What if?

, U.S. Senator from Nebraska.

, U.S. Senator from Nebraska. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to Chuck Hagel, “The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have not resonated with this generation the way previous wars did with other generations–largely because most Americans are disconnected from the burden and sacrifices of these wars. Less than 1 percent of our population is carrying all the burden, making all the sacrifices, and doing all the fighting and dying in these wars. There is no draft–no direct link to these wars for the other 99 percent of our population.”

The 1% fighting our wars is not the same 1% as the top 1% of income earners in our economy. What if it were the same 1%? The most fortunate among us would be compelled by custom and law to be the 1% fighting our wars. I believe it would be a much more peaceful world. When Rome was in its twilight years as an empire, some of the sons of Rome’s most privileged citizens had the thumb on their sword hand amputated so that they could not wield a sword and fight for their country. Are we the majority of Americans still willing to shoulder our responsibility to defend the nation?

Bread and circuses

Modern bronze statue of Julius Caesar, Rimini,...

Image via Wikipedia

More than 2000 years ago, the rulers of Rome kept ordinary citizens from rebellion with bread and circuses. Little has changed in 2000 years and our leaders continue the practice of pacifying us with relatively cheap food and spectacle, mostly of the sports variety.

Rome used slaves on large plantations to produce food cheaply which they then sold at a discount so that Romans did not go hungry. Today we produce cheap food at the expense of undocumented workers in the fields and factories that grow and process our food. We are able to eat cheaply because we do not pay our food workers a living wage.

Ball games had not been invented in Roman times. Roman circuses consisted of chariot races and sporting events in which the sport was a duel between two or more warriors or between a warrior and a large beast. We still continue the practice of one warrior fighting another, but not with deadly weapons.

As early as Julius Caesar’s time in the first century BCE, the Roman Senate was for sale to the highest bidder. The Roman legislature was unicameral, a single house, unlike our bicameral, two house legislature. Roman democracy died shortly thereafter, although Rome kept the outward forms of democracy until it fell centuries later.

Roman citizens stopped expressing patriotism by joining the Roman army when their democracy died. Rome filled its armies by recruiting mercenaries from throughout the empire. Those mercenaries rebelled frequently with looting and murder the result. Children of the ruling class devoted themselves to pleasure and gambling, rather than defending the Roman state. Service in the Roman armies became so unpopular among the wealthy that some mutilated their right hand by amputating the thumb so that they could not hold a sword, the Roman weapon of choice.

If our democracy dies, who will defend this country? It certainly will not be those who benefit the most, the very wealthy. Our military is already manned disproportionately by those who have few other choices to escape poverty. What will the situation be in the future if good jobs do not return? Barack’s jobs plan is a step in the right direction, but it does not go far enough.

Please see Great Depression 2