Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ending up where we're headed

Best known for the incomparable Monty Python, Terry Jones has not been easily categorized throughout his long career. Choose any label: Producer, Director, Actor, Narrator, Author, Columnist, Pundit, Playwright, Screen Writer, Comedian or Historian. They all fit.

I am enjoying The Terry Jones Collection; five hours of ancient history presented on DVD in his idiosyncratic, occasionally bizarre, manner. Paying casual attention to The Hidden History of Rome, I suddenly focused intensely on Jones' concluding comments. The message seemed to speak, not just of a time long ago, but of the society evolving in North America today.

I was reminded of a drawing that shows a person crossing a barren landscape toward the precipice of a void. A Chinese Proverb provides the caption:
If we don't change our direction we're likely to end up where we're headed.

Jones' episode about Rome reveals the ever-widening gulf that existed between the classes of the declining empire. This is Jones' epilogue:
Behind the glorious story of the Roman Empire, the story of military campaigns and imperial triumphs, there lies another story, the one that actually shaped the lives of [ordinary people].

It's the story of how Rome was run as a Mafia-like business, of Senators worth thirty million dollars who supported a system that let the poor go to the wall while they supported free trade and low taxes on businessmen.

It's the story of a society in which the noble families flaunted their wealth while the majority drifted into relative poverty. A society based on inequality, on the tantalizing luxury that was possible for a few as long as the vast proportion of the population had no rights at all or could be fooled into compliance with bread and circuses; a society that had no need for orphanages or contraception because unwanted children could simply be left on the town rubbish dump, or turned into slaves.

For minimum wage slaves of British Columbia, the circus comes to town February 12, 2010. Enjoy.

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