I traveled to Le Chateau de Versailles recently and felt relatively unimpressed, disappointed, bored, and sort of sad. How could one ever be unimpressed with such majesty, such royalty—the epitome of grace and bourgeois? Easy. It’s not real. Fake marble, fake gold, fantasy fantasy fantasy. A reigning symbol of self-indulgence and debauchery that still wields power over two centuries later, and part of it is because we keep deciding to go there.
Now, let’s take a walk while I explain.
Upon entrance to the palace that housed King Louis XIV, the Sun King, and his successors, you receive an audio guide relaying to you the inception of Le Chateau. The palace was originally a hunting lodge that Louis commissioned for himself. It then evolved into living quarters for the monarchy and finally the seat of France’s political happenings until after about a century when it was toppled by the French Revolution. It was arguably one of the most important seats of power in all of Europe. The French Revolution signified massive, widespread, and active disapproval of this powerful monarchy and especially the kind of self-indulgence that came to define its “high-society”.
In touring this palace my mind naturally compared this type of government to the one we have now in the United States. Are we learning from history? Or are we simply repeating it, blind to the decline of empires that were built on survival of the fittest and kill or be killed ideologies. In the United States right now Trump’s approval ratings are declining, the feelings of US citizens are stirring, hatred is raging, and conflict defines us.
To get some perspective, we travel right? We learn.
If the broad base of US citizens is so opposed to this type of hedonism now, then why are we continuing to give places like Le Chateau de Versailles our support? We pay dollars, euros, pesos to hear our audio guides describe a warped history that leaves truth in the shadows. That leaves most of us in the shadows. We come here to appreciate Versailles’ incredible symmetry, the rarest rocks, magnificent paintings, busts, furniture, all of the “best” in the world in one place. This seems like success, this seems like the ultimate, close to godliness. But what about when this godliness, when royalty, when those in power don’t give us that same appreciation back? Where’s our appreciation for our own lives? Where’s our self-love? Where do we step in and call out the unrelentingly oppressive history?
These men are laughing at us. These white faced immortalized statues are looking down at us staring up at them in perverted admiration. “Ah the gorgeous and awe-inspiring marble work on Voltaire’s face!” We have allowed these men to become symbols of divinity. They run our lives, they define our existence for us. With actions like this we continue to perpetuate history’s toxic cycle.
Black men are still getting arrested and killed, still being called slaves in secret rooms that hold secret power that give these white men meaning, a way to fuel their most secret innermost desire: to be immortalized in stone. They’ll do anything for it, and Versailles and places like it fuel that desire, allow it to be possible. They’ll deport innocent people for the false sake of themselves. They’ll say they are doing this to defend their families, and will crush anyone in their paths for this goal. They use their religion as backdrop without ever fully understanding the meaning of life and love.
Reflected in the Hall of Mirrors, fences of gold, and flying baby penises is the abuse and oppression of the 99%. And it will never stop until we become intentional about where we travel, how, and why we do it. Be vocal, be loud, and be that pesky tourist who tells the sweet Nigerian guy or the curious Bolivian family the real story of what they’re taking selfies in front of.
Versailles is a farce, go there to understand structure, art, design if you must. To study those we need to overcome. History will never stop repeating itself until we make change and keep steadfast to this goal. Technology is bringing us closer and closer together everyday, we are a global village now. Our neighbors from across the globe, the silent majority, need to know how these powers operate and understand that the most important part of their continued existence depends on our active participation, our complacency, and the notion that many older people subscribe to: that things will never change, that the world is just like this.
It’s fucked so say so! Things do change when we become active. Take one step beyond this surface and ask how it came to be, ask how you came to be, how your ancestors came to be, and why you’ve been placed right here and right now. Ask why you believe what you believe and why you let them tell you what truth is. Your answers are reflected inside of YOU not in some palace, or a Louvre museum, any of the biggest castles in the world.
Power to catapult change is within all of us, just because they wear suits and have cash money doesn’t make that fact any different.