Phrase of the day: Bread and Circuses

February 1, 2012 | By | Reply More

The phrase “Bread and Circuses” describes one of my biggest concerns:

“Bread and Circuses” (or bread and games) (from Latin: panem et circenses) is a metaphor for a superficial means of appeasement. It was the basic Roman formula for the well-being of the population, and hence a political strategy unto itself. In the case of politics, the phrase is used to describe the creation of public approval, not through exemplary or excellent public service or public policy, but through diversion, distraction, and/or the mere satisfaction of the immediate, shallow requirements of a populace. The phrase also implies the erosion or ignorance of civic duty amongst the concerns of the common man (l’homme moyen sensuel). In modern usage, the phrase has also become an adjective to describe a populace that no longer values civic virtues and the public life.

What are some of today’s superficial means of appeasement? Mostly our wars. Our needless military adventures. Our “war on drugs.” Our wars against each other –scapegoating. Our wars against (our ridicule of) intellectual excellence. Our war against meaningful citizen participation in government “of the People” (i.e., the Citizens United problem). Our wars against most things that are not “American.” I’m sure I’m forgetting some of our other wars . . .


Category: American Culture

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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