Man is born free, and everywhere he is in fetters.

NameJean Jacques Rousseau
Life1712 - 1778
Words are tricky. Voltaire well characterized the cerebral activity of the powerful: "They use thought only to warrant their injustice, and employ words only to conceal their thoughts." Happiness is one of these tricky words, as we have seen. Freedom is another. Both are able to fire the masses into a violent revolutionary mood. Rousseau hated the fetters upon freedom which robbed the masses of their happiness. He saw them everywhere. These chains were not only hateful, they were unjust. They should be thrown off! How? With the help of "the general will"! Rousseau became famous for his concept of "la volonté géneral", the "general will" of the whole population. This, too, can be seen as yet another expression of the monotheistic desire for absolute power, well concealed behind a beautiful concept. That is how it was used by, for instance, Lenin: I know what the masses really wish. I thus represent the general will of the people. Those who are against me are against democracy and the people! Hobbes, the great cynic, sometimes permitted himself
to be ironic. All men are equal, he once said, in only one aspect: they consider themselves to be the best ruler of their nation. Who knows what the "general will" is? Everybody can have his own opinion on that. Some, however, are so stupid that they honestly believe everybody else agrees with them or, at least, should agree with their high and infallible judgement on what is good and evil. Some can and have used the idea of the "general will" to justify their attempts to throw off the fetters of the multitude by violent revolution. The French society at the end of the first seriously capitalist century was a tinderbox. The tensions between the old feudalist powers "by the grace of God", and the new parvenu bourgeois, "by the grace of Money", was huge. The gaps between rich and poor had grown enormously. The naive words, imputed to the headless Marie Antoinette - don't they have bread? why don't they give them cookies? - epitomizes the situation. There can be no doubt about it: Rousseau's idea of getting rid of the imagined chains with the help of the "general will" was a match thrown into that tinderbox! Haughty philosophers can hardly consider themselves above the fry when their words are timber on horrible fires!