“Bread and circuses” (or bread and games) (from Latin: panem et circenses) is a metaphor for handouts and petty amusements that politicians use to gain popular support, instead of gaining it through sound public policy. The phrase is invoked not only to criticize politicians, but also to criticize their populations for giving up their civic duty.
In modern usage, the phrase has become an adjective to deride a populace that no longer values civic virtues and the public life. To many across the political spectrum, left and right, it connotes the triviality and frivolity that defined the Roman Empire prior to its decline and that may contribute to the decline of modern society.
That about says it all these days, except that I’d like to add a piece from the Chris Hedges book, “Empire of Illusion,” wherein he talks about, specifically, the moral autonomy, or moral compass requisite in order to resist tyranny and manipulation in any society. Last night’s show was devoted in part to this book and since we ran out of time before I could share this piece, I am posting it here.
Andrew Lahde was a hedge-fund manager who made nearly a 1,000% gain by basically shorting subprime mortgages, as he knew that such an insane proposition could not last forever. He closed his operating fund in 2008 because he refused to risk further dealings with faltering banks and stated the following in his farewell letter to investors:
“The log-hanging fruit, i.e., idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking…
These people who were (often) truly not worth of the education they received (or supposedly received) rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns, and Lehman Brothers and all levels of our government. All of this behavior supporting the Aristocracy ended up only making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God Bless America…
The single most important quality needed to resist evil is moral autonomy. As Immanuel Kant wrote, moral autonomy is possible only through self reflection, self-determination and the courage not to cooperate. Moral autonomy is what the corporate state…has really set out to destroy. The corporate state holds up as our idea what Teodor Adorno called “the manipulative character.” [This] character has suberb organizational skills yet…[lacks] authentic human experience…is an emotional cripple…driven by an overvalued realism…exclusively trained to sustain the corporate structure, which is why our elites wasted mind blowing amounts of our money on corporations like Goldman Sachs and AIG.
S/he makes a cult of action, activity, of so-called efficiency as such which reappears in the advertising image of the active person…these manipulative characters [include] individuals like Lawrence Summers, Henry Paulson, Robert Rubin, Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner, AIG’s Edward Liddy and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, [of recent fame on the carpet for continuing to maintain that he did nothing wrong] who have used corporate money and power to determine the narrow parameters of the debate [or lack thereof] in our classrooms, our airwaves and Congress, while looting the country…these men appear to be so intellectually, morally and emotionally stunted that they are [apparently completely] incapable of acknowledging their responsibility for our decline.
It is especially difficult to fight against it because those people who are actually incapable of true experience, for that very reason manifest an unresponsiveness that associates them with the mentally ill or psychotic characters, namely schizoids.
[Barry SoetorObama] is a product of this elitist system; his mother worked with Geithner’s father at the Ford Foundation, a well known control vehicle comprised of True Believer dupes controlled by the morally deficient of the ilk above noted.
—Empire of Illusion, Chris Hedges, p. 112
Like his cabinet members, czars and other factotums, he is an automaton chosen by other automatons and programmed to do their bidding.
So, what IS to be done?? Clearly, our schools–the entire educational system from K through Grad–are at least in part responsible for churning out students who have had the concepts of critical thinking, moral autonomy and individualism withheld from them, along with historical information that has been redacted, rewritten, revised and recalibrated to reflect the Corporate agenda and dumb down the population.
Paul Fussell, one of America’s greatest social observers, in BAD: Or The Dumbing of America began to explore these issues years ago.
What it comes down to is this, folks: WE NEED TO START THINKING FOR OURSELVES, QUESTIONING THE PARTY LINE, THE POWERS THAT BE [DANGEROUS TO OUR HEALTH BECAUSE THEY ARE TOO MORALLY BANKRUPT TO KNOW THEY ARE DOING AND WAAAYYY TOO MORALLY BANKRUPT TO SET POLICY FOR AMERICA AND HER CITIZENS]. We need to read books by Paul Fussell, Chris Hedges, Neil Postman, and the host of other thinking, morally intact individuals who have seen through this band of craven thugs who have seized power of our Republic; we need to get ourselves in line with our higher selves, tap into whatever integrity and sense of morality, honor and civility we have, and nurture it. For THAT is the only way to stop criminals from running our country, our lives and our futures.
There are more of US than there are of THEM. Why are we allowing moral and mental deficients to control our destiny? It is said that, ultimately, all things work for good…so let us all be a working part of the solution.