Some person’s mania is easily identified as heresy and he is either a real madman or a real genius who is hard to live in harmony with the society. However, the collective mania in the certain historical time is regarded as a natural thing. They all have noble ideals, which they spare no effort to realize and for which they are even willing to do inhuman deeds. As for the tremendous disasters that may come as a result, they do not care and even they do not know. One day mania will die down and by then people will find what they have done is so absurd. But history is made, which can not be rewritten.
The best representation of collective mania is revolution. Revolution is a word that sounds exciting and agitating, to say nothing of the revolution launched by the public. Nevertheless, sometimes revolution is the most deadly killer and the bloodiest conspiracy. In the name of revolution, rational thinking is shackled and just revolt is hanged. Only by the maniacal pursuit of the so-called ideal can people save their lives.
What can arouse collective mania must be those faramita ideals. The slogan of French Revolution is freedom, equality and fraternity, which is still inspiring up to the present. Rousseau’s theory, the General Will is Indestructible, makes the rebel reasonable and the revolution guiltless. However, how can his pure democracy be realized nationwide? No matter whether the ideal can be achieved or not, it can really incite tremendous irrational enthusiasm among the bottom level of the society. “Once released, the irrational enthusiasm will become the crazy wave of deconstructing the civilization which can not subside in a short time.”(Zhu Xueqin)
Nevertheless, once the Pandora Box is opened, “the spiritual atom of the human society” is “ignited” (Mao Zedong) and it will lead to a loss of control in historical development. The society is weirdly characterized by “the coexistence of ferocity and kindness, the concomitance of terror and ideal”. During “the Cultural Revolution” numerous red guards from all over the country came to Beijing just in order to wait for the inspection by Chairman Mao. They made Tian’anmen Square a red ocean, but just by them how many people were wrongly condemned, punish, insulted, and even persecuted to death? Similarly, “the beginning symbol of the French Revolution was attacking and destroying Bastille prison and saving seven prisoners there; three years later with the development of revolution and the foundation of Republic, schools and churches were turned into prisons and thousands of innocent prisons were slaughtered. Those things were done by the same public people of Paris.”(Lin Da)
Innocent sacrifice and ferocity breaching the original intention are the bloody costs caused by mania. However, the cost of revolution is far beyond these. Just before the French Revolution, an example for revolution arose in America on the other shore of the Atlantic Ocean. “For Americans, war is one thing while drawing up a constitution is another thing. Those are two things that can not be messed up.” “Drawing up a constitution is certainly a kind of revolution. But the real revolution is the transformation of internal system, not the external form.” “Those representatives who drastically debated and argued but finally had to compromise and sign in the council house would not launch a new revolution but try their best to explain to the public people the necessity of compromise. They persuaded the people to vote to approve the constitution in order to enact it as soon as possible.” “In the revolution of the United States there are not those romantic revolutionary stories like public people’s occupying Bastille prison, which can be showed off to the offspring. It is boring but logical.” (Lin Da)
“As for Versailles’s constitutional convention, the rebellion of Paris people was rather interference than support. Versailles could not hold a peaceful council board any more. They were put into an awkward position since the beginning.” “It was so difficult to explain to the people who had a grudge against the old system why they could not carry out a revolution to release their anger and why they should compromise to those royals and nobles. No matter how hard you could have tried, you would never escape such an interrogation: what kind of revolution was it, civilians’ or nobles’?” (Lin Da)
Maybe the comparison in numbers is more convictive. “It took three months and twenty-three days for the United States to establish its constitution.” During the two hundred odd years in which the constitution has been adopted, “scores of peaceful turnover of political power was accomplished without one violent coup.” “It took over two years for France to establish its constitution…but not more than one year later, the constitution was overthrown.” After that France also experienced numerous people’s revolutions and monarchy restorations. “Nearly no peaceful turnover of political power took place.” In French history there is always a saying “Revolutionary alarm bell rings again in the sky of Paris and rebellious people from all the districts assemble together.” Not only in history but also at the end of last year, nationwide turbulence originating in the suburb of Paris shocked the world. It is not the feudal times of occupying Bastille prison but the twenty-first century of high modernization! No wonder that French people themselves also admit it as a shame.
Due to the different character of France as a nation, its different understanding towards revolution, and various other historical factors, France paid a higher cost, the cost of time, during the establishment of a new system. The vicious circle again and again exhausted the mania for revolution and turned it into rational establishment of constitution. It’s hard to imagine that the history would have been rewritten if French people had chosen different ways to express their revolutionary ideal.
Fortunately the mania caused by revolution can not last long. “The whole society will suddenly awake on one morning, overthrow the “revolution idol” which was still worshipped yesterday, and send it on the guillotine which was just set by it. “Even though those disciples of Rousseau were so crazy and enthusiastic that they cut the king’s head at one night and pilloried it on the square, they would become ‘sick of revolution’ sooner or later. They would recall and long for the meat pot of Voltaire and return to the kitchen of home from the street assembly.”(Zhu Xueqin) After all, revolution cannot feed the people.
What is terrible is that as soon as the collective mania fades, the people will try to forget all the tragedy caused by it. “It is regarded only as an accidental incident which can absolutely be avoided and does not have any necessary foundation embedded in its civilization construction.” Maybe this is why China does not even have one “Cultural Revolution” museum up to now. It is after several hundred years that France “began to face the reasons and lessons of French Revolution”. On the other hand, the people “strive to pursuit vulgar enjoyment and request to be compensated for the sensatory pleasure deprived by rudeness.” (Zhu Xueqin) As a result of the disparity between the rich and the poor and the lack of belief, the society is waiting for another visit of revolutionary mania.
From the comparison between French Revolution and China’s “Cultural Revolution”, we can see astonishing historical similarity: the same mania for revolution, the same pursuit of their own so-called ideal, and the same brutal dictatorship. Meanwhile, looking at American Revolution, it was very different: rational, orderly, and high efficient. It is true that absolute perfection never exists in the world. But can we avoid the tragedy of guillotine as much as possible in the course of history, so that fascist dictatorship in the name of so-and-so-ism can never come back?
The character of one nation affects its historical road. American people upholding freedom and democracy are proud of the founders of the country, the generation of George Washington forever. However, romantic French people have to swollen the bitter fruit of Jacobin dictatorship. May our nation，which has a new lease of life after the “Cultural Revolution,” have more practical deeds and less fantastic ideals, be more rational and less crazy.