“Bread and Circuses” is regarded as a metaphor to explain the superficial means of appeasement. In politics the phrase is used when describing the synthetic creation of public approval. Not through exemplary public service and policy creation, but through immediate satisfaction by pandering to the shallow requirements of the populace. The phrase also suggests the erosion and ignorance of civic duty amongst the common man. In modern use the phrase has become an adjective to describe a populace that no longer values civic virtues and public life. The phrase also highlights the triviality and frivolity which characterised the Roman Empire’s death spiral.
The phrase originates from Rome by the topical and satirical poet and commentator Juvenal. He identified the only remaining cares of the Roman populace which had seemingly given up on its birthright of political involvement. Roman politicians devised a plan in 140 B.C. to win the votes of the poor: giving out cheap food and entertainment, “bread and circuses” being the most effective method to rise to power.
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
Juvenal makes reference to the Roman practice of providing free wheat to Roman citizens as well as costly circus games and other forms of entertainment as a means of gaining political power through populism. The film Gladiator includes a scene where the crowds are showered with loaves of bread as gladiators enter the ring…
It’s that time of year again in the UK, despite the late Indian summer, the nights are drawing in and the traditional seasonal activities are taking shape. As Britons we now shrink back into our caves in order to cope with the ‘winter blues’ and prole-feed is back in abundance. Premiership football is back on television as is the latest series of X-Factor. I should be careful in mocking the X-Factor as prole feed, as my family immediately accuse me of indulging in the same by watching premiership football. I’ve often wondered if the UK govt would hold emergency debates if both the X-Factor and the Premiership were in danger of imploding, would they bail these ‘institutions’ out for the general good, fearing the very fabric of UK society could be in danger? Similarly when the UK experienced a few days of rioting in August I wondered if the government would pass into law a motion bringing forward the X-Factor schedule in order to ‘hose down’ the masses.
When you consider the historical democratic fabric and structure created by Rome and Athens during their pains of evolution it’s a tragedy that, centuries later, we often feel more disillusioned and marginalised were political decision makers and their decisions are concerned. In Europe we have a current situation for which the word “crisis” doesn’t adequately explain the magnitude of the problem. Debates are taking place regarding monumental incalculable debt, which will impact present and unborn generations with arguably insoluble problems and yet we, as citizens, have no opportunity to engage in the debate. Instead their appears to be a media blackout on discussing the relevant issues using context and concepts Joe Public could comprehend.
Our policy makers and leaders are discussing a €2-3 trillion mega QE style bailout (as the first stage) for the insolvent banking system and countries faced with default yet the general populace is denied any input in the decision making process. Who gave the IMF, ECB, EU the mandate to put in place such structures without reference to voters? If you argued that we have surrendered such decisions to them via our democratic process then surely a full explanation of the impact trillions of euros of fresh debt would have on the union needs to be carefully explained, or is the belief that explaining a €3 trillion debt as a starting point would discourage folk from even bothering to turn up to work? Whilst sages can explain that, with clever financial architecture the massive re-capitalisation of banks and countries is not simple debt, for the sceptical it appears that private interest groups are once again being protected at the expense of the majority.
Whilst there are minor protests on Wall Street, and pockets of civil disobedience in Greece, overall the acceptance and compliance with what the ‘clever people’ do is all too evident. And who can blame the majority when in, for example, the UK unemployment hasn’t exploded and the overall standard of living has remained fairly static given zirp QE and the bailouts has firstly kept mortgage payments low and secondly hasn’t impacted visibly on the majority…for now.
Tell ya what though, that Kelly Rowland is lovely, much better than the sullen Cheryl Cole and good fun too..And what about Louie getting the oldies again..hahaha..Anyway, what time’s Match of the Day on, I wonder if Mancini plays Tevez..?