“The America of my time line is a laboratory example of what can happen to democracies, what has eventually happened to all perfect democracies throughout all histories. A perfect democracy, a ‘warm body’ democracy in which every adult may vote and all votes count equally, has no internal feedback for self-correction. It depends solely on the wisdom and self-restraint of citizens… which is opposed by the folly and lack of self-restraint of other citizens. What is supposed to happen in a democracy is that each sovereign citizen will always vote in the public interest for the safety and welfare of all. But what does happen is that he votes his own self-interest as he sees it… which for the majority translates as ‘Bread and Circuses.’
‘Bread and Circuses’ is the cancer of democracy, the fatal disease for which there is no cure. Democracy often works beautifully at first. But once a state extends the franchise to every warm body, be he producer or parasite, that day marks the beginning of the end of the state. For when the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses without limit and that the productive members of the body politic cannot stop them, they will do so, until the state bleeds to death, or in its weakened condition the state succumbs to an invader—the barbarians enter Rome. Mine was a lovely world–until the parasites took over.”
—Robert A. Heinlein 1987
I included the great author Robert Heinlein’s quote for its prescience and accurate description of the America I live in today. The idea of bread and circuses as a sort of “opiate for the masses” (apologies to Marx for borrowing his phrase) or “go get the stick” designed by cynical politicians to distract the citizenry came from the Roman satirist and poet Juvenal in 100 A.D., but its meaning is as applicable today as it was in his time. Why this comes to my mind now is really a combination of a number of events, observations, and frustrations.
I was listening to the radio on the way home yesterday and the commentator was talking about how the Obama administration was choosing not to enforce federal law against two states that just declared recreational marijuana use legal. I have my opinions about the law, but this isn’t the only time this President has arbitrarily decided which laws he would enforce and which he wouldn’t; immigration laws, the federal Defense of Marriage Act, etc. I await the outrage from my fellow citizens, but I think they are too busy watching reruns on You Tube of Miley Cyrus twerking or reading People magazine to find out exactly what Kim Kardashian thinks about the new iPhone. All I hear are yawns. Bread and circuses.
The cynic in me thinks that the marijuana issue is just another way for the government to ensure a dumbed down populace, and that if each of us was walking around in a drunken stupor, a la Cheech and Chong in “Up in Smoke”, the politicians would be giddy (Traffic Officer, “Sir, can I see your license?” Pedro, “Whuut?” Officer, “Your license. Where’s your license?” Pedro, “It’s back there on the bumper, man!”) As long as we’re not paying attention, the politicians become wealthier and more powerful and we continue to lose more and more of our liberties (The Wizard got away with the deceit until Toto yanked back the curtain, and I doubt Toto was high on weed). Bread and circuses.
I used to be upset with the politicians, but I finally realized that they are just doing what politicians do; like a cheetah dragging down a poor helpless chamois and ripping its throat to shreds with each vicious bite. How can I be disappointed in what’s to be expected? A politician, in order to be elected, must promise a number of people a number of things, in most cases things they can’t deliver. Once elected, the majority of a politician’s time is spent raising money for and ensuring their reelection. Most often the way they rule, sorry I meant to say “govern,” is to walk outside, lick their finger, stick it straight up in the air and try to figure out which way the wind is blowing. Challenged with a decision, they usually can’t answer as to why they made it, because the impetus for the decision didn’t come from them, but from someone else. The really good politician has no convictions, but is skilled in ferreting out what the people desire and doing their darndest to deliver, whether it’s good for the country or not. Bread and circuses.
No, the group I’m most disappointed in is my fellow citizen. I used to think that most people were just like me, that they desired what was best for the country; that they valued hard work and integrity and the only thing they wanted from government was for it to stay out of their lives and out of their way. I’m now convinced that I’m in the minority. I now believe that most citizens are looking for what the government can do for them, what benefit they can receive just for being a citizen, for doing nothing; not knowing or caring that all of the money the government has comes from their neighbors. I used to think that the average citizen in this country was fairly intelligent, but now realize that I’m surrounded by fools. I’m surrounded by people who haven’t a clue as to what’s going on and where we are headed as a country. I’m surrounded by people who have their hands out and look for government to bail them out of whatever jam they’ve gotten themselves into. I’m surrounded by people who when it comes time to vote, don’t care who will serve the best interests of the country, but vote for who will serve their best interest. The majority of citizens seem to care little about the demise of America; I hear and see mostly apathy and ignorance. They want their government to educate, feed and clothe them and their children as well as provide health care and retirement benefits; they being responsible for none of it. Bread and circuses.
If you care to look around you, it’s easy to spot the modern-day equivalent of ‘bread and circuses’, the number of them increasing day by day. Welfare, food stamps, school lunches, MTV, drugs and alcohol, pro and amateur sports, television, ipads and iPhones, texting and sexting, toys and possessions, the list goes on ad nauseam. I hate to see it happen, but America is headed down the road that Rome and other countries ventured down in bygone years. I love this country but I serve God first, and this country’s future, as with all other nations, will be determined by the will of the Sovereign God I serve. Will we return to the days of a peasantry being ruled by a monarchy? The days when the King, in order to keep the rabble from rebelling, could be heard to say, “Give them bread and circuses,” meanwhile whispering to the court jester, “the bread came from grain grown on land I stole from them, ha!”