In Jerusalem: Panem et Circenses – Bread and Circuses

I am not sure if it was due to low levels of caffeine or an over-abundance of old-fashioned education, but this morning when my friend sent me the words “Panem et Circenses” (Latin: “Bread and Circuses”) in response to my e-mail description of this week’s overabundance of expensive festivals in Jerusalem, I recalled the following in Latin* – but the English will serve my purpose here: “… Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.” (Juvenal, Satire 10.77-81)
My friend is on the money. Without mentioning the other privately funded festivals and exhibitions that are also taking place in the city, this week the Jerusalem Municipality is exhibiting an “embarrassment of (festival) riches”: Light in Jerusalem Festival, National Hebrew Week Book Fair, and today and tomorrow the Jerusalem Formula 1 Rally! 
It was the Jerusalem Formula 1 Rally that got me seeing red!
Jerusalem Formula 1 Red Banners at the City's Main Entryway

Jerusalem Formula 1 Red Banners at the City’s Main Entryway

When I see red, I stop and think.
My thinking has lead me to the realization that, yes, this year’s overabundance of festivals is fantastically fun-filled for all of us. However, it is a veneer laid over the serious economic difficulties felt by the vast majority of Jerusalem’s population.  Is Mayor Mr. Nir Barkat making a seriously cynical effort to lull us into a sense of well-being and happiness so that we will easily find our way to the polls and reelect him as mayor in October? 
Are we, Jerusalemites, in serious danger of not seeing through the red flags the Mayor has put up? Are we failing to realize that the history of the fall of the Roman Republican Empire may be about to zap us yet again?  What are we meant to think when a two-day rally costs us, the city’s taxpayers, NIS 15 million ($4.14 million) and Mayor Barkat says the city is “making history” as it enters a “unique phase for people who are car enthusiasts.”?  And as a clarification, one of the mayor spokesperson’s adds: “We see this not as cost, but as an investment.”  What are we meant to do?   
Mayor Mr. Barkat – Making history? This is the kind of history made by the Late Roman Republic!
“By the closing years of the politically and socially unstable Late Republic, gladiator games provided their sponsors with extravagantly expensive but effective opportunities for self-promotion while offering cheap, exciting entertainment to their clients.”**
Mr. Mayor, Sir, do not be mistaken: we Jerusalemites need more than just another (festival) circus offering us an Annona (grain dole) for our  Arnona (municipal taxes). Our taxes are worth more than a crust of dry bread dusted by the grit raised by the Formula 1 Racers!  Citizens of Jerusalem, beware: Roman history is repeating itself inside our Comely Gates! 
************************************************
*[…] iam pridem, ex quo suffragia nulli / uendimus, effudit curas; nam qui dabat olim / imperium, fasces, legiones, omnia, nunc se / continet atque duas tantum res anxius optat, /panem et circenses. […]
**from: Mouritsen, Henrik (2001) Plebs and Politics in the Late Roman Republic. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge. page 97 
********
Photo for this blog post by Isa David-Ben-Rafael
With very special thanks to my dear friend, “The Keeper of Time”
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s