Friday, February 19, 2010

Bread and Circuses

Jay G, who is MArooned in the Volksrepublik of Massachusetts, brings us word of the sorry state of public interest, noting that with all the important issues facing the U.S. today, the top headline is Tiger Woods' apology.

As long as we've got our bread-and-circuses, we'll ignore the signposts saying "Hell: 200 miles" all along the way. Distract us with a salacious story of a talented sportsman brought down by his reproductive organs, we'll forget all about the evil in the world, all the crazy, all the many ways our government fails again and again to do what it is supposed to do.

It gets discouraging when you realize that the vast majority of your fellow Americans know the cast of "Dancing with the Stars" but can't name their own Representative...

One of the signs leading up to the fall of Rome was the distraction of the people from important issues and events through the use of rewards and entertainment. This is the origin of the phrase "bread and circuses."

… Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses (Juvenal, Satire 10.77–81)

Roman politicians would attempt to secure votes with cheap food and entertainment, rather than by pursuing sound policy. Eventually the great Republic (and then Empire) declined and fell.

Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. The state of the U.S. is starting to look pretty familiar in some ways.

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