There is a Latin phrase – ‘panem et circenses’ that has been washing around my brain for a few years now. It translates as “Bread and Circuses” and was first penned by the poet and satirist Juvenal in about AD100.
Basically the bread and circus reference is a criticism of the hoi polloi – the generally poor public in Rome (the plebeians) – who had become so apathetic to the politics of the time that they were satisfied mainly by the provision of food and entertainment, rather than by public services provided by their elected government.
“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”
The reason given for this criticism by Juvenal was that the public was just simply tired of politics. Confused by how convoluted it all was, they had grown weary of trying to decipher what was really going on, and how it really related to them and their daily lives. They were bamboozled by the language of politics, worn down by their lack of understanding, and dispirited by (the deliberate) complexity of it all. Basically they had got to the point where they couldn’t give a toss who was in charge as long as they got their wheat allocations and the weekly dose of entertainingly-bloody gladiator battles.
And of course this was the exactly the position the government wanted to be in, it meant that they could get on with the awkward task of taking over the known word and what have you without much domestic unrest; and so of course they responded by providing exactly what the pubic was interested in.
I’ve being trying for a long time to write a blog that assimilated this ethos into to the current political climate of the UK today. And although I’ve written a few thousand words on the subject, I’ve never felt that I quite hit the nail on the head to be able to publish something.
I’ve tried to convert “Bread and Circuses” into all manner of combinations:
Fast food and ‘I’m a Celebrity get me out of here!’
Ready Meals and Football
Alcopos and ‘DIY SOS’
I almost got there with the great Pasty tax debacle of 2012, and ‘Celebrity dancing on ice’, but not quite.
But never have I felt so confident that “Bread and Circuses” is a viable point to make, as when I saw the conservatives take on their 2014 budget.
CUTTING THE BINGO TAX & BEER DUTY,
TO HELP HARDWORKING PEOPLE DO
MORE OF THE THINGS THEY ENJOY”*
By Zeus, if you replaced the word BINGO with circus, and the BEER with bread, oh no they couldn’t, they wouldn’t why would they make it so easy? So Obvious? Surely someone at Government HQ would see that this was a bad thing to publish, wouldn’t they? Isn’t this just about the most patronising thing that they could possibly have written about the general ‘hardworking’ (poor) public?
So taking this very interesting government communication, making the assumption that this really is the governments’ understanding of a larger percentage of the country, and to cut a very long story short by paraphrasing the several thousand words I have written over the last few years:
AS A NATION, WE ARE REALLY SCREWED.
That is unless:
a) You are big into Bingo
b) You happen to be rich
COME ON FOLKS!
THIS IS BULLSHIT
HAVE THESE IDIOTS IN WESTMINSTER ANY IDEA ABOUT LIFE
OUTSIDE THEIR PRIVATE MEMBERS CLUBS
ISN’T IT ABOUT TIME WE DID SOMETHING ABOUT THIS?
REALLY, LIKE, NOW?
*If you haven’t read about the budget, this relates to a 10% tax reduction for those fortunate enough to win money at the bingo, and a 1p reduction in the price of beer. (Whoopeefuckingdo!)