The Roman poet Juvenal is generally credited with having created the phrase “bread and circuses” to illustrate Roman emperors desire for the superficial appeasement of lower classes at the expense of wider concerns.
In the modern context, it has generally been applied to organizations—political, social, commercial, etc.—that provide some level of material comfort and superficial entertainment to mask shifts in the underlying foundations of civil society.
Think about large land grant universities in the United States. These institutions have generally raised tuition at levels much higher than the corresponding rates of inflation, increased class sizes to levels that would make most concerned educators blush, and allowed departments—athletic, academic, or administrative—to become nearly autonomous fiefdoms free from any sort of oversight. Do the students these institutions purport to serve revolt? Nope. As long as the revenue sports keep them entertained and the cheap beer flows from lukewarm kegs no one raises a single cry of outrage. It’s not bread and circus. Rather it’s Beer and Circus.
However, in recent years the primary mother fuckers behind this cynical strategy seem to have forgotten that you need to at least provide some comfort to people in order to keep them mollified. In an excellent piece of angry opinion writing Daily Kos community member Haricot Blue wrote:
Yes, you were sitting pretty. And all you had to do to keep it that way was to not wage a racist, scorched-earth war against the first Black President of the United States. That’s all! That is the only thing you dumb, stupid idiots had to do: swallow your pride, smile, shake hands, and play nice with one of the most charismatic, inspiring, intelligent and genuinely moral politicians in American history.
Barack Obama didn’t want to ruin you, you dumbasses! He wasn’t out to confiscate your estates, kill your grandmas, and force you into re-education camps! All he wanted was a more humane, less cruel, less racist version of the system that made you rich. You should have wanted that too! Not because you care about other people — for your own good! But you were too stupid.
What would it have cost you? A moderate tax hike? More oversight from nosy bureaucrats? Some limits on your environmental depredations and exploitation of workers? Maybe a few more women and people of color showing up at the Executive Retreat? And in return, millions of your fellow citizens would have health coverage, a living wage, affordable education and child care, clean air and water, some disposable income and free time – in short, a stake in the system.
Instead, these mother fuckers—yes, I use the term lovingly—took everything that they possibly could and supported the election of the worst president in the history of the United States. Now they are surprised that people are pissed and want change.
A little bread would have gone a long way, but Mitch McConnell has never been one to concede an iota if it means that the same iota has to come from his pocket.
Now the chickens are coming home to roost, so to speak, and with an election coming up in a little over four months things are looking increasingly worse for the Republican Party. Not that it could happen to a better bunch of mother fuckers. These are the people who spent eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency obstructing every idea, no matter how aligned with their priorities, because…um…that’s right, he was the black guy. Then they stood behind the racist troll as he laid bare the reality of American politics. That is to say, there is a large percentage of people who will vote based on nothing more than racial animas and perceived lack of standing. Never mind that it has been Republican policies since the 1980s that have destroyed what little standing those same people had in the first place. It is just easier to blame someone with darker skin, drink a Natty Light, and complain about Colin Kaepernick.
I can hope, dear god I can hope, that come November enough people are sick of this carnival barker’s sideshow and his Republican freak show to usher the mother fuckers out into the cold D.C. air in January. The think tank jobs and Fox News gigs will be cushy, but at least we will not have to hear them lecture the nation on…whatever, I stopped listening at about the same time as that Tea Party bullshit.