Friday, April 17, 2009

Let them eat cake. Or dump tea...

I remember very well learning about the 1773 Boston Tea Party in my American history class in high school. It captured my imagination. Freedom fighters boarding a ship disguised as indians to dump tea in Boston harbour. Gripping! What it was too was a protest against unfair taxation by the British Crown. The Tea Act which granted tax free priviledges to the royal chartered British East India Company was the last straw. To show that measures against free trade would no longer be tolerated, 10,000 £ worth of tea ended up floating in the water. Symbolic and momentous... Then came the American revolution. And change.

The 2009 Tea Parties refer to the gathering of thousands of American citizens across the country to protest against the expansion of government under the current administration (on the tea party in Kansas). Symbolically tea bags were dumped in water (buckets, garbage cans.... ). According to journalist Andrew Klavan, US mainstream media has mostly chosen to ridicule the whole affair. But he thinks this could be more than a "joke". In fact the start of something big. In this article, he puts the Tea Parties in their rightful historical and constitutional context:
"James Madison, in the famous Federalist #10, said it was the “first object of government” to protect those “diverse faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate,” and from which also originate “the possession of different degrees and kinds of property.” He warned that these faculties and these rights were in danger when what the Founders called “a majority faction” took over government. The Constitution, Madison said, was intended to help prevent such majority factions from working for “a rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project.”.....

Commenting on the media and Democrat Party's attitude towards this grassroots movement Klavan says that "It is that voice—Madison’s voice, and the Constitution’s—with which the protestors spoke on Tax Day, and which the Democrats and the mainstream press have dismissed with such contempt." This "let them dump tea" attitude reminded me of the "let them eat cake" attitude exhibited by the royal court in Versailles. An entirely different context but a similar thread... Contempt, something big. And then change.
"Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" (eat cake in English) said Marie Antoinette, Louis XIV's consort. I do whenever I can find this délice de la boulangerie française.
"Ich bin ein Overland Park (Kansas) tea party-goer" says Ze Ronin. On the left ze brioche achetée et mangée à Tokyo with a cup of hot water in which a tea bag was dumped...

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