Opinion,  Philosophy

Bread and Circuses

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I’m simplifying dramatically, but it works: in ancient Rome, to keep the people happy and ignorant, the rich and powerful would sponsor huge gladiatorial games and give away free food. See, all of the amazing entertainments and things I give you. Are you not entertained? Are you not well fed? Am I not awesome? Do you not love me? Try not to think beyond your own immediate contentment.

In current days, we have professional sports and other entertainments. Some people might lump music stars, movies, television, and so on, in with this. I would tend to disagree, but only partly. Books, movies, plays, music, all of these are forms can have a message. Not every example does, certainly, but each can.

The messages and meanings built into a sports team, franchise, or individual game are simple. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Don’t think. Ignore the world around you. Us versus them.

Maybe that last one has dangerous undertones, but I’ll leave in groups, out groups, and competition for another time.

Sports fans get so wrapped up in their support of the team of their choice. Discussions and arguments aside, the hours involved in watching and research and understanding all of the potential nuances of the game can be staggering. And the energy put into cheering or attending a game can be almost disturbing to those of us who don’t partake.

I live in Canada, so apparently hockey is big. It’s not our national sport, but some people treat it as if it is. I like to make fun of hockey fans sometimes, asking as early as mid-September why hockey season isn’t over yet. If pressed, I’ll mockingly remember that hockey season is never actually over, that hockey falls into the category of ‘how can I miss you won’t go away?’ Pattern: the regular hockey season starts in September and carries through until April, when the playoffs pick up, and those are over some time in early June. At that time, the hockey world transitions into international tournaments. When those are over, networks broadcast classic games from the 1980s and 90s. Those will carry the hockey fans through until preseason training and exhibition excitement at the end of August so that the new regular-season can start in September. Hockey season never ends. How can I miss you if you won’t go away?

There are people who feel the same way about every sport.

In fact, I feel the same way about every sport. I imagine all of the energy, time, and money wasted on professional sports. I try not to weep at what could be accomplished by the same people if they poured the same time and energy and money into things that actually matter.

  • Child poverty
  • Poverty in general
  • Government Corruption and waste
  • Systemic inequalities and racism
  • Abuse of power
  • Abuse of animals
  • Climate change
  • Anti-science movements
  • Class disparity
  • Pollution
  • Religious Control
  • Fanaticism
  • The watering down of education
  • Terrorism
  • Concentration of wealth
  • Water security

and dozens, hundreds, thousands of other things.

But let’s get excited over a hockey game.

Why are we so easily distracted by bread and circuses? What is wrong with the human species?

Stay angry, my friends.

And be well, everyone.

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