Saturday, October 10, 2009

Bread & Circuses

The Toledo Blade printed a special section recently on the impending grand opening of the new Lucas County Arena in Toledo. Soon to be the home of the "Walleyes" hockey team and the "Bullfrogs" (our new arena football franchise), this modern cathedral of entertainment is all but ready for its debut. 

While the naming rights for this new venue have yet to decided, it has even gained a nickname through the efforts of Fred Lefebvre of WSPD, calling it the "FinkRink" in honor of outgoing mayor Carlton S Finkbeiner. As well as the above named sporting events, this new facility is already destined as an true entertainment hot spot, with many other types of amusement on the way including: comedy, music concerts, and yes, even the circus will come to town here in Toledo. 

This special section in the daily paper and some of the recent posts on "Thurber's Thoughts", along with the closeness of the upcoming elections, got me making strange connections (yeah I know, big surprise). "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," said George Santayana, and I think perhaps he was right. It seems to me that our politics today have a curious parallel to historic events. 

You see, the beginning of the end of the Roman Empire came when the people began to lose touch with what had made it (and them) the heart of civilization, the seat of reason, and the center of justice and freedom in the world. Some part of the spirit that drove the creation and growth of something that had never been seen before in Europe seemed to have gone out of it. Something of that greatness, not only of its leaders, but of the people themselves seems to have dried up, withered, and died. 

The Romans, somehow forgetting the very principles that made them great, diminished as a government. Wearied with almost never ending wars and perhaps robbed of some of their best and brightest as a consequence, they began to fail as a people. The citizens, grasping almost desperately at glories of the past, sought instead a standard of living that they no longer earned and cheap entertainment to fill the growing emptiness within them. 

The Roman government of the time, being shrewd politicians rather than great leaders and recognizing the threat to their power, gave in to these desires. They held huge gladiatorial contests in their grand coliseums with recreations of past glories, with the life and death struggle of men pitted against beasts and each other, and finally with people whose opinions differed from those of the leaders being horrifically sacrificed. 

The common people were entertained with the pomp and ceremony of these "games". They had all of the drama of life and death, all of the inspiration and indoctrination required to keep them content with their leaders, and of course bread and wine were distributed. You see, you couldn't very well expect these mere shadows of what were once a great people to sit through a day of entertainment without being fed and having something to ease throats that were parched from cheering such entertainment. 

I think about that a lot now, as I see Toledo spending over $100 million on this new entertainment venue. Likewise for many of the citizens of the US slouched in front of their televisions, seeking other idle amusements. And while they pass their often meaningless hours, they clamor for their leaders to give them ever more. Pay our mortgages and give us special deals to buy new cars or refrigerators. Provide us with health care and insure our retirement. Whatever it is that we want to keep us happy, give it to us now whether we have worked for it or not. 

Yet like those Romans of history, we could all too soon find ourselves with the Huns, the Mongols, and the Vandals at the gate as we enjoy our pastimes. Even as we attempt to amuse ourselves, history may well be recording this as the dimming of the yet another bright light in the dark tide of the history of Man. Caught up in our 'bread and circuses', we may at last be forgetting the best part of ourselves and ignoring that which seeks to destroy us from without and within.


Hooda Thunkit (Dave Zawodny) said...


You know, the FinkRink is a good start, but I would have much preferred an ancient Roman custom as the opening entertainment.

Picture 1 Fink and 6 hungry lions...

(I know, I know, there's that whole cruelty to animals thing to protect the lions from ingesting ~160 lbs. of gristle and vile bile...)


Tim Higgins said...


I very much doubt that you could find a lion that would be willing or able to take a shot at your intended target.

I agree with the cruelty issue though. I fear that the meat under discussion has reach a toxic level from marinating in bile for far too long.