Spoiler Alert: To Members Of My Book Club – I am about to discuss some items from this month’s book!I’ve just finished reading the book for my book club, I selected an old book that I have not read in years and (not surprisingly) there are things that I have forgotten about it. One of those things is a comment one of the characters makes. That in the book set in the middle of the last century makes sense, but in the context of a reader here in the early years of the twenty-first century sounds absolutely quaint!
The book is “Alas, Babylon” (ISBN: 0060931396; Copyright 1959) by Pat Frank and deals with the survival of people living in a Central Florida town in the aftermath of the third world war. It was one of the first post-nuclear war books and it is one I have enjoyed since my Dad gave it to me when I was in high school.
The quote comes in chapter nine when Sam Hazzard is discussing the cause of the war with Randy Bragg. In it, he compares the US of the late ‘50s to Ancient Rome before The Fall. Sam opines that the trouble began thus:
”When it became common to spend a million dollars to elect senators from moderately populous states, I think that should have been a warning to us. For instance, free pap for the masses. Bread and circuses. Roman spectacles and our spectaculars. Largess from the conquering proconsuls and television giveaways from the successful lipstick king.”How quaint! Only spending a million on a seat!
But I have to say, this was a problem then, it is a problem now! If as far back as the late fifties they could see that money in politics was an issue, why the hell can nobody do anything about it!? I’ll tell you why – Bread and Circuses!
The people with the money are the people with the power and as long as they spend a fraction of that money giving the population shiny things to distract their attention, they can continue to buy our votes and run things to suit their own avarice.
Bread and Circuses!
The people who have bought our democracy live in complacency, secure in the knowledge that nobody will ever sufficiently scrape away the grease paint to discover that the democracy underneath has long-since died.
Remember: “Democracy” is from the Latin “demo” meaning “people” and “kratia” meaning “rule” we cannot have a democracy where the people have abdicated their responsibility and rights to buy themselves some bread and circuses.
Wherever you are today, I hope you will take a moment away from your distractions to help revive the democracy.