Standing in the Bread Line at The American Dream Circus

More than two millennium ago, back when The Roman Empire ruled a hefty portion of the world, one of its citizen poets coined the phrase “panem et circenses”, or “bread and circuses”.  What Juvenal was referring to was the manner in which the local yokels were distracted and controlled by those in power.  It was simple.  Just make sure the poor bastards had three square meals daily, coupled with a dazzling array of entertainment.  By that point in history, it had already been proven time and again that the average human cares about nothing more than having a full tummy, a few thrills, and an occasional good laugh.  Feed ’em, entertain ’em, and they’re putty in your hands. Lop off a few gladiator heads for them, and they’ll follow you like well-trained puppies. The poor folks lined up every election day, voting their benefactor politicians squarely back into office, and looking forward to another few years of food in the pantry and bloody spectacles at the Colosseum, completely oblivious, of course, to the wars and plunder which filled the coffers of Empire, financing their nutrition/entertainment program.

Empires come and go, but the bread and circuses theory and practice remains intact.  2156 years have passed since then, and it seems to me that the more things have changed, the more they’ve stayed the same.  World population has grown by a factor of 40 since the days of Juvenal, and the Empire du jour seeks complete domination over our ever-shrinking planet.  The tiny minority who make the decisions, pull the strings, feed and entertain the masses, have become much better at hiding anonymously behind a shroud of secrecy…not to mention much better at the tricks of their trade.

Which brings us to the subject of slavery.  Like a cancerous wart, slavery just doesn’t want to go away.  Over the years it’s morphed, grown much larger, and changed color, but a basket full of Emancipation Proclamations will never rid the planet of the engine which powers and has always powered capitalism.  The most notable change is the way that the slaves have been tricked into believing that they’re not slaves.  Here in The American Empire and its client states, we are the chosen slaves, but slaves nonetheless.

Ol’ Massa owns and manages the whole bread and circuses wage-slave operation.  Few people know who He is, or whether He’s one person or ten thousand.  He has few friends, so practically nobody knows His exact agenda or His motives.  Ol’ Massa is likely the heir apparent of the folks who created the fractional-reserve banking system, which is the art and alchemy of creating money out of thin air.  He’s a magician and god-like in His power.  The three-tiered social ladder He’s created reflects His sheer brilliance.  For virtually none of His slaves, from the billionaires at the top to the street beggars at the bottom, are aware that they’re slaves.

Top rung of the ladder is occupied by The Chosen Ones.  The 1%.  This is a small but diverse group, consisting of corporate C.E.O.s, obscenely wealthy investors, famous celebrities, high ranking church officers, athletes at the top of their games, politicians at the national level, generals, admirals, and various opportunists who’ve made their fortunes by scheming and manipulating the system.  A few of them, mostly at the military-industrial-political level, are in direct contact with Ol’ Massa, and possess at least a vague understanding of His agenda.  The function of the celebrities and athletes is largely to keep the circus interesting, as clowns and gladiators.  The military-political crowd makes certain that Ol’ Massa’s agenda is well executed.  The national media, which is owned and operated by The Chosen Ones, makes certain that the multi-ringed circus stays in full swing 24/7.  No exceptions.  No holidays allowed.

Middle rung of the ladder is home to The Workers.  At perhaps 75%-85% of the population, they’re called workers because they perform nearly all of the physical labor and shuffle all the paperwork necessary to keep The American Empire functioning properly.  They’re usually paid barely enough for their toil and sweat to keep roofs over their heads and bread on the table.  Compensation for their work is small pieces of paper bearing the likenesses of deceased U.S. Presidents.  Slang for this magic money is “bread”, because it’s easily exchanged for bread; the staff of life.  The Workers lead lives of quiet desperation, working long hours at meaningless jobs, living in overcrowded suburbs, reproducing more little Workers, and all the while longing and striving to one day climb to the top rung of the ladder…joining The Chosen Ones in the joys of The American Dream.  But The Workers live at the edge of a precipice.  They’re saddled with 30 year mortgages, new car payments, and student debt.  At any time, their jobs could disappear, dropping them down to the dreaded bottom rung of the ladder.  They understand this, and fear it more than death itself.

Bottom ladder rung is reserved for The Lesser People, famously labeled so by ex-U.S. Senator Alan Simpson.  They are an ever-growing group, as Worker after Worker slips from the slick middle rung, falling into the hopeless pit of degradation occupied by the group no one wants to acknowledge.  The Lesser People are, like their superiors above them, vital resources to Ol’ Massa, nonetheless.  The Lesser People are fed a minimum of daily nutritional requirements, partly by way of the U.S. Government Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and partly through charitable organizations.  This huddled mass of humanity tends to be hopelessly lodged on the bottom rung by virtue of being born there or falling from the grace of the middle rung.  Even if they’re lucky enough to have roofs over their heads, they’re likely to be lacking in the resources to have clean clothes or to be well-groomed enough to join The Workers.

But The Lesser People have several uses.  They serve as a reminder to The Workers of what will happen to them if they don’t keep their noses to the grindstone and faithfully serve Ol’ Massa.  They are used to divide and conquer the multitudes, as The Workers feel that their tax dollars shouldn’t be used to feed those whom they consider too lazy, stupid, or drugged up to work for a living. Also, The Lesser People fuel a wildly profitable private prison system, and a behemoth militarized police force which are financed wholly by The Workers.

Although man’s enslavement of man is as old as human history, it really kicked into high gear five centuries ago, when the Christo-capitalists began invading and occupying the Western Hemisphere.  Interesting how modern slavery in the bread line at the American Dream Circus has morphed into a mirror image of Christian Heaven/Purgatory/Hell dogma.  No wonder that people who don’t understand their own enslavement on earth are so easily sold the Christian bill of goods, faithfully complying, and jumping through whatever hoops their priests/pastors/spiritual leaders instruct them to.

There’s an unsubstantiated, never-seen, omnipotent, omniscient being in the sky, who creates life on earth as we know it.  (God/Ol’ Massa).  He creates The Workers, tells them to go forth and procreate, put their noses to the grindstone, and if they work hard enough, and are faithful to Him, they will be rewarded with eternal bliss.  The promised bliss is Heaven, or The American Dream of becoming one of The Chosen Ones.  And for those who just don’t measure up to God/Ol’ Massa’s standards, there’s the eternal damnation and Hell of slipping off the middle rung, becoming (God forbid) one of The Lesser People, facing eternal damnation and Hellfire.

Here on my home turf in Hawaii, everyone I know is a slave to the system.  Even those of us who’ve reached our golden years, have toiled in Empire’s sweatshops for 45 years, paid into the retirement plan (Social Security) which now sustains us, and seem to be free of the shackles which bind mankind, are in constant danger of losing our monthly checks to a U.S. Congress which tries to undermine our access to daily bread as a matter of policy.  Cut off my Social Security, and I slip immediately into the Hell of The Lesser People.  I’d go hungry without my bread, and be dazed and disoriented without access to the circus of television and the internet.

0Brownman

In fact, there may be only one person here on the island of Maui who is not a slave.  I don’t know his name, for he refuses to talk to others.  We call him Brownman.  He dresses in an odd combination of brown rags and discarded plastic.  Brownman’s skin is brown from never bathing and his hair an unimaginable tangled brown mess.  One day I tried to give him a pair of my shoes to replace the brown rags in which he wraps his brown feet.  He ran from me like a frightened animal, looking back and giving me the worst case of stink-eye I’ve ever received.  Brownman avoids all human contact.  He eats and sleeps wherever he wants.  He walks the streets of Maui towns, foraging for discarded food in public trashcans.  Smoking cigarette butts he finds in the street.  Brownman lives in the world on his own terms, a slave to no man.

If Brownman’s lifestyle is the only alternative to standing in the bread line at The American Dream Circus, I’d guess that most of us are doomed to live and die in our metaphorical shackles.  Ol’ Massa is smarter than we’ll ever be.  He’s figured out that there’s no sense in owning the cow when the milk is free.  But enough about this.  There’s a championship, guaranteed-to-be-bloody, mixed martial arts, cage fighting event on pay-per-view I’ve been waiting for weeks to see.  Time to order a pizza, crack a beer, and let the show begin.  Time for a full tummy and a few thrills.

John R. Hall: Meanderer, dreamer, mountaineer, restaurateur, military draft refusing felon, wannabe revolutionary, and citizen of Earth, observes the circus of life, and writes from wherever the north winds blow him. He can most likely be found somewhere in The Hawaiian Island Chain, in Mexico's Corazon, in The Sonoran Desert of Arizona, The Mohave Desert of Nevada, The high deserts of New Mexico, on a Teton glacier in Northwest Wyoming...or at halls245@msn.com. Read other articles by John Rohn.