Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Panem et Circenses

"To use a literary allusion, I think it's called "bread and circuses." You'd think the public would start catching on..." Solameanie of Seventh Sola.

'Bread and Circuses' refers to the idea of political leaders, most notably those in the late days of Rome, giving away bread to appease the crowd. When that failed, we throw circuses and lavish feasts and gladiator combat, and keep the masses full of mirth, and clamoring for more, always more.
Today, we like to think of ourselves as a more refined culture. We don't throw bread off wagons into the teeming masses of Americans. We don't slaughter slaves on sand red with blood. We don't clamor city hall for our next meal.

Yet, in many ways we are the same. The same premise applies, where long term public policy is sacrificed for the sake of political expediency, throwing not bread but money. Subsidies, bailouts, and straight up cash handouts are the flavor of the day, conquering both common sense and all rational reasoning for the future. So how does this end?

In Rome, it was only the most visible symptom of a deep set societal decay, the rotting hulk of a once vigorous empire, destroyed not by enemies from without, but by apathy from within. The United States of America has yet to become an empire, a nation bent on conquest for the exploitation of other nations. While we possess power greater then any nation in the history of mankind, we have no compulsion to use it. That is the defining difference between the US and Rome, the reason for our power.

Where Rome was based upon conquest, the United States has been based on economic power.
Because of this, I don't see this newest round of 'Bread and Circus'-ing as a fatal blow upon a wounded giant. While I am disturbed, even angry about these new economic policies, it is not a direct parallel to the past.

When do the masses realize what has been done to them? I have no answer.

We do know something critical. Conservatism begins, and ends, with the individual. There can be no sweeping movement of societies without individuals being a part of it. Keep on fighting, and know that our labors are not in vain.


Solameanie said...

Good word. Conservatism as a principle will remain alive as long as those dedicated to it continue to voice it, live it and teach it to the next generation.

Another more "pop culture" allusion caught me while reading your post. I can't help but think of the Star Trek "Borg." The collective couldn't stand the idea of individuality. The individual must be suppressed and assimilated at all costs. Or C.S. Lewis' "Screwtape Letters," and the way he described the demonic "devouring" another soul.

Palm boy said...

Having never seen any star trek movies, my knowledge of the Borg is limited. But I grasp the concept, and good allusion.

Barack 'The Borg' Obama. :D