Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Trump And “Let It Burn:” Further Thoughts

     Do any of my Gentle Readers remember Bill “Spaceman” Lee? He pitched for the Boston Red Sox from 1969 to 1978, and afterward for the Montreal Expos through 1982. In 1987 he ran for President of the United States on the Rhino Party ticket. Lee reveled in his off-axis, iconoclastic reputation, and took particular delight in poking fun at those who considered baseball and politics too serious for a few laughs.

     Lee wasn’t merely a clown or a joker. Though he had little velocity, he was nevertheless an effective pitcher. He featured a wide array of breaking balls that befuddled both right-handed and left-handed hitters. However, his playfulness rubbed many other figures prominent in Our National Pastime the wrong way. That’s par for the course among persons whose claim to fame rests on a species of entertainment.

     The Donald Trump candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination reminds me powerfully of Bill Lee – and not because I think Trump is at all entertaining, much less funny.

     American politics has come to resemble the games in the Roman Coliseum. Those games were funded and staged by the Imperium specifically to keep the plebeians from revolting. They were as spectacular and gory as possible, and staged as frequently as possible: on every official Imperial holiday. At the end of the Empire, just prior to the sacking of Rome by the Visigoths, 220 of the days in the 360-day Roman calendar featured games in the Coliseum. On each such day, the Imperium distributed free grain to any plebe who presented himself at an Imperial granary.

     Panem et circenses was a real and animate strategy, not just a facile phrase. The latter was deemed a necessary complement to the former. The Imperium wanted Rome’s boulevards free of corpses, whether they might arrive there through starvation or riot. To keep the gutters free of blood, the Coliseum regularly featured matches to the death between gladiators armed with short swords and cesta. Such bloody contests became ever more frequent as the Empire devolved toward its ultimate ruin.

     America is approaching the condition of the late Roman Empire. The number of completely idle persons among us grows large. An even larger percentage of our population is at least partially dependent on government handouts. The need to keep America’s plebeians from running riot has been well illustrated by recent events in Baltimore, Maryland and Saint Louis County, Missouri. The police are unable to quell the disturbances, whether because of lack of force or lack of will is unclear.

     We need circenses, and apparently televised sports won’t quite do it.

     The Never-Ending Political Campaign is in part a consequence of politicians’ constant need for the attention of the masses; it’s the source of their significance. However, these past few years it’s also become a focus for the attention of the public. Indeed, it’s quite possible that perpetual campaigning is a component in a larger strategy to keep the populace reading the papers and watching the news rather than rioting in the streets.

     No, politics and campaigning for office aren’t as entertaining as watching gladiators attempting to hack one another to death in an arena, but it’s the only spectacle we have that doesn’t necessarily wound its participants physically. Anyway, for those with more of a taste for blood there’s always mixed martial arts and the National Football League. One way or the other, the antics of those desperate for our votes and campaign contributions do serve to fill a lot of air time and column-inches. But as with the Roman games, there must be a continuous crescendo to the action, lest the viewers become jaded and turn away.

     Donald Trump is the latest jump in the action.

     Trump may be serious about his desire to run for the presidency, or he may not. It matters little. What matters more is his entertainment value. Many of the 24 million persons who watched the first Fox News “debate” were there almost entirely to see and hear Trump. Though Bret Baier, Chris Wallace and Megyn Kelly might not have been under orders to challenge Trump with questions sharp at point and edge, I have no doubt that they pleased America’s political managers by doing so.

     How the Powers That Be will choose to ramp up the action next is open to speculation. Perhaps they’ll contrive to set the debate venue on fire, or arrange to have it attacked by Islamic jihadists. We shall see.

     Yet just as every effect has more than one cause, every cause has more than one effect – and at least one effect is guaranteed to be undesirable. Just as the political elite has exploited Trump to distract many Americans from their anger and resentment, they have convinced some number of other Americans that the political process is no longer about rights, justice, governance, national defense, or any other serious subject. Thus they have accelerated the growth of the “Let It Burn” community: that fraction of our nation that has disaffiliated completely from politics and awaits its displacement by open totalitarianism or chaos.

     The neo-Roman panem et circenses dynamic appears to have passed beyond the point at which it can be modified. Its consequences will soon become visible. I don’t think we’ll like them much.


Sol gardener said...

I'm particularly bothered that Trumps hasn't given even one plan for how he will deal specifically with one issue. Lots of "We'll blow them out of the water!" and "we'll make them pay for it." and "I'll fix it!" rhetoric with absolutely no substance. And still the prol's appear to support him blindly.

I wonder if there is actually support, or if it's not the Hitleresque "tell a lie long enough and loud enough" in an effort to steer the course of the "election" in a very 1984ish manner.

Dystopic said...

There are so many parallels between Rome and America that it boggles the mind. I have made a study of Roman history for most of my life, and in it, I feel I have been studying American history... and American future.

The games continue, the peasantry enslaved to the dole. The Goths are on their way. Indeed, they may already be here. Honorius labors over the peckings of his chickens.

Col. B. Bunny said...

I'm one of the proles who loves Trump. There are times when "effete" doesn't do well in comparison to "ass kicker" and these are one of those times. I think it's asking a lot to require specifics from Trump or anyone at this point in this 18-month exercise in masochism known as the American presidential election cycle. Broad indications of values, temperament, candor, consistency, and backbone should suffice for now. That candor and consistency point is sufficient to eliminate a bunch of the current rascality on view.

I got carried away in composing a response to Fran's thoughts on "let it burn" that I made them into a separate post here and at my own excellent blog.

ΛΕΟΝΙΔΑΣ said...

Apropos the "let it burn" meme I would hasten to call the gentle readers' attention to a recent essay by Paul Rosenberg at “Free-Man’s Perspective”:
• Do we really believe that central bankers will just lay down their monopolies?

• Can we seriously expect a hundred trillion dollars of debt to be liquidated without any consequences?

• Do we actually believe that politicians will walk away from their power and apologize for abusing us?

• Do we really think that the corporations who own Congress will just give up the game that is enriching them?

• Does anyone seriously believe that the NSA is going to say, “Gee, that Fourth Amendment really is kind of clear, and everything we do violates it… so, everyone here is fired and the last person out will please turn off the lights”?

• And does anyone believe that the military-industrial complex will stop encouraging war, or that corporate media will stop worshiping the state, or that your local sheriff will apologize for training his cops to be vicious beasts?

• Do we really believe that public school systems will ever stop lauding the state that pays all its bills?

Can it be that ΛΕΟΝΙΔΑΣ’s conclusions are beginning to gain traction?


Eskyman said...

Good points all, but I'm with Col. B. Bunny; we have no one else standing up for us, so I'm with Trump.

Why do we have so very many candidates in the Republican field? Someone is funding them, past their use-by date. (Gov. Perry, the train has left the station, please see Left Luggage.) Only makes sense if the object is to split the field, split the vote amongst conservatives, so that the Establishment choice gets in. Doesn't matter to the fat cats whether it's an R or a D. Either one is fine, just more fundraisers for the "losers" while their perks & bennies just keep on coming. Nothing changes in Washington under that scenario.

Oh, BTW; Soros funds Hitlery. That's why she doesn't have any "black lies matter" disruptions, while Bernie the Socialist does: Soros pays them to disrupt.

Lots of good stuff can be found at: which is a site I greatly enjoy. You may too!

JWMJR said...

Many forget that many of the founders kept copies of Tacitus and Plutarch right next to their Bibles. The influence of the Roman classics and their understanding of how republics and empires die were as informative as the Christian philosophers in their creation of the new American government.

ThT today the contemporary left rejects and derides any suggestion that they are just as relevant today as they were then is a sign of just how corrupt and yes desperate they are to destroy everything the founders stood for.

napari said...

In almost all the articles I read about the Donald Trumps phenonemal reception by the voters no one ever mentions the 100% failure of the GOP to actually do something favoring its voters. In fact, I think the democrats would sooner throw a bone to conservative voters before the GOP would! After 7-8 years of supporting right wing candidates on a national level I would have to be insane to continue repeating the same actions and expect different results!