The rock star personas. The great wealth. The love of publicity. The elitism. The somewhat shoddy intellectual foundation. The almost subservient conformity with regard to the established order, exposes both men to the charge of opportunism and insincerity. Though, to give their due, the deep and wide influence is founded on a passionate hatred of stupidity and injustice.
He certainly admitted the social value of some organized religion and remarked sarcastically that if the most violent atheist “had five or six hundred peasants to manage he would certainly inculcate into them the doctrine of a God dispensing punishment and rewards.” On his estate at Ferney he pulled down the village church, since it obstructed his view, but he obtained permission from the bishop to build a new one in its place and inscribed over the portal the words Deo erexit Voltaire. He even on Easter Sunday attended a mass in this church and insisted on preaching a sermon from the pulpit. On his deathbed he agreed to receive the Sacraments and was buried according to the rites of the Church.
Such inconsistencies render it hard for us to determine whether Voltaire was merely anticlerical, or whether he denied the fundamental truths of revealed religion. He would have described himself as a deist. His brilliance as a satirist, his philosophy neither constructive or logical. His love of publicity through open quarrels with the eminent was the talk of Europe and though his literary taste was questionable his political and philosophic apothegms did much to change the thinking habits of the civilized world.
NEW YORK — A New York businessman has acquired a rare, 9-foot scale-model replica of the Statue of Liberty. The little Liberty was unveiled Wednesday in Manhattan, about 6 1/2 miles from its big sister in New York Harbor. That one’s about 151 feet tall.
The Statue of Liberty’s French creator, Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, started his work with a plaster sculpture. New technology has made it possible to cast the model in bronze without damaging the original. The work will be lighted around the clock, providing a close-up view of the statue’s details.The owner, David Stern, is founder, chairman and CEO of The Hartz Group, which includes publishing and real estate.He says he spent over $1 million on the sculpture and that seeing it everyday will make him “feel enriched.” Read More:http://online.wsj.com/article/APf2483db1e68b4472943686f2b4928488.html
After the Lisbon earthquake Voltaire ceased to be so certain about his deism, so confident in the Great Geometrician theory, and he lapsed into a vague form of agnosticism, arguing that since we could never expect in this world to understand the purposes of Providence, we must avoid abstract speculation, content ourselves with daily tasks, and cling to hope. “Why do we exist?” he wrote. “Why is anything anything?”
Like HBH he was an unflinching opponent of oppression, whether political or religious, but hardly a revolutionary. If he had any ideal of government it was that of the philosopher king surrounded assisted by an elite of cultivated nobles. Voltaire refused to accept or even to recognize, Montesquieu’s distinction between despotism and constituional monarchy. The very idea of limiting central authority was to him abhorrent. “No government”, he wrote, “can be in any manner effective unless it possesses absolute power.” He had no sympathy whatever for the common man. “Once the populace begins to reason,” he wrote to Frederick the Great, “then everything is lost. I abominate the idea of government by the masses.” One of his most frequent mottoes was a line from Racine: Que Rome soit toujours libre et Cesar tout-puissant.
The life and character of Voltaire is a strange mix in that despite all the literary activity- he would rise at dawn and begin dictating to a secretary in the very act of clambering out of bed- he found time to amass a huge personal fortune. He was himself reticent about his money making tricks of the trade, and in Candide he states that the art of making money consists “in having been born lucky.” Still, he speculated on army contracts and after these coups, prospered as a moneylender, providing cash advances and various loans to impoverished nobles at a high rate of interest, initially with the respectable assistance of Hirsch, a Jewish money lender and general dealer who eventually had a falling out with Voltaire over transactions in furs and jewelry that soured.
Henri Bernard-Levy:When the Christians were anti-Semitic, they did not just say, We hate Jews. They said, We hate Jews because, unfortunately, they committed the great crime, which was to kill Christ. When Voltaire was anti-Semitic, he did not say, I hate Jews because there is something in their essence which deserves hate; he said, I hate them because they invented Christ….And this is the sort of tricky way of assembling a big number of people around the speech of hatred. Barring that, you would have very few anti-Semites. So today, all the old processes of legitimacy are dying, are more or less dead. Not so many Christians really think that I killed Christ. Not so many followers of Voltaire really think I am guilty of having invented Christianity. Fewer and fewer believe in the racist identity of the Jews, of which people like me would be the bearers. … Read More:http://www.guernicamag.com/interviews/800/an_interview_with_bernardhenri_1/
Voltaire was stingy in small ways, being mean about tipping and candles. Until he purchased the estate at Ferney, he lived most of the time at the expense of other people, accumulating a fortune meanwhile which rendered him, by modern standards, a multimillionaire. No wonder that Rousseau in his hermitage or Diderot in his attic should have looked on Voltaire as different from themselves.
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me
- Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus,” 1883
It is precisely his proximity to power that may explain the stark differences between his view and the greater left’s, which is much more habitually suspicious of power, particularly hard power. Left in Dark Times even begins with Lévy taking a call from candidate Nicolas Sarkozy seeking Lévy’s endorsement, with him trying to understand his “reflex” to continue to vote with a left that seems, at times, to revile him. The left, says Lévy, is still his family. Thus, he is still a liberal, but…That wealth came from a lumber business called Becob; when his father died, Lévy managed the business for a brief period. When it sold in 1997, it earned a reported 750 million francs. Enormous wealth, open shirts, his marriage to the actress Arielle Dombasle, his keenness to challenge the left—what he calls a reflex—often in ways that happen to sound slightly right-wing to his leftist comrades, all add up to a stature that goes beyond writer, past polemicist, past celebrity. Read More:http://www.guernicamag.com/interviews/800/an_interview_with_bernardhenri_1/