A lot of people in America today don’t realize the powerful influence Rome has had on their everyday lives. So many fundamental things such as our architecture, our laws, our policies, our religions, our constitution, and our democracy all have ties back to ancient Rome. When you consider Julius Caesar you might not think about his power and legacy as a military general and politician. But each year when your calendar reads July, have you ever wondered where the month got its name? That’s right – July is named after Julius Caesar. He’s still a part of your everyday life. Rome put a spell and a stamp on this world many years ago and its influence is still relevant today. Recognize that Rome hasn’t gone away and is still the origin of so many things you are accustomed to today. In this author’s opinion, the most pivotal and influential man in all of Roman history has to be Gaius Julius Caesar. This post is number 3 in a timeline series of posts that are all tagged Timeline.
Timeline Part 3 – Gaius Julius Caesar 100 BC – 44 BC
As a 15 year old, Caesar accompanied his father to the forum to get his first real taste of Roman politics. Rome’s fast acquisition of territory around Caesar’s time was partly why it was so treacherous toward the end of the Republic and the beginning of the Empire. Carthage had just fallen, Hispania was falling, and Gaul was coming into the control of the Romans as well; so much wealth was being acquired at an incredible rate. The governance of the Republic was enduring significant growing pains. To seek high office in politics in this time period was a dangerous thing. I can’t think of a prominent politician that died of natural causes during this time period. If you were elected into high office, it was likely you would die of murder, in battle, or of suicide.
Caesar’s dad died when he was a teenager and in the Greek tradition, he needed a male protector to help him ascend into adulthood. Enter Gaius Marius, a wealthy and powerful man that was Caesar’s uncle by marriage with political and military connections. Marius was a champion to the poor and underprivileged; particularly the plebs like our good friend Tiberius Gracchus. He had a significant influence on Caesar as a young man. Marius helped Caesar to grow into a very confident young adult. Caesar was already dressing differently and making a point to set himself apart from his contemporaries. In fact, he was already very vain as a teenager.
This post is part two in a timeline series of posts. The goal of this post is to examine the impact of Tiberius Gracchus on the republic of Rome. His life would forever change the complexion of Roman politics as he was the first person to really recognize and leverage the power of the “mob mentality” upon the Senate. We will also draw some parallels to our American republic as there are some definite similarities. In the end, as you will see, it is very difficult to ever discern whether a human being’s actions are rooted in evolutionary morality or their self-serving lust of power guised as such. Although all evidence points to the latter, I have this naïve hope that human beings will one day treat each other ethically, coexist peacefully, and be prosperous. In that spirit, I choose to believe that Tiberius Gracchus was a man of nobility and magnanimity. But in truth, we’ll never know and logic tells us that this is unlikely when considering his species.
Timeline Part 2 – Tiberius Gracchus 168BC – 133BC
Like many of his era, his birth year cannot be confirmed. Tiberius was born sometime in the 2nd century BC. He was old enough to fight as a junior officer in the third Punic war (149 to 146 BC) pitting Rome against Carthage. Tiberius was born into political power and influence as was any Roman you will ever read about. If you were not born with the proper pedigree, you had no chance of being “somebody” in the Roman historical record. And if you were, your chance of being somebody usually rested on your military success. Your political success was also hinged upon your military success. So to recap, your chance of being written about in Roman history rested on 3 basic criteria occurring in this specific order: 1)born into the right family 2) successful military career 3) successful politician. Each criterion’s opportunity was predicated upon the previous criterion’s occurrence. Most people were disqualified at step one which is out of their control. My friend Kirk and I have always referred criterion #1 as “the lucky sperm club” of which, unfortunately, neither of us are members. Let’s begin with Tiberius’ military career to understand his rise as a politician.
The Hamburg plant is closing June 8, 2010 and 126 people (white & blue collar) will be let go. They will be released into the Michigan unemployment ranks in one of the toughest job markets our state has seen for a long time. This is another bellwether event for our state and our union: a plant, after existing for 40+ years of prosperity, has lost its way. Design engineers, manufacturing engineers, quality engineers, managers, administrative clerics, CNC operators, supervisors, human resource personnel, maintenance managers & technicians, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, et al, will be unemployed. There were over 240 people that worked at this plant as little as 2 years ago and that is a more accurate number of people unemployed as a result of this closing.
The employees of this plant are productive members of society. These people exemplify what hard work in our American factories and markets mean to the health of our society as a whole. There was never a time when there wasn’t a struggle at the Hamburg plant, but as I have said about markets and life before, there is always a struggle. But, this time it’s different. This time, the struggle will end for this plant that has seen 20% margins for decades.
Why did the plant die? What are the internal and external factors that rang the death knell for this plant? Our markets today are subjected to a confluence of events that make it impossible to name one cause to any one event. We have to look at the prevailing head winds facing our manufacturing industry in America and our economy in general to understand the basic root causes. That is to say, things like the export of labor to “low cost” nations. And, the global purchasing strategies of our global business models that leverage the lowest possible price for any and all components in any given bill of materials.
I’ve spent a good part of my life talking about how great it is to live in America and how Communism is bad. I studied sociology and knew that there were different political systems and different economic systems, but I never really ventured to study them in depth. I never contemplated a bigger meaning of it all or how it all fits together. One day, while talking smack about Communism and the Communist Manifesto I was asked “have you ever even read it?” Ah, such a simple question. It was hard to make an argument about something I hadn’t even read. The answer was obviously no; I had not read the Communist Manifesto. Now that I have read it, I’d like to give my take on it.
There is a fundamental flaw in the Communist Manifesto in that it is not a stand alone idea. It is not an idea conjured from a blank sheet of paper. It is born as an “Anti-Capitalist” philosophy. In order to succeed, a philosophy should fundamentally parallel a natural process in some manner and be able to stand alone. This is no different than the evolutionary principles of natural selection in the wild: those which are not best adapted to succeed eventually die off. A sociopolitical philosophy based entirely on unnatural principles while intoxicated with a hatred of Capitalism is one that is destined for failure. It’s not entirely difficult, however, to see the seductiveness of a “new” concept when the discord of the “old” concepts are described so accurately and succinctly. But, the Communist Manifesto does not do much more than describe the struggles of previous ruling class / working class dichotomies. I find weakness in this document in its utopian sales pitch even as I cannot find much argument in the cycle of proletarian uprisings and revolutions that are evidenced within it. My belief is that the struggles and revolutions of all the societies that have gone before us are perhaps better viewed as part of our natural evolution as human beings. An analogy comes to mind to describe what I think I would say to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels if they were alive today: don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.