Friday, May 2, 2008

Panem et circensus

In the March/April 1995 edition of Log Homes Illustrated, the editor, John H. Leeper, wrote:
" It is the nature of mass news media - and particularly television - to concentrate it's coverage on the spectacular, the unusual, the sinister, and the absurd. After all, circus side shows have drawn crowds for centuries, while reasonable debates of substantive issueslack mass appeal. of course, the problem with the "side show" approach to issues is that the barker with the loudest voice or the most garish slogans usually get's the lion's share of the attention. Voices of reason are left to beg in the streets. Therefore, it should be no wonder to any of us that when decisions are made on the federal level, they often turn out to be the wrong decisions. Elected officials listen to the cries of their constituents and their financial backers who, in turn, listen to the carnival barkers loudly shouting their propaganda slogans. In other words, I am a firm believer in the statement of the late cartoonist Walt Kelly, creator of the comic strip Pogo: "We have met the enemy - and he is us!" I also like a quote from rock musician Jerry Garcia: "Constantly choosing the lesser of two eveils is still choosing evil."

The only way to resolve complex problems in a society is first to realize they are complex and there are no simple answers. Next, we have to tune out the barkers and start looking for the opinions of men and women inclined to thoughtful consideration rather than hysteria or myopia... Perhaps it is time to turn down the volume and start listening to the "still, small voices" of reason who are all around us, but are simply ignored."

To which I simply add "No truer words were ever spoken!" Depending upon your choice of circus, you can hear Glenn Beck, or Lou Dobbs, or Rush Limbaugh, or any number of others trying to get you to pay attention to their personal freak show. Let's calm down and listen to the voices of reason. Think about it - you KNOW it's a freak show, and you know it's fun to watch but would you choose who's going to lead your community based on what you saw at the circus?

Remember, "Panem et circensus" - It was Juvenal that coined this system, a mechanism of influential power over the Roman mass. "Panem et Circensus", literally "bread and circuses", was the formula for the well-being of the population, and thus a political strategy. This formula offered a variety of pleasures such as: the distribution of food, public baths, gladiators, exotic animals, chariot races, sports competition, and theater representation. It was an efficient instrument in the hands of the Emperors to keep the population peaceful, and at the same time giving them the opportunity to voice themselves in these places of performance.

Makes you think, doesn't it? "If all they need to do to keep power is provide food and circuses... so much for the informed electorate!" The more times change the more things stay the same.

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