I have now concluded that politics and the news cycle have nothing to do with reality. It is all about theater and spectacle. It reminds me a bit about what I believe might have happened in the time of the ancient Romans when the Emperor used gladiators to keep the populace entertained … kind of like the TV wrestling matches except with a lot more physical harm to the participants.
According to Wikipedia, a gladiator (from the Latin: gladiator, “swordsman,” from gladius, “sword”) was an armed combatant who entertained audiences in the Roman Empire in violent confrontations with other gladiators, wild animals, and condemned criminals. Some gladiators were volunteers who risked their lives and their legal and social standing by appearing in the arena. Most were despised as slaves, schooled under harsh conditions, socially marginalized, and segregated even in death. That seems to match up well with our presidential candidates now doesn’t it?
Irrespective of their origin, gladiators offered spectators an example of Rome’s martial ethics and, in fighting or dying well; they could inspire admiration and popular acclaim. They were celebrated in high and low art, and their value as entertainers was commemorated in precious and commonplace objects throughout the Roman world. The movie Gladiator starring Russel Crow certainly lived up to this description.
The origin of gladiatorial combat is open to debate. When Susan, Stephen, and I visited Rome, the tour guide’s claim was that there were many factors leading to the practice. Wealthy people would fund an event to gain favor with the people and the political leadership … kind of like attending Distributech where some of the booths had their own zip codes. The funniest tidbit our guide shared as we toured the Coliseum was her answer to my question about how they funded the construction. She explained that attending was almost always free, but there was a charge for going to the bathroom.
We saw the same when we visited Greece two years prior to that. Paying to go funded a lot back then. Maybe we should revisit this concept. In the US, bathrooms are almost always free. That was not the case in Europe. Seems like the basic bodily functions might be the key to funding our economic recovery. Just a thought.
The gladiator games lasted for nearly a thousand years, reaching their peak between the 1st century BC and the 2nd century AD. The games finally declined during the early 5th century after the adoption of Christianity as the state church of the Roman Empire in 380. Perhaps we are now seeing the reemergence of the games. The weapons have changed of course. And, the pen is mightier than the sword for sure, but does a joust using words truly provide entertainment here? Worse yet, what damage will it leave in its wake? Lots of dead bodies I fear.
Worse yet, these events aren’t free. They are terribly costly. I have to stop … got to go …