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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Bread and Circuses

It all started from here - SPQR - but in those days transport to the Colosseum did not include electric tram (even of the traditional kind above). Image: John Woodman. From the days of the gladiatorial games in Rome the established order found the need to keep the masses content by ensuring free entertainment, however squalid and repellent, plus importantly the availability of bread in whatever form it came. As long as there was an aura of grandeur and power exuded from the centre and these two essentials were a constant - the elite could feel secure in their estates and continue the excesses of top down control over millions. Sound familiar?

Nowadays the practise of mass killings in the guise of sporting contests are not the done thing. A more sanitised entertainment in the form of the quadrennial Olympics bandwagon, together with the 'World Cup' 'Uefa Cup' and a host of other vessels are artfully used instead to take our minds away from the daily struggles in life. That wonderful artform of corporate sponsored global entertainment - the Olympics, again dominates the nation's media coverage, this time against the exotic backdrop of the Rio de Janiero topography. Our tax payer funded BBC (an important prop in the status quo) has seen fit to transport hundreds of staffers, consultants and a tribe of extras over to the sun kissed splendour of this part of the world in order to fill the countless hours of air time to be devoted to this billion dollar party. No doubt the expenses claims will be deftly swept under proverbial BBC carpets in due course.

A party which, whilst nominally showcasing Brazil and its people, will benefit a

coterie of pampered and sponsored young people whose physical attributes

provide them with a world stage on which to perform from city to city, event to event, all of which are now contrived to fill 'air time' for brands and global companies/ This roaming gladiatorial circus is gleefully taken up by media production firms in leiu of originating actual material, and covering serious aspects affecting most of our lives. The Heathrow protests today stopping traffic into the airport terminal certainly got the attention it deserves which otherwise would have been ignored if those protesting holding banners had stoody nicely on the grass verges causing no bother at all. Sorry not a newsworthy item - lets go now to the latest bombing of Aleppo Tristram. No doubt the BBC and their fellow news channel staffers will have a thoroughly enjoyable break from the mundane day to day stuff in Britain. As of course will 'Team GB' set up as a national marketing brand headed I believe by a certain Lord Coe, an intimate in the fine arts of corporate oversight in this dark world of sports (or is it media business events) to thrill the masses. A medals tally for the nation is at stake ,whatever that means as a meaningful and worthwhile objective for a country which is struggling to house its young and poor among daily injustices meted out to the disadvantaged and all those outside the established order.

Perhaps nothing more encapsulates the disconnect (for Britain at least) between those scheming their way to wealth, and those born into it by virtue of parental standing - as the sight of 'Lionheart' the umpteen million pound floating gin palace of Sir Philip Green and his dear wife, Lady Green, wending their slow imperial progress through remote islands of the Aegean Sea this week - against the immediate consequence of closure of British Home Stores (BHS) and dismissal of thousands of low paid workers across this country's High Streets. This once profitable and well managed company had the misfortune to fall into the clutches of this particular 'entrepreneur' or 'businessman' with his supporting cast of City of London 'advisors' and financial artistes. A knighthood for Sir Philip please! (or not). Now in a piece de resistance this week we have formal disclosure of the list of 'Honours'; there's a quaint establishment term for 'baubles' to be bestowed on lackeys and lickspittles embedded in Downing Street after the suddenly truncated tenure in office of David Cameron.

The wonderful flummery which abounds and surrounds the issuance of all manner of titles and 'gongs' remains an instinctive essential in maintaining the established 'order of things'. It extends directly into Parliament and our democratic well spring and traditionally acts as an escape valve for political parties in power, to skew their influence in the upper chamber - otherwise mischievously still called the 'House of Lords'. Napoleon cynically stated (one of his many well remembered conversation pieces) that 'Men are led by baubles'. Pinning a roundel on someone's clothing or wrapping it around their neck is another version of dolling out carrots in the farm yard - sheep spring to mind as do pigs. There is one deserving aspect of 'the Honours System' and that has to do with bravery on the field of battle by those in uniform, whether civil or military. This certainly retains a meaningful resonance - 'for valour'; but when its the hairdressers and appointments secretarys, and all manner of lesser political or governmental hacks and their hangers on who are gifted decorous Awards there is a huge diminishment and demeaning of those who place their lives in danger, or suffer immense physical harm in the service of the country. Not only did David Cameron make a massive political miscalculation for his Party - and his ambitions - in proferring the 'In Out Referendum'; but he has also irreparably brought his name (and his Party) into massive disrepute by his gratuitous dolling out of 'gongs' as farewell presents to a spectrum of minions aka chums, up north this would be 'mates'.

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