Sunday, November 19, 2023

Bread and Circuses


“Frivolity, aestheticism, hedonism, cynicism, pessimism, narcissism, consumerism, nihilism, fatalism, fanatics and other negative behaviors and attitudes suffuse the population.  Politics is increasingly corrupt, life is increasingly unjust, a cabal of insiders accrues wealth and power at the expense of the citizens fostering a fatal opposition of interests between the haves and have-nots, the majority lives for bread and circuses. They worship celebrities and throw off social and moral restraints, shirk duties but insist on entitlements.” – Sir John Bagot Glubb

Sir John Bagot Glubb is a somewhat forgotten figure these days.  He was a decorated British officer who led the Arab Legion from 1939-1956 including fighting against the Israeli Army in 1948.  He passed away in 1986.  He wrote quite a bit about the Middle East and his observations are worthy of consideration. 


But this is about another of his writings: “The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival.”  This essay written in 1976, concludes with a summary.  Here are some of his observations and conclusions:


_1 Looking back over 4000 years of history, the greatness of a nation only lasts around 250 years.  This is a consistent pattern.

_2 We do not learn from history because our studies are brief and prejudiced.

_3 The stages of the rise and fall of great nations seem to be:

      The Age of Pioneers

      The Age of Conquests

      The Age of Commerce

      The Age of Affluence

      The Age of Intellect

      The Age of Decadence

_4 Characteristics of the Age of Decadence:




      Frivolity (behavior that is silly, not serious)

      An influx of foreigners

      The Welfare State

      A weakening of religion

_5 Causes of this Age of Decadence

     Too long a period of wealth and power


     Love of Money

     Loss of a sense of duty

_6 The life histories of great nations are amazingly similar and are due to internal factors.

_7 The falls of these nations are diverse because they are largely due to external causes.


Born in Preston, England in 1897, John Bagot Glubb was the product of a different time and place. And some of his comments and opinions would certainly get him cancelled these days.   But in his defense, he is primarily sharing historical facts albeit shaded by his own personal biases.  Nevertheless, Sir John’s overall assessment as to how great nations rise and fall is mostly on point.  


When he wrote this essay the United States was still in the Age of Commerce and Affluence although beginning its steady decline into an Age of Intellect and Decadence.  Glubb suggests that the most dangerous by-product of the Age of Intellect is the idea that the human brain can solve all of the world's problems.  In our day the “global elites”, primarily wealthy progressive humanists, are committed to this idea.  How’s that working out so far? 


And clearly, we have fallen even deeper into the Age of Decadence.  What Affluence we have enjoyed in recent years has been funded by massive government spending and debt, not by the effort and productivity of our citizens.  One might say we are past the tipping point and are now facing the battle for survival.  Winning this battle will take sacrifices which so far, we have been unwilling to even consider, much less make.  Do we continue to live for “bread and circuses” until they are gone, or do we get off the merry-go-round now?




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