Who Benefits?

  • Posted: June 13, 2020
  • Category: Blog
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The first century before Christ – the disintegration of the Roman Republic resulting in the rise of Empire, the time of Pompey, Cicero and the Caesars – Julius & Augustus – has always fascinated me. But all that historical errata in the file cabinets of my mind now simply sours my stomach with foreboding, a sense of approaching dread. My children and grandchildren, as well as my beloved country, seem doomed to enter the same maelstrom in the decades ahead.

Are we simply a random twig caught in the current of our genes driving events to unfold in such predetermined patterns? What is it in the human animal that drives us to mad stampedes off towering cliffs? The Founding Fathers were close students of the Roman Republic, its strengths and weaknesses. In the manner of traffic engineers educated in the lessons of past accidents, they placed careful safeguards, guide rails, in our institutions to keep us from going over the edge. Yet in the years since, we have torn them down, one after another – exulting in the triumph of passing passions over ancient certainties.

Back in the day, I hung historical paintings in the company’s conference rooms thinking their implied lessons more valuable, at least to me, than cheesy posters exhorting “Teamwork” common to corporate corridors. One of my favorite prints was by the Italian painter Cesare Maccari – “Cicero Denouncing Cataline”. Maccari’s scene is Cicero’s great speech before the assembled Roman Senate in 63 BC. Nearing the end of his term as Chief Executive, Cicero accused a potential successor – Lucius Sergius Catilina – of treason, of planning a coup-d’etat against Cicero’s administration.

Cicero’s speech precipitated Catalina’s fall and his subsequent death along with that of many of his supporters. Historians are divided as to the truth of Cicero’s accusations. There is little evidence one way or another other than the self-serving accounts of Cicero and others. One can easily close one’s eyes and see echoes of our own recent “RussiaGate Scandal” in the “The Catilinarian Conspiracy”.

Marcus Tulius Cicero, or simply Cicero, can be seen as a Barack Obama-like political leader. A provincial outsider discriminated against by urban Romans, Cicero was a well-spoken well-educated attorney with few scruples. He had gained notoriety by successfully prosecuting certain aristocratic senators on charges of extortion. His great talent was as a master of political theater, turbocharged by his ability as one of the best orators of his time.

But Cicero, like all human beings, had his weaknesses. Easily manipulated by the in-crowd – the rich and powerful, Cicero’s eyes were blinded by his own reflection in the mirror. His wife was a strong woman, a willful exasperating partner who exercised a tight leash on his life, most especially his expenses. Cicero, himself, seemingly possessed no real passions other than to shine in public, rub shoulders with the powerful and harvest secret cash trading on his notoriety and position.

Cicero was eventually undone, a victim of the dictum, “Money talks and bull**** walks”. Which is ironic as Cicero himself said, “Nothing is so secure that money will not defeat it”. Twenty years after the time of Catalina, Cicero was finally brought down, sharing the fate of John the Baptist.

A woman, Fulvia the then current wife of Mark Antony, demanded his head because of Cicero’s witty bon mots about her revolving marriages. The gossipy commentator, Cassius Dio, reports that when presented with Cicero’s head, still wet with his blood, Fulvia pulled out the tongue and stuck her hairpins in it. But then Hamlet was not the first to recognize that we are often “hoist on our own petard”.

But one can look at the painting – and because he published his speeches – hear Cicero’s words to the assembled senators – “O Tempora, O mori!” It was and is a succinct memorable phrase translated as “Oh what times we live in, what things we allow to happen!” It must be said that the painting depicts Cicero as an old man though actually a vigorous forty-three at the time of the speech. His words were relevant twenty-five years ago when hung in our conference room and even more so today.

As a nation we have quietly submitted to a breathtakingly bold assault on our basic rights by the State – so much for “home of the brave and land of the free”. This assault on our basic rights is perhaps the most egregious since Abraham Lincoln’s nullification of Habeas corpus in 1863. But Lincoln had a war going on and was vigorously opposed by his own Supreme Court, to their credit and the shame of our own Roberts Court. In our own present time we have sheepishly “followed the Science” as interpreted by “experts” with no meaningful dissent. “O Tempora!”

At the same time we have witnessed the full court media coverage of people, both reputable and disreputable, in the streets of Adorable America protesting police abuse against people of color. Spasms of violent street riots, looting and burning – destroying the homes and businesses of these same people of color – is celebrated and encouraged by our “best and brightest”, safely ensconced in their own well guarded enclaves. Ironically, at the same time other people of color are besieging our borders, literally risking their lives to cross over and experience this same abuse. “O Mori!”

One wonders how to make sense of it all. But it is another maxim of Cicero’s, one he often used in summing up before the jury. “Cui bono?” or as we would say it “Who benefits?” As Cicero knew, “Cui bono?” is a powerful analytical tool as well as a convincing persuader – or smoke screen – in the hands of a skilled political actor.

Who benefits from all this? Before we enter into the twisting caves of conspiracy, let it be said that events do have their own logic – whether driven by a butterfly’s wings in Rio or systemic abuse. But also let us remember William Shakespeare’s words in the mouth of Julius Caesar’s assassin and rumored illegitimate son, Marcus Junius Brutus:

“There is a tide in the affairs of men.

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune

On such a full sea are we now afloat,

And we must take the current when it serves,

Or lose our ventures”

Who benefits from all this?  Well old people were supposed to benefit, their vulnerability to the Coronavirus repeatedly invoked by those so casually stripping us of basic rights. The risk to old f**** like me, especially as I am somewhat follicle challenged, from Coronavirus is orders of magnitude higher than that to my children or grandchildren. But as all schools and children’s activities are cancelled, I have spent a greatly increased amount of time with those little petri dishes masquerading as my grandchildren. Time I cherish to be sure. And then there is the political leadership sending infected patients into rest homes. Adding pathos to tragedy, the old, now infected by the new arrivals, are condemned to die alone, isolated from their loved ones.

Who benefits from all this? The Deplorables, just beginning to recover from the Financial Crisis and the “job famine” of the Obama years, took a gut punch. The strongest job market in two generations for people of color is wiped out overnight. The Adorables, working from home for employers well protected by the many new flavors of Federal alphabet soup came through somewhat inconvenienced but little affected.

Who benefits from all this? Decent responsible people of color look at their neighborhood the morning after, the looted stores, the burned buildings, the trashed cars. They watch the drug dealers and gangstas driving around in their untouched luxury cars and they wonder – “What happens next time I call 911 for help?”

Who benefits from all this? There is in Adorable America this strange, but powerful, vein of guilt. Is it the baleful influence of their elite educations or simply a subliminal manifestation of remorse for their ill-concealed contempt of their plebian brothers and sisters, the Deplorables?

Whatever its root, the Adorable need to be forgiven is real and in the absence of meaningful faith seeks other means of atonement. By now we have come to recognize the new Eucharist of the Adorables – the spate of virtue signaling fast becoming the Church of the Woke. The mourning and wailing by Adorable America at the protests serves a real need, a crying jag relieving the original sin of Adorable life.

Who benefits from all this? There is also in Adorable America a surplus, an over abundance of educated elite workers. Promised a meaningful future of lordship – the power to enrich themselves and change the world into their own image, they climbed the educational ladder to do so.

And then they graduated to jobs as baristas or servers, living in suburban basements, over educated, over qualified and lacking any readily employable skills. In the manner of coffee shop revolutionaries since the time of Robespierre, they welcome the opportunity to break windows, proving their worth. Returning to the Rome of Cicero, his close contemporary and poet laureate, Virgil, gave voice to these disappointed and disillusioned would be elites –

“If I cannot raise heaven, I will raise hell”

For a generation and more, we have sent our young to be indoctrinated by pompous fools and charlatans. In the words of another “unwoke” misogynist, the prophet Hosea,

“They sow the wind  –  and reap the whirlwind”

Returning to the painting of Cicero speaking before the Roman Senate. Even as Cicero sowed the wind, the whirlwind in the person of Julius Caesar sat in his Senatorial audience. Cicero sowed the wind to get what he wanted, but the first gusts of the coming whirlwind were even then stirring.

4 Responses to “Who Benefits?”

  1. Nancy Kilpatrick says:

    That length was just right! That is the exact question (thought) I have asked, albeit not as eloquently.

  2. jeff esbenshade says:

    I was at a University in the 1960’s we had people sign petitions to lower the voting
    age to 18 from 21. July 1, 1971 that became the 26 Amendment. It took 6 or 7 years
    of street protest to change the war in Vietnam.Whats going on in streets of nations
    cities is getting changes in weeks.
    The Mayor of Chicago is asking Wal-Mart to reopen their stores that were looted and
    burned.The unions keep Wal-Mart out of the city of Chicago, now the people in lower
    income areas cannot shop because their store was burned. The groups who took over
    the Seattle city blocks, took police station that is 911 call center, and Mayor refuses to use force to reclaim the police station.
    There is a right way and wrong way to protest. Voting would be a right way.
    Don’t loot and burn the people you are trying to help. If you do, you should
    go to jail. Business is the wealth creator not any Mayor. Education is the way
    to end poverty.If you have no skills how can you hold a job.Hard work, saving
    your income and taking some risks is the way up the econ ladder.
    People need a moral compass, maybe a good bible study could help.

  3. Dave Wilson says:

    That’s the real question, as to who ultimately benefits from all of this. I suppose you could attribute all these things to a coincidence. First we had the Russian collusion hoax, and when that didn’t work to unseat Trump, there was the impeachment fraud. When impeachment didn’t work, there was the Covid19 pandemic scare. Then, when things started loosening up, riots and anarchy coincidentally popped up all over the United States and in other Western nations. So, the answer as to who would have the motive for all of this is more global.

    For years, the global elites have talked about a global economic reset. The UN has said that according to their 2030 Agenda, they want to install a global government by that year. The primary obstacle against their agenda is the US and its constitution. It would seem that all of these things coincidentally fit into their plans. The Democratic leaders have said they support the UN’s plans and a socialist takeover. Of course, there are no conspiracies because no evil people would get together and conspire to carry out evil plans. So, we should all go back to sleep and pretend that everything will go back to normal.

  4. Judy Hoxworth says:

    As in the days of Noah…..Genesis 4:4. As “the Lord saw That the wickedness of man was great in the earth,and that every intention of the thoughts in his heart was only evil continually.”

    I will strive with man so long and after that the judgement! The blood of the innocent babies are crying out to God!

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