“The Second French Empire collapsed when the dyspeptic Emperor Napoleon III, unwisely venturing onto the battlefield, was captured and imprisoned.” The Bettencourt Affair
By: Gabriela Yareliz
As I read The Bettencourt Affair, I am struck by several things at once. It makes me wonder about the different and powerful things that drew so many different people into collaboration with the Nazi’s during German occupation. How many were attracted by different aspects of it and yet ended up in the same dangerous group. It brought to mind how racism can truly lead to a distorted view of the world, but how it’s often funded and protected. The company L’Oreal wouldn’t exist as it exists now, had its founder not been a strong Nazi collaborator, funder and sympathizer (and had not old chums saved his butt later, after the Allies and Resistance won out). It brings to mind how we never truly outgrow our inner child unless we truly heal from those childhood wounds. This book highlights the unraveling of a family who, apart from its incredible fortune, was so dysfunctional due to its inability to share true affection and each of its participants’ hunger for love and attention. While this scandal (“affair” in French) that riveted the attention of the French and the world (and destroyed Sarkozy’s reputation) was about money, undue influence and types of revenge and corruption, its characters, real and flawed, stand before us. Their insecurities and dark histories exposed. A lesson for us all.
The quote at the beginning of this post struck me. Sometimes, we think so little of the small decisions we make. Sometimes, we categorize choices and think of some as “big” or “important” and others as inconsequential. Here, we have Napoleon III just venturing out. It costs him and everyone else the entire empire. This book reminded me how each of our choices can change the course of history. The small choices can become the big trigger to something that changes the world— not just our world. A simple venturing out can cost you an empire.
I thought of this as I watched the Britney documentary, and how so many fail to realize the very unwise decisions she continually made before she was placed under conservatorship. (Not arguing for the conservatorship— just noting this). Our choices, as small as they may seem, when added up in a formula, bring us into our present.
What if we chose to do the right thing? What if we healed instead of obsessively hungering for affection (rooting our identity in this need to be desired)? What if we just weighed the possibilities in the humility of knowing that while no one knows the future, there is a cause and effect? What if we realized that the decisions we make extend past ourselves?
One of my favorite films Le Battement d’ailes du papillon explains that like the batting of a butterfly’s wings can change the course of the entire world, our choices can do the same.
“You see, every detail, every gesture, as slight as it may be, reveals an infinity of truths and thus has an endless repercussion and grandiose effects.” Le Battement d’ailes du papillon
If only we could see that every choice triggers a light rain that falls on us all, like the rains that blanket Paris on a gray day, like the rains that fall over NYC today.