Bread and circuses or bread and games. Literal translation of the Latin phrase “Panem et circenses”. The roman emperors were everything but stupid and they understood politics. They knew distractions were a necessary measure used to rule the empire and the Romans. They used games in the coliseum (fights to the death, lions tearing people apart, circus and acrobats) and bread distribution to the public to keep them engaged in the spectacle.

Think about how smart that was. Back in those days, very few people ate properly or enough. So you, as the emperor, are feeding people and you are offering them entertainment, which serve a double purpose: people stay distracted so they don’t know what is really going on and they will defend to the death the emperor who feeds and entertains them. The emperor gives using one hand and takes using the other. Misdirection is a great skill used by magicians all the time, where they get your attention to focus on one specific thing while they do something else in the opposite direction. That was the purpose of the games. The emperors knew that if people weren’t busy, they would start thinking about their lives and where they are headed. No emperor likes when the people ask too many questions, it sounds like accountability, a concept that doesn’t sit well with emperors.

It isn’t a conspiracy, that is how it was, this is history. Ruling and politics are complicated. So, the games and the bread were instruments used to quietly but surely subjugate people and take little by little their rights away. And it succeeded. The republic slowly turned into an empire and emperors answer to no one and especially not to their people. Once again, this isn’t a conspiracy, it is just history. There is a guy tweeting every day, writing outrageous shit and pissing people off and while he is tweeting, ultra conservative judges are getting appointed, environmental policies are getting abolished, his family does business and makes more money than ever, etc. Other presidents like to play football and praying, two activities very dear to their respective people. Another form of distraction, wouldn’t you say?

Time goes by. It flows like a river, in one direction, without ever going back. Nevertheless, human nature doesn’t change, not really, not in a radical way. Our instincts are the same, our basic needs are the same, our behaviour is the same. I am not saying we haven’t evolved but nothing truly substantial. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of progress have been made yet, our brains crave distraction the same way our ancestors did, maybe even more now. Is it because reality is too much to bare? Is it because we don’t like facing ourselves? What is it? Why do we want to be distracted so badly? Who knows.

We want and need distraction, that is for damn sure. So, we have distractions. We create distractions which are not so different from roman times. They are just cleverer, more elaborate, more addictive and more sophisticated than ever before but they serve the same purpose in my opinion. Are distractions used to dull our senses? Or to hypnotize us? Or to confuse us? Or make us less brainy? Or to push us to ask fewer questions and enjoy our made-up universe instead of dealing with the real world? You must admit that a confused person is easy to manipulate. Once a person is confused, any made up story can become believable or even gospel.

I am thinking about today’s distractions: social media namely Facebook, Instagram, twitter, snapchat, Tinder, thousands of tv shows and movies available on Netflix and other streaming platforms, reality shows that are just idiotic and staged better than most plays on Broadway, smart phones and tablets, etc. Our senses are constantly metaphorically assaulted every second of every minute of every hour of every day. It is easy to get lost and not care about the things that really matter because you become convinced that what you see on your screen is the only thing that matters. But have you checked what is going on in your neighborhood, let alone your country? How are the schools there? The roads? What about your taxes or income?  Do you find you have more or fewer rights than you did 5,10 years ago? Is Facebook running your life or are you the master of your vessel that is your life? Are you paying more attention on the likes you are getting on IG or are you planning a romantic dinner with your partner instead? Do you call your parents, or you prefer reading an article of God-knows-what subject on Facebook? Do you ever stop and look out the window for a few minutes and enjoy the view?

It is easy to get distracted, isn’t it? You’d be surprised how easily one can be disconnected with reality. You’d be surprised how sometimes, governments don’t have your best interest at heart, just their own. I am not here to tell you how to live. I am just here to implore you to pay attention and mind your surroundings. Those who live in developed countries, in relative peace, can relax and think all is well. Then, when a crisis hits, and, because they have become entitled, they become lost and cannot deal with a crisis. I know firsthand that reality can be hard to bare but, in my experience, reality is most of the time better than a made-up world, filled with lies and deceit. However, I must also admit that some realities are just too hard to bare and wanting to become numb, so you wouldn’t think about it, that is understandable. I just contradicted myself, but I am sure you get my meaning.

Just don’t let all these distractions blind you, deafen you or make you numb. Human beings are made to question their status and essence. We are naturally curious, we are meant to challenge each other. We are not made to be glued on screens or entertainment until we cannot tell reality from fiction. That is not who we are. Take a break, look up and enjoy the view. While you are at it, think about your life and question things every now and then. Basically, please, just mind your surroundings. That is all.

Yet again, this is just one man’s opinion…

Now, smile, and go on with your day.

Freeman. B

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