Sunday, September 23, 2012

Italian Politicians Celebrate National Downfall With Toga Party

Hat tip to Gates of Vienna for all of the stories/links on this post. All of them came from their newsfeed.

Friends, Romans, and Countrymen, let us party hard as the system collapses.

Although the organizer of the wildly expensive and risque toga party, attended by Italian politicians and presumably other notables, asserts that the event was not billed to the taxpayers, austerity-hit Italians did not appreciate the extravagant display.

From the top link:

"Party-goers dressed in tunics, centurion helmets and flowing white robes were photographed drinking from amphorae and feeding each other grapes, in a lavish party which critics compared to the excesses of the Roman Empire.

Fittingly the party, which was attended by around 2,000 people and cost 30,000 euros, was held in Rome.

Under the theme, “Ulysses returns and confronts his enemies”, party-goers drank expensive Champagne and cocktails while dressed as gods, goddesses and mythical heroes.

It has become the focus of a scandal over the lavish spending of taxpayers’ money by politicians that threatens to bring down the regional government of Rome, dominated by Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party."...............................

As the economy teeters on the edge, the political leaders embark on a celebration of their national past. If they had chosen to emulate the virtues and the better practices (Yes, I know - no slavery, gladiators, etc.) of the Roman Republic, the party may not have been such a bad idea. The austere, frugal, religious, and determined Romans of the Early Roman Republic would have been a better choice. It is clearly time for leaders to hearken back to the best of what made their civilization. 

Instead, they chose to mimic the worst of Rome,one that which we would associate with the Late Republic and Empire. Glorifying the excesses and decadence of a society that had lost its cultural base, they remind us that the West is now in a similar predicament. Sexual license and conspicuous consumption typifies our present society; this while we conveniently forget the virtues that allowed our civilization to reach its current level of prosperity (Albeit one that may soon end). It is as if we are aware that the elephant is in the room but pretend to ourselves and each other that we don't see it.

We want to brag of the achievements of those who preceded us, but we have no intention of following their example. I recall a scene in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding in which the father of the bride-to-be, expressing his displeasure at his daughter's choice of a non-Greek finance, states "My ancestors created philosophy while yours were swinging in trees". I looked past the mean and crude put-down of the father and  noted that too many of us want to hang our laurels on our past but make no effort to improve on it or even imitate it. I got no impression that the father spent any time reading the works of the Greek philosophers - he just wanted to imply that his people were better because guys from well over two thousand years ago accomplished great things. Not that dancing is a bad thing, but it seemed to me that his family's idea of expressing its Greek culture was by dancing in a manner that seems to have been taken directly from the hundreds of years of Turkish rule of his homeland.

In all fairness, this could just as easily apply to any other Western European society or the US, Australia, Canada, or New Zealand. You can't brag about the greatness of your past unless you are ready to follow the best of the examples of those who made it.

To add fuel to the fire, Italy is being deluged with unskilled immigrants, many of which hail from Muslim-majority nations:

"The flow of immigrants to Italy is continuing unabated. Not even the global economic crisis, which slowed the pace in other OECD States in 2010, has stopped increasing numbers of foreigners from deciding to start a new life in the peninsular. The proportion of foreign citizens out of the total number of residents (Italians and foreigners) is continuing to increase and was 7.5% on 1 January 2011, up from 7% a year earlier......................"

I avoid citing examples of natural disasters as heaven-sent evidence that we are heading for a fall, but the recent earthquakes that have hit Italy, followed by the report that the blood of Saint Gennaro, the patron saint of Naples who was martyred during the persecutions of Diocletian, has again liquefied, lead me to wonder if we are being warned.

"(AGI) Naples - The prodigy of St. Gennaro's blood has come about once again. The announcement was made at 9:11 AM Wednesday morning by Naples Archbishop Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe who told the believers rallied in the Duomo of Naples that "the blood had already liquefied when the shrine was taken out of the safe". The Archbishop's words were accompanied by a long applause. . . "

It is noteworthy that, even though the Republic was long gone, Diocletian was the first to actually be a true Emperor and style himself and his court in the manner of an Eastern potentate. Paying homage to Diocletian was like doing the same to a similarly-robed Persian king and the palace had scores of eunuchs. There was little difference between the government in Rome and that of Persia. He froze the economy and prohibited people from working in occupations into which they were not born. The economy was taxed to the uttermost to pay for the armies that were needed to protect the people, who were far past possessing any of the martial spirit or sturdiness of their forebears. Rome had become a locked-down despotism.

Maybe Saint Gennaro is sending us a message; straighten out yourselves and your nation or face the onset of a new despotism.

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