Francis Meyrick

Decline and Fall (1)

Posted on November 22, 2007

Decline and Fall of the…. Roman Empire?

The ancient Roman gladiatorial sports…
We’ve seen the movie. Maybe… even read the book. We all know… it was pretty brutal.

I would suggest that these “sports ” were, in their own way, a damning verdict on their society. And not a good one. It spoke of the Romans’ unspeakable, sadistic cruelty towards their fellow men. It spoke of how smug, self-satisfied citizens could hugely enjoy the side-splitting spectacle of their weaker fellow brothers or sisters being humiliated.

The gladiators themselves… fought in different ways. Some merely tried to defend themselves. By sword, spear, or whatever weapon was thrust upon them. Others attempted to “enter into the spirit of it all ” to please the crowd…. they put on a good “show “, hoping it would improve their chances of being allowed to live a few more miserable days under the sun. They wanted to be approved of. Maybe, somehow, they hoped to ingratiate themselves. Hoped for just a little…. sympathy? But their fellow men, sitting in judgement above them, superior and aloof, merely laughed and scorned them. Man…. has no compulsions about deriving ribald enjoyment, even… from the spectacle of his fellow man trying to please his tormentors… by making a fool of himself…

Can you picture those Roman citizens, supremely confident in their arrogant superiority, sitting haughtily on the benches, cheering wildly at the spilling of innocent blood? Can you hear them laughing and mocking the players down below, in the dust and dirt of the arena? The jeers, when a man begged for mercy? The catcalls, the boohs, when a man pleaded for understanding? Compassion, even?

Can you picture the Emperor, when considering a man’s life, enjoying his moment of supreme God-like power? Can you see him slowly and ponderously rise to his feet, and stretch out his arm? His hand out flat before him, his thumb undecided, up or down?
Up, he lives. Down, he dies. Can you see the Emperor listening to the cheering of the crowd? And where his thumb went up, a man’s life spared, until the next time… can you see the grateful wretch cringing in gratitude? Can you see his upturned, flushed, grimy face? Can you see the Emperor, with a proud, cursory nod of his solemn, wise head, acknowledge -perhaps- the gratitude poured out in the bloodsoaked sand by a whimpering survivor?
Can you hear the roll of the drums, or the blast of trumpets? Can you see the poor wretch below, performing his pathetic little role, going through the antics expected from him?

Is it not… a relief to live in the great land of Americay. Home of the Free, the Noble, the Brave. Where people are kinder, more sensitive, and simply much more civilized than in those bitter, forlorn, cursed Roman days. Such spectacles would never be tolerated in our day. It is…. a relief to know how far our American society has progressed.

That’s why, many years ago, a certain live television show fell… flat on its face within the first three weeks. The advertisers were so shocked, that they pulled their patronage. So many infuriated viewers and human rights groups called in, that the studio switchboard was jammed with angry calls. They claimed that this kind of cruel manipulation, this mocking parody of justice, had no place in America, the Land of the Free. A civilized society, a long way advanced beyond the primitive jeering and baying of the maddened crowds of the Roman arena, accompanied by drums and trumpets, and all the razzamatazz of staged popular frenzy…
The protesters claimed it was flat wrong to make a public amusement spectacle out of the vulnerable and the weak. They said this was a cruel exploitation. Oh, yes, there was an outcry…

The name of the show? Oh, you won’t remember it. I’m glad to say, it died an early death, many years ago. It was called… let me think. Oh, yes…

The Jerry Springer show…

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One response to “Decline and Fall (1)”

  1. This is very true. I never thought of comparing the Jerry Springer show with the roman arena, but I see your connection. It is not right that we make such fun of the people. I see also the role playing you talk about.
    They feel they have to fight because that is what is expected from them.
    I agree with you that this show is a sad thing.

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