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Not Enough Panem, Too Many Circenses

Gladiatorial Combat: A Giant Distraction?

Gladiatorial Combat: A Giant Distraction?

The phrase “bread and circuses” (in Latin, panem et circenses) comes from the Roman poet Juvenal’s Tenth Satire: “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.”

Politics in America has become a costly form of entertainment. Costly because, as a society, we put so much time and money into the process—at the expense of what we should be doing to insure justice and polling access to all Americans, shore up our sagging infrastructure, feed our poor, and begin transitioning to technologies that protect us from the vagaries of climate change.

The 2016 presidential campaign is in full gear, with scores of wannabes who intend on becoming Sarah Palins. It’s a splendid career: Serve half a term in office and make big money giving occasional speeches to people who are outraged about … about … oh, well, you name it! And with very little effort! Donald Trump will spend untold millions, but he will become a hero to the feeble-minded who want to hear what he has to say. Ditto Scott Walker, Rick Santorum, Jeb Bush, and even some of the Democratic candidates.

You might call them political clickbait. They promise much, but in true American political style, deliver little—and certainly nothing that’s to the point.

I urge you not to be entertained by the whole process. Elections are a serious business, not a gladiatorial combat. If we vote in a lot of people who will spend their entire terms posturing and japing, we’re through as a nation.