The French revolutionaries necessarily thought that the first thing that had to be done was to free the people from the Bastille.
It is inhuman to put somebody for any act whatsoever into prison in a dark cell just to wait for his death which might come fifty years afterwards, sixty years afterwards. Sixty years of waiting is an immense torture to the soul. It is not punishment, it is vengeance, revenge, because these people disobeyed the law. There is no balance between their acts and the punishment.
The revolutionaries opened the doors, they dragged people out from their dark cells. And they were surprised. Those people were not ready to get out of their cells.
You can understand. A person who has lived for sixty years in darkness – the sun is too much for him. He does not want to come out into the light. His eyes have become too delicate. And what is the point? He is now eighty. When he entered he was twenty. His whole life has been in this darkness. This darkness has become his home.
And they wanted to make them free. They broke their chains, their handcuffs – because there were no keys. But the prisoners were very resistant. They did not want to go out of the prison. They said, “You don’t understand our condition. A man who has been sixty years in this position, what will he do outside? Who will provide him food? Here food is given, and he can rest in his peaceful, dark cell. He knows he is almost dead. Outside he will not be able to find his wife – what has happened to her, his parents will have died, his friends will have died or may have completely forgotten him.
“And nobody is going to give him a job. A man who has been for sixty years out of work, who is going to give him a job? – and a man from the Bastille, where the most dangerous criminals were kept? Just the name of Bastille will be enough to have him refused from any job. Why are you forcing us? Where will we sleep? We don’t have any houses. We have almost forgotten where we used to live – somebody else must be living there. Our houses, our families, our friends, our whole world has changed so much in sixty years; we will not be able to make it. Don’t torture us more. We have been tortured enough.”
And in what they were saying there was reasonableness.
But revolutionaries are stubborn people; they won’t listen. They forced them out of the Bastille, but by that night almost everybody had come back. They said, “Give us food because we are hungry.”
A few came in the middle of the night and they said, “Give us our chains back because we cannot sleep without them. We have slept for fifty, sixty years with handcuffs, with chains on our legs, in darkness. They have become almost part of our bodies, we cannot sleep without them. You return our chains – and we want our cells. We were perfectly happy. Don’t force your revolution on us. We are poor people. You can do your revolution somewhere else.”