While watching a Smithsonian feature on the politics of Rome and the city of Pompeii, a fact jumped out from the writing discovered on the walls of the dwellings. “The Romans did not believe in the concept of bribery,” the narrator explained while translating the observations of a Japanese archeologist. “This was an invitation to a party where a wealthy Roman citizen was trying to buy the votes of all those who attended.”
Then the Sunday Chicago Tribune featured a news story on the Nation & World section in which it is documented that so-called Super PACs (Political Action Committees) are now banding together to support the candidacy of select politicians.
The bigger the political name, the bigger the contributions. “Hundreds of millions of dollars flowing to the 2016 presidential candidates go to super PACS, the political groups that can raise unlimited sums so long as they don’t coordinate directly with campaigns. The groups were required to report the names of donors and other information to federal elections officals by Friday…” the Tribune reported.
Then it outlined where the contributions are coming from.
Ted Cruz: “$15 million, Dan and Farris Wilks, co-founders of Frac Tech, which provides equipment and services for hydraulic fracking of oil and gas wells, $11.3 million, Robert Mercer, hedge-fund executive based in New York….”
Scott Walker: $5 million, Diane Hendricks, a back or Walkers who owns a Wisconsin-based roofing and construction supply company, $5 million, Marlene Rickets, wife of Joe Rickets, founder of online brokerage TD Ameritrade and co-owner of the Chicago Cubs…
Hillary Rodham Clinton: $2 million, Haim and Cheryl Saban, an entertainment industry mogul and his wife, #1 million each, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Herbert Sandler, Steven Spielberg, George Soros and S. Donald Sussman…”
And those are just a few of the candidates listed along with contributions to their Super PACS. The obvious line of inquiry is whether these are truly “contributions” to the political candidates or are they bribes of influence and favors expected in return.
We all know the answer to that question of course. Today’s politicians and the people who vote for them are subject to an elaborate system of bribery just like ancient Rome.
In Rome it was considered a sign of political capability to be wealthy. We still abide by these expectations today. Only the wealthiest of American citizens can afford to run for political office on their own. All others (and that is substantial) must rely on massive contributions of money by corporations and other organizations to even compete for the attention of the public.
There are exceptions to this rule. President Barack Obama leveraged small contributions gathered through populist support from the Internet to fund his campaign. Interestingly, these contributions come with little demand for return of favors. Without powerful corporate magnates demanding political favors in return, populist money is subject only to the execution of trust in public policy.
Everything else is a bribe. The Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court effectively legalized this system of bribery by branding corporations as “people” through the granting of “free speech” in the form of political contributions.
In other words, equality in the voter process does not really matter anymore. It’s all about who can raise the most money and then pay back the biggest political favors. That’s what gets you elected and then re-elected. It’s true on all sides of the political process.
Yes, the voters ostensibly still have to support you, but the voting populace tends to be very ill-informed on the actual voting records and policies supported by the candidates and elected officials who occupy key political offices. Instead it’s name recognition and a general party approval that gets people into office and makes them hard to dislodge.
America’s political process is dependent on a massive bribery system that defies the democratization of everything from monetary to environmental policy. As the oligarchy becomes more entrenched, there is ever greater emphasis on the importance of favors exchanged for monetary contributions. There is therefore no such thing as the “land of the free” when everything critical to the nation has a cost tied to political bribery.
The danger in this paradigm is that everything becomes a euphemism when political bribery drives decision-making. In order to justify and cover up the ugly promises made to big political benefactors, politicians are forced to whitewash or greenwash the real intentions of a cause or a law. Euphemism bleeds into the media and propaganda as well, where terms like “fair and balanced” are used to describe content and information that is anything but what it promises. That is a bribery of the soul.
Euphemistic government also explains the practice of attaching riders to otherwise good bills to gain funding for projects that might not stand scrutiny or gain approval on their own. This form of euphemistic government is just one form of the worst deception of the public trust.
Politicians even lie about their religion to gain favor and accept money and support from religion leaders whose non-profit status requires (and legally prevents) them from directly influencing public policy.
And finally, politicians turn to euphemism to justify heinous acts that are against the law, but when viewed through a political lens can come to represent a perverse sort of patriotism. Use of torture to extract information is one such euphemistic brand of patriotism.
Jesus admonished the Pharisees for mixing pursuit of wealth and power with the public trust. Yet the very people claiming that America is a so-called “Christian nation” absolutely ignore the admonishments against manipulation of the populace through faith and money. It’s a sick trend, and absolutely the product of bribery. Otherwise why would the character called Judas have betrayed Jesus to the religious authorities of his day. It was bribery, plain and simple, that did that deed.
How the game is played
This is a direct parallel to the path of injustice and inequality America has now taken. It clearly explains the migration of wealth to the 1% in America. Investment companies and banksters bribe politicians and threaten them with words that imply a crash of the economy… if laws are not deregulated. It’s not only bribery, but blackmail.
Those who know the bribery game best know how to succeed in business and politics. That’s how the game was played in Rome, and that’s how it continues to be played in America today.
And we all know how that comes out in the end. Pompeii was buried in ashes and Rome was buried in the ash heaps of history and overreaching empire.