Friday, November 03, 2006

Modern Day Romans


IN UNIVERSITY I MINORED IN HISTORY – American, not World – but I recall studying the Roman Empire in high school and remember learning that the reason it imploded revolved around unbridled ego, greed, scandal and selfishness.

While watching the 2004 Olympic Summer Games on tv I could not help seeing parallels to the Roman era, perhaps the beginning hints of a societal implosion, and it begged the question: Is there more to this parallel than just irony?

I watch the news of the doping scandals and I think about how these things came to be. Doping scandals revolve around much more than simply certain individuals getting caught. They are the result of societal pressures, contrived standards, and monetary reward systems that we all have a degree of influence over. In our society we subscribe, preach, endorse and reward “Number 1”, “The Winner”.
I watched the U.S. men’s basketball team lose to Puerto Rico, and there, right in our faces, is proof of the error of this cult of the individual, where a group of highly paid athletes don’t know how to operate as a team and are beaten by a true TEAM. A team consisting of some of the NBA’s younger players, while some even more highly paid athletes seemingly couldn’t be bothered to show up and represent their country.

Imagine, in any other country, passing up such an opportunity? Yet we market, promote and endorse these players. I see the bigger-picture direction of professional sports with issues like salary caps, potential lockouts, refusing to play under league governance, the purchase of “championship talent” who - perhaps not so ironically - lose to “team talent”, as in the NHL, NBA and MLB championships this year. We see teams acquire young talent and then we watch these inexperienced “role models” thoughtlessly discard opportunity. We subscribe to the idea of “dream teams”, and we market, promote and endorse these soap operas. I see how the above examples can impact the daily operations of a business. Some people come into a business with preconceived (albeit non-malicious) notions of entitlement.

We have engrained this “show me the money” attitude into the psyche of the masses to such a degree that people actually believe that easy opportunity, fast upward mobility and quick fixes exist. And we accept, preach and celebrate such ideologies through our media outlets. I see these media outlets staining the fabric of human behavior. The television has become the primary source of education in the household and “reality television” is the new vehicle or substitute for companionship.

The news outlets continually feed us fear so we have to keep coming back for answers, and we see the glorification of disasters, gruesome details of savagery and then compassionate commentary on rationales. We migrate to disaster, focus on the failures, and line up to watch the controversy. I see the effect these things have on today’s youth and children as they work hard to develop their own “me-titude” from the surplus of poor examples. I don’t wonder that they show much less respect than youth of the past, drop out of school in alarming numbers, and suffer from an obesity epidemic. We lead these children into this ideology, stifle their individuality, and pass down our bad luggage to ensure they don’t stand a chance. I see an even bigger picture of the state of affairs with North American governments.

We have “democratic” governments “for the people, by the people, through the people”… with the exception of any and all accountability. Our leaders lead with language that appeals to the lowest common denominator, but they are behaving exactly the way we allow them to behave. We subscribe, believe, elect, trust and support poor leadership.

I look at these examples and I wonder if people, a) actually realize how much power and control they have to influence these examples, b) truly want to extend the effort over the course of their lifetime to ensure we leave something workable for the future and, c) will continue to choose profit over people. I wonder if the Roman people – after the decline and fall of the Roman Empire – realized they had been brainwashed into the oblivious following which led to their ultimate demise. And I wonder what it willtake for the present-day masses to see what is happening and choose to do something about it before history repeats itself. The implosion that has de-fragmented Europe will make it to our soil very quickly if we do not open our eyes.

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