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Of Bread and Circuses

07 March 2014, 09:17

This title phrase was used by a Roman writer who stated; “Two things only the people anxiously desire- "bread and circuses”, its meaning denoted as free food and entertainment.

The entertainment aspect was a means to keep the population mentally occupied with spectacles to distract their attention from their grievances and the abuses of government. 

Just penned a few thoughts together on how this translates and its consequences for our society. 

The media headlines currently centre on an issue most South Africans, as well as foreigners are aware of, that of the court trial of Oscar Pistorius.

I do not intend to delve into the merits of the court case, for which there is enough coverage already, with everyone expressing their opinion of the outcome.  

 I do occasionally glance at the headlines and peruse articles in the mainstream press, but not for the most part there is very little merit in reading newspapers, certainly not for informations sake, as this is not their mandate, and hasn’t been for the most part, barring a short period in the history of the printing presses when proprietors and journalist took their responsibility to the reading public seriously. That was prior to the commercialisation of the presses, but those days are long gone.

 William Randolph Hearst, publisher of the New York Journal was said to say in a telegram exchange with artist Frederick Remmington, “You furnish the pictures  and I’ll furnish the war” suggested  to cover a multitude of sins by the mainstream media ever since. And when on occasion there is a factual report its relegated to page six at the bottom of the page so deliberately hidden, and normally four months after it was first published by the independent media. But I digress.

 The few articles I’ve seen on the Pistorius saga have compared it to the one of American football player, O.J. Simpson but what are the similarities? Well they’re both professional sportsman, but that’s where the resemblance ends as far as I can gather.  In both cases a wife and girlfriend were the victims, but this type of theme is replayed under different scenarios everyday away from the glare of the press.  Seems like any link however tenuous will be used by our journalists to buy-in to the tabloid- press mould of journalism, in addition to aspiring to be American wannabees.       

Suppose if the three –way media circus is taken into account that may count as another denominator, but removed from the spotlight it’s just another personal tragedy, albeit one in which the public will feast on every single detail right up until the delivery of the verdict, and beyond.

The celebrity culture has really taken off in this country to the chagrin of more serious types, and it appears this is one tidal wave that shows no sign of abating any time soon.

South Africa is the first in line to indiscriminately import any foreign mode of thought or fad, part of the national psychosis; they love the limelight and feeling part of some peer group,

or heading some institution or other, mainly in the political arena. This hang-up is probably a product of the sanctions and isolation era. Independent thought and critical thinking, no, not us.  We prefer to act sanctimonious and lecture everyone on human rights, as if we’re the experts on the subject.  Well, we were there once, so we’ve earned the right, as the reasoning goes.

So back to the circuses, it’s ironic and tragic that people don’t even know the basics of the financial and political problems, in addition to all the other important issues, that plague the planet yet can memorise and argue in detail about the latest spin disseminated by the misinformation industry, aka the corporate media in all its forms.     

A common bit of disinformation is the media only provides what the public wants, when what it does is dictate and influence the culture as well as serving up trivialities to distract from the important issues. It’s a form of mind- control which has proved successful wherever it’s been implemented.  The other falsehood is they are sensationalist to increase their earnings, but in this day and age with acquisitions being a major part of any corporation, and research showing printed media and television earnings are in fact decreasing, they’re functioning at a loss, so this shortfall is subsidised by their other profit making ventures.      

And how do they know what people want to read, watch etc. any surveys done to this effect, nonsense.

I won’t get into the realms of paper dedicated to feminist issues and entertainment.  

While women will never rule the world as far as the numbers go men will always outnumber them in business, politics and the sciences, but don’t they already rule in part? 

This is through the culture, and by implication, influence. Is this is applicable to the youth as well? Think of the youth culture promoted by the entertainment industry.  

So seems some things haven’t changed much since Roman times, the general population still harbour low expectations and is low-maintenance in terms of satisfaction.  The ruling classes have taken that phase by that Roman writer to heart, and applied it in many disguises ever since.  Throw them a bone occasionally and all will be well, the public never failing to disappoint on this score.

Will people ever be willing to be weaned from the circuses, or do they love them too much, even to their detriment? At what price?  What would they be willing to exchange for the delivery of the free  bread and  circuses………………….their freedom.       

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