America the politicians have forgotten these lessons. They have forgotten that satire and comedy are another face of the discomfort many citizens feel on both sides of the political fence.

President Donald Trump and his advisors disdain any expression of discontent against their decisions, yet the public protests over the weekend show that the concerns are real and that a sizable section of the country is prepared to act on them.

Saturday Night Live on television, the satirical memes on Facebook and dissenting articles are all methods of communicating to the country’s leaders that there are matters to be addressed and that the solutions given so far are not resolving these issues. Attacking the messengers on the screen such as Alec Baldwin’s representation of the President is not a solution, but a denial of issues that the common citizens see every day.

America’s politicians should look towards the French example and learn from those tragic experiences.

Creating a super rich and powerful ruling class as many perceive the current administration can only lead to further discontent and protest. If they do not remember these lessons and act accordingly then these protests will only widen and spread further. Hopefully the appropriate actions will come quickly because, as Louis XVI learnt too late, once the population starts to take matters into its own hands nobody knows how it will end, beginning in the highest office of the land.