Is history repeating itself?

By Darrell Beck

“Bread and Circuses” was a term that came about to describe the demise and fall of the mighty Roman Empire. Beginning as the Roman Republic about 750 BC, it expanded its political and military control over a vast region including all land around the Mediterranean Sea in Africa, Asia and Europe.

But the republic began to destabilize due to internal strife and civil wars, resulting in Julius Caesar declaring himself perpetual dictator in 44 BC, thus the Roman Republic transformed into the autocratic Roman Empire.

As the empire began growing more and more authoritarian, the Caesars found that to maintain control and conceal their escalating corruption they must pacify the people by distracting the masses by literally giving them bread and circuses. History reveals that the Caesars first provided grain to feed and pacify the people (bread), then they built great coliseums where spectacular events were staged (circuses) to entertain the people by keeping them preoccupied, thus gaining favor for the Caesars and the ruling class.

The diversions are said to have begun with athletic events, circuses and chariot races. When the people tired of this triviality, gladiators, slaves, lions and Christians were brought in, all battling in bloody events to entertain the folks. As the Romans became more dependent on bread and circuses, each new Caesar found it necessary to provide even greater and more spectacular orgies. Near the end of the Roman Empire, it is said they flooded the coliseum, brought in sailing ships and fought mock sea battles for the pleasure of the people.

When the Caesars had run out of distractions and had devalued the coin and emptied the treasury, losing favor with their legions and the masses, the end was growing near. It’s likely that many of the people had become apathetic as leisure and idleness had replaced enterprise and vitality.

Perhaps the people had become too comfortable and forgotten their roots. Or maybe their natural instincts of common sense and self-reliance had vanished through decades of dependence on government.

It’s believed that many Romans had accepted the notion that the government was their redeemer and provider and became revered much like a god. But the government had run out of other people’s money and was broke. It could no longer provide for the people, and many of the people knew not how to provide for themselves.

The Caesars had overextended the military, overtaxed and over regulated the citizens, lost control of their borders and vast territory and debased their currency by creating enormous debt to placate and control the masses in order to remain in power.

Most of the Romans had probably ignored, or had never realized the obvious truth — what government gives, government can take away. As a result, rebellion, corruption, vice and decadence eventually gripped the empire due to the deteriorating and changing lifestyle of Roman society. Outside forces quickly sensed the weakness and vulnerability of the self-serving leaders and the helpless folks.

Because the empire was immersed in internal decay, it was easily invaded by barbarians, Visigoths and vandals. Finally the idle and dispirited nation, and the once mighty Roman Empire, collapsed under its own weight and the onslaught of the invaders.

Today, if we should dismiss our daily diversions and pleasures and contemplate how America is being “fundamentally transformed” into a new age “progressive” movement of growing dependence on government; of immorality and political correctness; of radical environmentalism and global warming scams; of open borders, welfare corruption and food stamp reliance; and of staggering debt created by a lawless government seeking “social justice” and “income equality” through redistribution of wealth, socialized “health care” and federalized “education,” we must ask ourselves — could history be repeating itself with a new era of bread and circuses and, if so, are Americans doomed to their own downfall as were the Romans?

Perhaps an answer to that question lies in the words of the Roman satirist and poet, Juvenal (circa 100 AD), who wrote (as translated from Latin): “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.”

Darrell Beck is a Ramona resident.

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Posted by Maureen Robertson on Mar 6 2014. Filed under Commentary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

22 Comments for “Is history repeating itself?”

  1. Jane Tanaka MD

    Thoroughly enjoyed Mr Beck's writing. Fast food and entertainment/sports…becoming the priority, and the distraction of the people, who become increasingly apathetic and uninvolved in life otherwise, allowing misanthropic powers to overrun them… that is one modern interpretation of Latin author's Juvenal's Satire X, from which "bread and circuses" originated.
    Another modern interpretation however, could be that a people so overworked, and asked to be patient with promised economy recovery,and thus become more in need of immediate gratification as an outlet.
    Yet another interpretation is a more compassionate stance, that bread and circuses are necessary for human survival. Better to give food then let your people die from starvation. Better to have a few suffer injury/trauma in sports and movies thanpeople battling each other in the streets. Juvenal also wrote Satire XV:" People without Compassion are Worse than Animals:
    But these days there is greater concord among snakes. A savage beast spares another with similar spots. When did a stronger lion rip the life from another lion? In what forest did a wild boar perish under the tusks of larger boar? "

    • Ramonan

      What a throughly interesting and thought provoking discussion from both Mr. Beck and Dr. Tanaka. I will now be enjoying mulling over and considering both of your thesis regarding the current state of affairs, with respect to both our national and local situations, as related to Latin author Juvenal's satires. I suspect an enterprising columnist could also write interesting and salient corralaries of humanities current geo-political situation by referencing Dickens or many other giants of literature and philosophy.

  2. Reg Republican

    Morality is a very fluid concept in this world. Always has been, always will be. We have skeletons in our closet, that is indisputable. I would argue America has been "progressive" since day 1. I would also want to know if you are a scientist and/or where you get your data on radical environmentalism and global warming. I agree our debt is too high and the ACA is crap. Our biggest problem is pessimism. The gold ol days weren't really that great.

  3. CA Smith

    Mr. Beck, your commentary is extremely interesting, and well written. The parallels between the Roman Republic/Empire and todays situation in America should be food for thought to all.
    We should be looking at this trend in our country, and asking how we reverse it. Instead we are being fed diversions and alternate interpretations which will only serve to continue our progression from Republic to Empire to fall.
    If the reaction from Tanaka, Reg Republican, and Ramonan are typical, then you may have written in vain. Personally, I still have hope but it gets weaker as time goes on and there is no sign of reversal.

  4. rational republican

    Since we are adapting quotes, I will pervert one more to suggest that this is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury; signifying nothing.

    These are the death throes from a dwindling breed of paranoid conservatives. The type that has drifted away from their more rational conservative brethren to follow the pied pipers of AM talk radio; dancing away between commercial calls to buy gold and emergency rations for the impending doom.

    These are the shouts from the front porch of a man lost in an imagined world full of imagined enemies. These are the shouts from a man who has found asylum amongst a limited few likeminded individuals who have formed an echo chamber of fear and distrust and arrogance where together they will continue to slide further from the world. To continue with the Shakespeare: they are but poor players who strut and fret this hour upon the stage, and then will be heard from no more.

    There is no cure but for these types to fade from our world. Continue your self-righteous editorials. Continue to demand relevance on your dysfunctional community boards. Do not go gentle into that good night. Continue to rage, rage against the dying of the night.

    • CA Smith

      Rational Republican is posting under a misleading pseudonym. The views he espouses are those of the liberal left. The trends and parallels illustrated in Mr. Becks commentary are valid, and chillingly similar to what is happening in our country right now. We do have enemies, both from within and without, and they are not imaginary. Two major examples are the bombing at the Boston Marathon, and the unconstitutional activities of POTUS. Don't let anyone mislead you. We are in perilous times. Our way of life and the culture of this country are at stake.

      • Reg Republican

        The article is fear mongering, plain and simple. Be specific. What activities has the POTUS engaged in that are unconstitutional? Do you consider the freely elected president to be an enemy of the state? You put him in the same sentence with the Boston Bombers as being an enemy. How is that rational? What way of life is at stake? Be specific. Don't make things up to scare people. Each issue needs to be addressed individually. You cant put them all in the same bag. If you think the President broke the law, state which one. Cite some case law that backs up your claim. I'm no fan of the current administration. I think every member of Congress deserves to go home. But, Ill vote that way in the fall. I don't need to make every aspect of government sound like the devil is after us. When paradigm in the past do you consider to be ideal? The 80s, 90s, 50s? They had their problems as well.

    • CA Smith

      One additional thought regarding what Rational Republican has written: Since he has no rational argument to counter what Mr. Beck says, he has resorted to name calling. This is a typical and standard response of the left.

  5. Common Sense

    CA Smith is right on the mark. I agree; Reg Republican is no conservative. Everything he/she posted is straight out of the left's playbook.

    Unconstitutional activities on the part of POTUS? How about the IRS scandal? Using the IRS as the enforcement arm of the executive branch of government is much closer to how tyrannical governments act than how the constitution outlines the role of the executive. How about the separation of powers? "If congress doesn't act, I will through executive order". That is a blatantly unconstitutional act. We could go on an on. In all fairness, he is not the first to pull this nonsense, Democrat or Republican.

    Way of life? You could take any of those eras. This president is a socialist. Everything he does is about redistribution of wealth. Obamacare – each and every private insurance plan is taxed to fund Obamacare. That is on top of the tax dollars, taken from the middle class and wealthy, and redirected to Democrat voters through the Obamacare subsidy.

  6. Reg Republican

    I would argue that tax dollars are redirected to all political party members, whether they like it or not. Like I said before, ACA is crap, but the beauty of our system is that we can always change it. I would advocate to buy health insurance like I buy car insurance. Let the states decide what they want to require(That whole 10th amendment works pretty good here). If you have evidence that President Obama directed the IRS to target specific groups you should probably call the FBI. They will want your testimony. Otherwise, you are just making an accusation you cannot prove. You can accuse him of not putting better leadership in place. If you just dont want the IRS around, you're going to have to repeal the 16th ammendment. When it comes to separation of powers, it was decided in Marbury v. Madison on how the powers of the judicial branch would be separate. Im not sure there has been case law to define the separation between the executive and legislative branches. Until it is tried by the court, it is simply a matter of opinion. There are no limits specified in the constitution for the executive branch.

  7. Common Sense

    I would agree that ACA is a mess. Like I said, it is nothing more than a mechanism to redistribute wealth. As for the IRS scheme, because of executive privilege, we will likely never be able to directly link Obama. At least he learned from Nixon and isn't stupid enough to keep tape recordings. However, it is very interesting that only conservative sounding organizations (or at least 99%) were targeted for special review by the IRS. It is bone-chilling to me that tax-exempt status and other benefits could be decided based on political affiliation, on either side. The mere appearance of impropriety is an issue. Our elected officials should be held to a higher, not lower, standard. The issue has kind of died out because of media bias. Can you image if Bush had done the same?

  8. Ramona Baller

    Only in Ramona could an elected official like Mr. Beck claim global warming is a "scam" and yet still serve as an elected official. Perhaps more troubling, only in Ramona could that same elected official bear responsibility for ensuring a safe and secure water supply for Ramonans, while willfully ignoring the science which continually jeopardizes Ramona's water supply. Record droughts, a disappearing snow-pack, and rampant growth threaten economic collapse, and yet Mr. Beck somehow finds time to make wild accusations of fraud and deceit. Try as he might, the crazy thing about science is that it's true whether or not one believes it. Rather than pontificating about the ancient past, perhaps Mr. Beck can start focusing on his grandchildren's future?

    • Guest

      Or, maybe we can reopen the Sacramento River delta instead of shutting down the water supply on behalf of some insignificant fish. Drive through the Central Valley – there are miles of dried up fields because the water flow was cut off by environmentalists. That is the most significant factor in the state's water supply and a huge factor in the rising cost of food.

      By the way, those same scientists predicted the arctic ice pack would be melted by now – we should ask those who live in Chicago and Boston how has that worked out?

      • Ramona Baller

        The delta smelt is a straw man's argument. Our reservoirs are sitting empty not because of the fish, but because there's been no rain during our rainy season. You can't pump water that isn't there.

        Which scientists predicted "no arctic ice pack" by 2014 exactly? You mention the Arctic but talk about places thousands of miles away in Chicago and Boston. Should we also talk about the no-snow Alaskan iditarod this winter, or the thinning Arctic ice? The evidence of anthropomorphic warming is irrefutable. We will either adapt (and significantly reduce emissions), or perish.

        • Guest

          The delta smelt is no straw man argument. Many of the reservoirs that are so low use Sacramento River water to fill them, thus the term reservoir. I routinely drive through the Central Valley and see the dried up fields. Because a judge ruled that the river water cannot be diverted, those fields and those reservoirs do not receive their supply of water, and the snowmelt that would end up irrigating crops flows into San Francisco Bay.
          As for the ice, Al Gore, the man who invented the manmade global warming, predicted 5 years ago that the arctic ice would be gone. When that happened, I didn't hear a single global warming scientist refute his claim. This whole man-made global warming is a fallacy and has become a quasi-religion to the environmental left. A single volcanic eruption has more effect on the environment than all human activity – same for the cycles of the sun. Global warming scientists have been found to have falsified their climate data. Scientists are funded through grants. No crisis = no grant. Follow the dollars and you'll find the truth.
          Finally, I would assume that all those who think mankind is responsible do not drive cars – either gas powered or electric, as both either directly or indirectly produce emissions. To do otherwise would be hypocritical.

  9. Remain Calm

    I've read about the water board recently. It is a circus. And guess what? They dont even give out free bread! We can't even get the fall of our own empire right!

  10. Honest Resident

    There is no way you have seen the California reservoir system recently. The water levels are down 50-100ft. You can’t divert water you don’t have. There is minimal snowmelt reaching any reservoir.

    Please get your facts straight. First, Al Gore never said we would be out of ice in 5 years. If you haven’t seen the films of the disappearing ice shelf, you are uninformed. We are losing irreplaceable Arctic ice at an alarming rate. You may want to argue about the cause, that’s fine. But to try to argue that the reservoirs are full and the planet isn’t warming is total flat earth logic. Please check the facts. Your claims of falsified data are long debunked. The recycled right-wing talking points are getting boring.

    • Guest

      My claim is that global warming is not man made and I never said the reservoirs were full. I said that water that Sacramento River water that has been used to fill those reservoirs and irrigate Central Valley in the past is no longer available because a judge ruled the smelt was more important than our water supply. That is a fact.

      As for Al Gore, yes he did say Arctic ice would be gone in 5 years – heard the clip with my own ears and have read about it a number of times. Arctic ice is not gone. Look at the latest images, published just weeks ago. Also, look at the Great Lakes, 95% frozen over and hundred of miles south of the Arctic.

      Just because I chose to research for myself, from multiple sources, rather than simply drink the global warming Kool-Aid does not make me uninformed. To the contrary my facts are straight and are NOT based on data that has been proven to have been falsified. Can the global warming crowd claim the same? Just because you keep repeating the DNC and MSNBC agenda does not make it fact.

      • Ramona Baller

        The reservoirs are filled by snowmelt (absent this year), not pumping (with exception of San Luis). The California Aqueduct is supplied by the Delta pumps, not the northern California reservoirs. Just this week the Appeals Court upheld the biological opinions and scientific review which requires some limited water remain in the river for the smelt. Hooray! This is the rule of law, not men. You propose flouting the law, not upholding it, and demonstrate a lack of respect for this country's rules, its democratic process, and any authority but your own. This is quite the opposite of patriotism. Further, your rule would demonstrate a lack of understanding of biology and nature. Extinction is forever, and we depend on the food chain as a web of life. Unless you hate salmon, and the people who fish for salmon, you should reconsider your uninformed views. Do you base all of your world views on your animus for Al Gore? Do you dispute that arctic ice is rapidly melting, or just contend that it's not happening fast enough? Who cares if the ice is gone in our kids' lifetimes, just as long as it's not your own? Can you point to a single peer-reviewed and scientific study (based on verifiable and repeatable data) suggesting that man has no responsibility for climate change? Of course you can't. Your claims are meritless and base, and you should stop repeating them "Guest."

        • Guest

          My mistake is not in interpretation of the facts; it is in thinking that environmental nut jobs can be swayed with the real facts. Go ahead and continue to believe the environmentalist nut jobs. I could care less. Patriotism – don't go there. The left and their communist ideals are the furthest thing from patriotism. As predicted in 1984, the politically correct thought police have redefined history and have made certain words and ideas off limits. It is this false patriotism, much like what appears to be what you prefer, that is ruining this country. Let's not forget that the 9th circuit is routinely referred to as the 9th circus.

  11. Big Duke Six

    Regular Republican: Is not a conservative, he is part of the 5th column…….The Executive Branch is limited by the power granted to it in the Constitution, and no more.

    • Reg Republican

      The 10th amendment is what you are speaking of. It applies to all branches. There are no terms in the Constitution that specifically deny the executive branch anything. There are limits on the legislative branch. Now, can you state, in specific terms, what the President did that violates the 10th Amendment? Remember that the Supreme Court upheld the ACA as a tax. I don’t like it either, but they did.

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