“Bread and circuses” is one of the enduring phrases of the first/second century satirist Juvenal who was writing about the Roman Empire.  His 16 satires describe a world rife with oily lawyers, brown-nosing sycophants, unappreciated teachers, and vice-ridden politicians.  Sound familiar?  More to my point, he begrudged the citizenry for giving up their political power for the grain dole (free food) and violent spectacles (the circus games)—the dynamic duo of offerings that the political elite devised in order to win the support of the poor (pretty much everyone outside the small aristocracy).  This form of political populism (appealing to the average Joe) has continued right down through the ages to our very own republic.  Though I suppose we could boil it down further to “vitriol at the other and ridiculous sound bites” (see, that’s why Juvenal will stand the test of time while my rants will be lost in the cloud).

From outlandish hyperbole (I’m aware of the potential redundancy but read the story) to the total disregard of historical perspective, and from hypocritical homophobes to the encouraging of conspiracy theories, our political process has become a joke, and a terrible one at that.  When a senator spouts off on the Senate Floor (and thus into the Congressional Record—you know, that permanent record documenting the process of our government) some ridiculous statement which he then defends with “it was not meant to be a factual statement,” one must wonder when we, the people, will say “enough is enough.”

That is, unless we’re too busy pointing the finger at each other and spewing venom back and forth while we continue to elect representatives that don’t really represent our interests (despite that being pretty much the entirety of their job description).  Or maybe we’re too busy catching up on Dancing With the Stars or The Jersey Shore while eating our McNuggets.  And who provides this vapid entertainment and cheap food?  Firms represented by powerful lobbyists who provide massive funds to those same elected officials.  Now, who do you think those Congressfolk are really going to listen to during our perpetual re-election campaigns?

If we don’t start paying more critical and objective attention to our political system, I dare say we’re on the road to follow in Rome’s footsteps (that story didn’t end too well if you recall).  Not by an invasion, but by a slow decay of civic responsibility and duty that results in a further concentration of power in the hands of a removed elite whose only interests are power and self-preservation.  And they’re well on their way.

To quote Juvenal again: “…for who could endure this monstrous city, however callous at heart, and swallow his wrath?  What’s infamy matter if you keep your fortune?”

The lessons of history indeed.

P.s. I only pick on the above mentioned shows because I think they’re utterly ridiculous. Of course, some of the garbage I watch might be just as bad, but it’s my prerogative as author to keep my vices hidden! 😉

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