Immersion v. isolation

An insight from Tocqueville came through National Review, specifically on how the French ruling class came to become so detached from the reality of revolution that was stirring around them:

At the almost infinite distance from practice in which they lived, no experience tempered the ardors of their nature; nothing warning them of the obstacles that existing facts might place before even the most desirable reforms; they didn’t have any idea of the dangers which always accompany even the most necessary revolutions. They did not have even the least suspicion of them; for the complete absence of political freedom had made the world of action not merely badly known to them, but invisible. (Tocqueville, The Old Regime and the Revolution, Book III, chapter 1, “How Around the Middle of the Eighteenth Century Intellectuals Became the Country’s Leading Politicians, and the Effects Which Resulted from This”)

When I walked through the streets of Paris three years ago I saw some of the great monuments created by the French during their earlier periods of aristocracy. I felt a bit sad that the people had reacted so violently to separate themselves from that era.

Tocqueville balances that perspective by underscoring leadership’s responsibility of attentiveness to reality. Immersion rather than isolation is important, along the same lines small v. narrow communities.

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