Friday, June 25, 2010

So You Think You Can Vote?

If it is even half true that more Americans are likely to vote for their favorite pop singer or dancer than they do for president, it should not be at all surprising.  So it is with all empires.  As a nation grows in power and wealth, decadence is the one sure dividend to trickle to the bottom of this otherwise dry economy.

In order to appease the agitated mob, it is necessary to supply them with their bread and circuses, and this correlation came home for me most recently in an episode of the hit show So You Think You Can Dance?  Not the most stimulating fare, but it reminded me of how politicians could take a lesson.

The political process has been likened to theater, as politicians are already mere pantomimes of themselves, going through the motions. There is as little decorum and a lot less grace than on a stage. In ancient Rome, much like the gladiators, the dancers kept the people compliant and incurious as to their government's actions. Much preferable to lounge upon the soft cushions of the Odeon, than to sit upon the hard benches of the Senate. Even the emperors themselves would get in on the act, promoting popular favorites like Mnester under Caligula, or Paris under Domitian, to positions of high office and influence, while at the same time debasing the very institutions they grabbed as token honors. I am reminded that even Theodora danced with bears before becoming queen of the Roman world. Not so strange a thing as Hillary's long uncomfortable dance with Bill.

Understandably, dancing, like gladiatorial sport, was considered beneath the honor of statesmen, who left such professions to the dregs of society.  However, unlike the blood sport of the Colosseum, dancing remained the height of fashion until the very end of the empire.  So, perhaps we shall be among the happy few to live just long enough to see the farce of our pretended virtues shed to reveal the dancing shoes beneath, while we vote from our living rooms for candidates like cattle at auction, televised from the White House Ball Room floor.  It would be little different from how the process is conducted now, and would save the electorate the very weighty trouble of rising from their couch's.