When Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon and invaded the Republic of Rome (his home nation state), he was taking one of the biggest gambles in the history of the world. But he did something very simple that hedged his bet against a mob revolt. As soon as he secured the victory, he opened up the treasury and gave the masses money …lots of it …just gave it to them. In effect, he bought the allegiance of the people and nudged their orientation toward Imperial rule.
Things didn’t end well for Julius. Stabbed to death on the Senate floor, by people who were committed to a republic …is pretty much how his obituary read. But the damage had already been done. The people of Rome got a taste of having a relationship with ONE guy, who could, with the wave of a hand, fill their pockets or change their fortunes. It didn’t require all that pesky legislating or debating. It didn’t move at the speed of molasses. They realized that instead of the slow burn of representative self-governance, they could get the quick blaze of an Emperor’s whim. As long as the people themselves were safe and sound, kind of cared for, and out of the line of fire, the Emperor could do pretty much whatever he wanted. And Rome was never the same.
Emperors were the eventual downfall of the ancient Roman experiment. And they passed into history as a cautionary tale. But humans still gravitate toward big power. Our founders knew this. When Benjamin Franklin was asked, after the Continental Congress, what kind of government they had given the people, his reply was, “A republic …if you can keep it.” The sub-text of that response was born of knowing the lessons of history all too well.
Most societies can’t keep republics. As power gets consolidated, the people UNDER the power start assuming that power is their everything. And once you can make the people believe THAT …you’re well on your way to becoming Caesar.
This is why we have things like the electoral college, the 10th Amendment, two chambers of congress, three branches of government, courts of appeal and a free press. All of these things are designed to keep power at bay and our lives in OUR hands …not the hands of one person.
But for some reason we still insist on heaping power on a king figure.
The absolute meltdown that is occurring in our nation, as a result of the election of one man to one office, has sparked a whole new debate on who we are as a society. Some say the protestors are simply whiney Mellinials who’ve never learned how to lose. There may be some truth to that. Who knows?
Some say this is a result of political correctness finally swallowing itself whole. Also …maybe.
For me, this is a lesson in how much power we’ve given our government. Many people actually fear that their lives are about to be unravelled …based on who just became president. If a life can come unravelled based on that, then the person being elected already has too much power.
Some of the same people who think the current president (elect) is about to be their undoing, thought the last president was going to be their savior. Anyone with term limits and legal constraints can’t be a savior. Nor should they be.
Someone recently wrote that our healthcare, science funding, marriage rights, reproductive rights, education system and very survival as a nation was hanging in the balance of this election. Does anyone besides me, find that idea obscene? THAT much of our lives being controlled by government? Is this our new Caesar?
Why does most of our science funding come through the NIH? Who decided the government should control all of that? Why does our healthcare have to be managed by people who live thousands of miles away from us? Why do our social contracts depend on the right balance of judges sitting on ONE court?
The fact that one election has this much power over us …or even the fact that we just PERCEIVE it to have that much power over us …is the actual problem. And now, because of it, we find ourselves coming apart at the seams …that are all stitched together with layer upon layer of government. This has become our God …and now we are frightened of angering it.
Be careful about how much government you want in your life. Because one day it might end up in the hands of someone who terrifies you.
By then, you’d better hope you’re in good standing with the Emperor.