Bread and Circuses
Bonta examines how the pursuit of self gratification, which formed the foundation of the "bread and circuses" policy, weakened the civic values that formed the foundation of the Roman Republic. Building upon this point, he argues that entertainment in the modern world poses a similar threat to future of the American Republic.
He concludes with the following:
"There Is Still Hope
The comparison between ancient Rome and modern America should not be overdrawn. The original Roman republic, enlightened as it was in its day, was still a far cry from the American republic. For one thing, Rome was an aristocratic republic, and was therefore always more vulnerable to the pull of oligarchy than the United States. For another, Rome was, by virtue of its geography, in perpetual conflict with encroaching powers like the Carthaginians, a factor which hastened Rome's descent into militarism. Finally, for all her enlightened policies, Rome was not a product of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but was essentially a refinement of earlier pagan Greek models of the state.
America, by contrast, retains much of her fundamental religious and cultural heritage, especially outside the decrepit urban zones of the east and west coasts. While the unsavory influence of mass entertainment now reaches into the remotest villages and farmhouses, our addiction to bread and circuses has not so neutralized our citizens that they 'meddle no more' in the affairs of the state. A certain portion of our citizenry, dismayed at the direction that the entertainment industry is trying to lead us, is actively working to resist the slide into barbarism. The growing homeschooling movement, for example, is evidence that many do not wish their children to be propelled into the mindless, amoral lifestyle promoted, not just by the media, but by the public school system as well. Children taught at home may still feel some of the effects of our culture, but at least parents can more easily monitor what they see and read, thereby better preparing them for the outside world.
In sum, we would do well to rediscover the Empire of Reason, if we are to place ourselves beyond the deadening influence of venal popular entertainment. The best personal antidote for mindless rock 'n' roll is cultivating an active interest in classical and other forms of elevating music. The best defense against the smog of propaganda-as-entertainment is immersion in the great books of the past. And the surest way to escape the rip tide of media-promoted immorality is to recommit ourselves to the moral virtues and family values of a more civilized age, an age that may yet be revived if we do not entertain ourselves into oblivion."
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