Bread & Circuses

As the decline of Trump enters the final phase, this post from a year ago – before it all started – works even better than it did then.

Now that no one buys our votes, the public has long since cast off its cares; the people that once bestowed commands, consulships, legions and all else, now meddles no more and longs eagerly for just two things – bread and circuses!

– Juvenal, Satire X, “Wrong Desire is the Source of Suffering”

The “Fall of Rome” trope has always been an easy one to dismiss. After all, we’re stronger and more connected than they ever were, yes? The public is more literate, our history is stronger, and times are simply different than they were back so very long ago.

Aren’t they?

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China, Standing Up

Nothing causes anxiety in America quite like China. The rise of this nation is perceived as our greatest threat in many critical places the US is used to dominating – economic power, military might, and technological leadership. It’s not a question of where China is today as much where it might be if the growth keeps up.

Yet for all of this, Richard Nixon’s observation in 1972 remains true – “China is not a threat.” To understand why it’s best to turn not to the policies and pronouncements of politicians but to popular culture. This is ultimate gauge of the most important resource of China and every other nation, the people.

On the surface, the huge summer hit “Wolf Warrior 2” may seem like everything we have to fear. Yet it shows exactly how China’s self identity and culture are evolving as much as their economy.

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The Eyes of a Child

This time of the year, the holidays bring back memories that allow us to see the world, once again, through the eyes of a child. This is not some sentimental side effect of the rituals we go through, but is in many ways the reason they are important. A few moments spent contemplating this over a swirling mug of cocoa can show that seeing the world through the eyes of a child is actually a vital lesson.

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Hero Worship

The days are shorter and the wind bites cold. This is the time of year for transition, from outward to inward, at least among boreal people in the middle of a vast continent. The endless possibilities of summer have closed down and the time comes for reflection.

That’s what the holidays, starting with Thanksgiving, are really all about. America always has a lot to be thankful for but at the same time much to consider on a day apart. One of these is our public discourse and values, soon to be practiced around a large table for many people. Why do we place so much value on a hero who will save us? Why do we place so little faith in our own ability to make things better?

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The Core Sickness

Something is terribly wrong in America. Like an ER doctor, all of us feel compelled to treat the life-threatening symptoms in front of us.

Useful stooges run the White House, boardrooms, and apparently at one time the DNC. Drug addiction is rampant. People simply go crazy and kill dozens for the sheer thrill of it. It is more than fashionable to readily assume the worst about every person, every debate, and every event. Guns honestly seem like a solution to many problems to many problems. Spirituality itself is weaponized almost casually.

As we will continue to learn, our political system was completely corrupted and compromised by a hostile foreign power. But what’s far more troubling is how easily we let it happen.

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Reformation

Five hundred years ago a young priest named Martin Luther nailed to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral a list of 95 debate points for anyone who wished to challenge him. Some of them were, in themselves, challenges to the prevailing practices and theology of the Catholic Church of the time.

His immediate intent was to spark discussion of what it means to be a follower of Christ and receive his blessing. The result was the publication of these points around Europe and revolution in views about the divine, the individual, and the practices and structures which link them. The world has not been the same since.

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