363. Panem et circenses

This is a latin expression, attributed to a I Century Roman poet, Juvenal, referring to how easily the crowds were appeased by ensuring that they had enough to eat and could go to the circus. Marx made the same observation about religion, another means of appeasement, when he coined the phrase, ‘Religion, the opium of the people’. Today, these have been replaced by sports and social media, still fulfilling the same purpose. Can you imagine the power our citizens would have to improve society if they deployed the same passion to say, fixing climate change, or homelessness, than they do to a Real Madrid – Barcelona or a Liverpool – Man United derby? Or if great social reformers like Rutger Bregman, Noam Chomsky or Freada Kapor Klein had the same number of followers on Instagram as Cristiano Ronaldo, Ariana Grande or The Rock? Alas, we are still more passionate about entertainment and distraction than about improving our lot, and I am afraid our lot will not improve whilst this is the case

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