Bread and Circuses

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August 25, 2006

The superior man blames himself. The inferior man blames others. ~ Don Shula

Bread and circuses have gotten a bad name thanks to the state. Who or what else could possibly disparage the goodwill associated with eating and entertainment? Of course the source of the negative connotation is that bread and circuses are used by politicians to buy loyalty and provide distractions from their actions among the populace. They are used as a political strategy to pacify the people as their society delves further into militarism, but does that make food and entertainment evil? Does not then the state make all it touches evil?

The phrase was coined by Juvenal in the First Century in his Satires lamenting the continuing slide of his former Roman Republic into dictatorship. Then, as now, the world's sole Superpower was simultaneously destroying liberty at home and abroad in the insane quest for world hegemony. Juvenal, who likely came from an elite family, believed that this was happening because the controlled masses were no longer as virtuous as previous generations and thus deserved their fate. The problem with this view is that it scapegoats the natural human desires to eat and have fun while totally missing the root of the evil: the state itself.

States are created by elite to control the masses, plain and simple. Rulers will give people what they want if they think it will keep them in power. Most people want food and fun. It is not the food and fun that are bad, it is the stealing from some to give to others that is bad. It is people selling out their liberties for these things that are bad. Security, retirement funds, health care, education and all the other things that states use to appease restless citizens are not in and of themselves bad. What is bad for society is the state itself.

When the elite become drunk with their early successes organizing the local society into a manageable state collective, they inevitably seek expansion of the territory and peoples they control. The idea of One World Government is not a new one. But the elite today believe more than ever that they can actually accomplish this insane goal because of modern technology. Of course, plans of world domination never work out because 1) there is an endless supply of competing elite who think that they are The One True Leader and 2) most people just don't care about the struggles among power-crazed elite until it directly affects them. All the education in the world will not change these two conditions.

The idea of class struggle made popular by Marx tries to overcome the above two conditions by way of elevating artificial egalitarian principles over the natural order. Give Marx credit for recognizing the corrupt nature of elite power centers perpetuating their control for its own sake, but trying to fool Mother Nature just won't work. What he did was scare the crap out of the elite into offering more than just bread and circuses to buy loyalty with. Like farm subsidies, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schools, public roads, etc . . . However, Marx made the same mistake that most people do when they look at the problem of state control: he accepted state control as a fact of life and focused on who controls the state.

The idea that society could be improved by killing intellectuals, stealing the wealth of the elite, eliminating private property and putting the peasants in control of the state is really pretty stupid if you think about it. Destruction is not really creative, but neither is seeking world hegemony. So for those who truly believe that the state is just a part of life, we are all stuck between a rock and a hard place: between Communists and Fascists. No wonder people prefer to think about food and entertainment instead of politics.

If your only choices are deciding who gets to run your life, then what's the point of making choices? The real circus distracting people from what's really important then isn't rock concerts, sporting events and movies, it's the state itself. Primarily the election of this or that "leader" to take us to the Promised Land, but also endless discussion and argument over 'correct' policies, amendments, laws and who to invade next. You have about as much chance of changing the system by being politically active as you do influencing who wins the Super Bowl by cheering for your favorite team: marginal at best.

I find it amusing to listen to radio talk show and television news show entertainers bemoan the fact that people would rather watch sports or go to a movie than listen to them pontificate about the same old crap over and over. Their thinking goes that if only everybody were educated (really indoctrinated) as good Republicans, Democrats or even Libertarians, then there would be more voters making better choices and we would all be ruled by wonderful, selfless leaders. Uh huh, right. Yet they all support the biggest state circus of all: war. State-controlled media is the circus we should avoid if we want to be free.

The election season is upon us. It comes every other football season. I'll be paying a lot more attention to the football season than the political season, though both are hard to avoid. The commentary of the respective media experts and pundits will continue to borrow metaphors from each other, the teams will have big mouths talking trash, the games will be played and the winners declared. The Sunday morning news shows and Monday morning quarterbacks will be all juiced up and passionate about the teams they have chosen to invest so much attention, emotion and energy in. The competition itself is the show because the outcomes change nothing in real life for anybody but the competitors and the gamblers.

I especially find it amusing when Republicrat clones pontificate about the rabble going in droves to NASCAR, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, World Cup and the many other events providing good old free-market fun (notwithstanding local government subsidies for most stadiums, which should be ended). If only this rabble would sit around and listen to Rush Limbaugh and Neal Boortz instead, then the government could be set straight and all would be well. That they willfully participate in their own brainwashing never crosses their minds. Some proudly refer to themselves as ditto-heads. Now there's a free-thinker.

The way to decrease state power is to decrease state support. For starters, ignore its elections, politicians, media hucksters and sycophants. If you really want to poke a stick in the eye of state worshipers, then go have some chicken wings and beer watching your favorite game or show while ignoring them. If you stop to think about it, raise a toast to praise two things that are really good in life: bread and circuses. Curse the state, not its victims.

Bread and circuses don't enslave people, states do.

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Mark Davis's picture
Columns on STR: 57

Mark Davis is a husband, father and real estate analyst/investor enjoying the freedoms we still have in Longwood, Florida.