The New Rome? Games and Circuses…and Bread!

In the heyday of the Roman Empire, the Emperors kept their place at the top by giving the people of the capital city what they wanted most: gladiatorial extravaganzas, circuses and cheap food. Today, the leaders of cities, states, and countries use similar methods. The modern-day ’emperors’ are democratically elected so the pressure to provide for the masses is even more pressing.

Case in point: Brazil.

Brazil is in the middle of a long-term project which will make it the center of attention for the world for the next several years. The large South American country is looking to play host to the 2014 CONCAAF championship, the 2016 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. It is literally spending billions and billions on stadiums and infrastructure improvements for these showcase events. The idea was not only would Brazil show that it was stepping up on the world stage, but it would be able to score political points with its own citizens.

The leftist Brazilian government has found that it is not as easy to do as it thought.

The government has run into numerous issues with its citizens by taking money away from the subsidies it pumped into maintaining low cost public transportation and food prices. This has sparked massive demonstrations across the country protesting the relatively small increases in prices by ordinary citizens, protests whose target besides the government has been the showcase projects. The government has used strong police tactics to quell the protests.

This is very similar to the pattern of experienced by Roman emperors as they sought to balance the demands of keeping the masses satisfied while working on colossal, ego-driven monuments and public projects which drained the public treasury. When there were food shortages, then the people would riot. This would be followed by a government crackdown and a new round of bribes to appease the masses.

It will be interesting to see what the modern ’emperors’ in Brazil do to calm the riots.

By Being Latino Contributor, Jeffery Cassity Jeffery Cassity is a mostly socially-liberal, fiscally-conservative Anglo male who is involved in his local Hispanic community as the widower of a 1st generation Mexican-American woman and his active, some would say hyperactive, membership in the local Council of the League of Latin American Citizens(LULAC)
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