Bread & Circuses

Rome was once the biggest empire in the world. Except for some deserts and hippies in Scotland and Germany, they conquered all of the world worth having. Being a Roman citizen was a rather big deal. A Roman citizen could travel anywhere in the Empire and no one would dare lay hands on him without good cause. The legions were the most powerful formations in the world and could travel, relatively quickly, along the empire’s roads to enforce Rome’s will.

Rome in her power ushered in a long period of peace known as Pax Romana.

In 140 BC Roman politicians, to keep the vote of Rome’s poor, introduced a law that provided food and entertainment.

Juvenal-bread&circuses

Romes citizens were distracted from matters of state by more and more elaborate feasts and spectacles. Bloodsports, full scale battles and even naval battles were fought in Rome’s coliseum.

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Does any of this sound at all familiar? There is a weird quality of history: it’s about people. The technology changes but people stay the same. We can learn a great deal from history or, we may simply repeat it mistakes over and over.

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The bread and circuses are even grander today. So are the things that they distract the people’s attention from.

Today many people are angry with NFL athletes for using their circus to promote their political agenda. I wonder what they might notice when they turn away from the spectacle and pay attention?

It might just be interesting to see what happens as the people turn their gaze away from popular culture and turn their attention to American culture.

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When will it be your turn?

Megan’s Law was passed in the mid-1990s to create a publicly accessible database of all sex offenders. It was supposed to reduce sex offenses by kicking sex offenders out of the closet.

There are some immediate problems with the sex offender registry. When you create a list of all known sex offenders, that doesn’t just list all the molesters and rapists. That gets them all– even the offenders and offenses that aren’t particularly dangerous. Now we have huge, bloated sex offender registries with people that are both ostracized from society, can’t even work at Walmart or McDonalds and, aren’t really dangerous.

The ratio of people on the sex offender registries to people on the registries that are really dangerous is estimated to be about 7:1. The registries are basically useless to law enforcement. They do absolutely nothing to prevent first time sex offender. In fact sex offender registration may have actually made things worse for children. By making any sex offense basically a life sentence, it gives the offender absolutely no incentive for leaving any living witnesses.

Let’s be very honest about it: this is unconstitutional. Period. Some judges have ruled that its in the state’s interest but it attaches double jeopardy to any sex offense: the sentence for the offense and the added penalty of being listed for life.

Now it is being suggested that because most spree shootings are by white male loners that we should track them too. People with no criminal history. People with no other criteria that they are unattached. Listed and tracked like potential killers!?

Years ago there was a public outcry about crime. We had a WAR ON CRIME. We wrote a lot of laws that made it easier to jail criminals, eased rules of evidence and watered down the protections of the constitution for THOSE PEOPLE.

Years ago there was a public outcry about drugs. We had a WAR ON DRUGS. We wrote a lot of laws that made it easier to jail druggies, eased rules of evidence and watered down the protections of the constitution for THOSE PEOPLE.

Years ago there was a public outcry about perverts. We had a WAR ON PERVERTS. We wrote a lot of laws that made it easier to jail perverts, eased rules of evidence and watered down the protections of the constitution for THOSE PEOPLE.

Years ago there was a public outcry about terrorism. We had a WAR ON TERROR. We wrote a lot of laws that made it easier to jail terrorists, eased rules of evidence and watered down the protections of the constitution for THOSE PEOPLE.

When we take counsel of our fears, when we fail to protect our constitutional liberties, when we sell fear like a commodity, how long do you suppose it will take before you become one of THOSE PEOPLE!?

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McTherapy

There seems to be a correlation between the use of psychiatric drugs and mass shooters.

Mass Murderers and Psychiatric Drugs

Mass shooters received only limited treatment

SSRIs, suicide and violent behavior: is there a need for a better definition of the depressive state?

If you read all of this stuff, it all boils down to what many call McTherapy: it’s like going to a McDonalds. You get a happy meal, a quarter-pounder or a big mac. You might get a fish sandwich or some mcnuggets.

You will NOT get anything that is not on the menu.

Do you see what I did there?

Little Johnny is depressed. He goes to his McGeneral Practitioner and complains. He’s given generic Zoloft and everything is hunky-dorie. Case closed, he’s cured.

A year later little Johnnie steals a gun and kills as many people he can until someone blows his head off.

The truth about psychiatric disorders is they are often very complicated. Depression is really more of a symptom than a specific diagnosis. Little Johnnie’s depression could have been several things, none of them good and depression is just a label for- we aren’t sure and we don’t have the time to do a through diagnosis.

This is a multiple choice question. The choices are more questions.

  • Is this a gun problem? Really!?
  • Is Little Johnnie just an evil little bastard or is he mentally ill?
  • Was Little Johnnie’s doctor incompetent?
  • Were the drug companies aware that some people will go bonkers on their meds?

There are a whole LOT of questions here.

The gun question is, in many ways, the least important of them.

Memeing in the 1st Republic

Some people might think that the 1st memes invented were Keyboard cat, Philosoraptor and the numa-numa guy.

That would be very, very wrong.

Imagine you lived in a Kingdom that was one of the most powerful and influential in the world but, it had fallen on hard times. The king was, by all accounts, a corrupt incompetent dolt. The people were hungry and the spoiled, foolish Queen, when told there was no bread for the peasants said let them eat cake.

While this might sound uncomfortably familiar to modern Americans, this was the climate that gave rise to the French Revolution. It was also the fertile ground for the French satirists who I submit were early generation memers. What people fail to understand about memes is they are much more about ideas than humor but the combination of the two makes them that much more powerful.

What we call memes is an evolution of a very old idea called satire more succinctly defined as the illustration of the absurd with absurdity.

Every middle schooler naturally knows about satire because that is when they inevitable meet an incompetent and bungling bureaucracy. One must take care with satire as to be a proper smart ass, you must first be smart. Otherwise you are just an ass.

There were many French satirists. I would like to focus on a gentleman named Voltaire.

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Voltaire and the French satirists used their wit to point out the myriad hypocrisies and inequities of their political and social situations. Like Charlie Hebdo, many of the French Revolutionary era satirists faced rather deadly blow-back from those that failed to see the humor in their work.

This was an amazing era and one that the modern democracies owe much to because many of the things we see as foundations of democracy were first discussed by the thinkers during this era. They were seeing the end of the monarchy as a practical form of government and looked forward to imagine what the next step would look like.

See if you recognize any of Voltaire’s ideas:

  • I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
  • Judge a person by their questions, rather than their answers.
  • To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.
  • It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.
  • Common sense is not so common.
  • It is hard to free fools from the chains they revere.
  • Prejudices are what fools use for reason.
  • As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities.
  • When it is a question of money, everybody is of the same religion.
  • Superstition sets the whole world in flames; reason quenches them.

Voltaire would have been hell on wheels if he had internet access.

Be suspicious when you hear people in power discount the ideas of others. Those silly memers that poke them right in the hypocrisies have quite the history. So when you see memers banned from facebook or twitter, what you are really seeing is da man swatting the Socratic gad-fly that stung him in a sore spot.

Only a fearful tyrant censors speech. He is afraid that you will tell the people just what a putz he really is.