Bread and Circuses

Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.

– Juvenal

Juvenal’s premise in Roman times was in response to Roman politicians’ a plan in 140 B.C. to win the votes of their new citizens: giving out cheap food and entertainment, “bread and circuses”, would be the most effective way to rise to power.  Orwell hinted at similar in 1984, when he described the proles.

Are bread and circuses one of the reasons for underachievement in the British working class?  We all know about elitism in the British system.  

To quote Alexei Sayle in The Young Ones:

I mean, you look at statistics, right. 83% of top British management have been to a public school and Oxbridge, right? 93% of the BBC have been to a public school and Oxbridge, right? 98% of the KGB have been to a public school and Oxbridge.

Personally I don’t have a problem with people being privileged/fortunate/blessed enough to have been to independent school/Oxbridge/Sandhurst/the Brigade of Guards, etc.  I’ve always taken the attitude that it’s better to build one person up, rather than to knock the other one down.  

Jesus said (Matthew 26:11);

The poor you will always have with you…


And the rich and privileged, too, I would add.

The key thing is to prevent the wealthy from being a closed shop.  One way is to raise aspirations of working-class youngsters, and that begins even before school.  However, that involves fundamental change in British society.

  • The UK has a massive percentage of unmarried mothers.  During my short time as a supply teacher, I was shocked to hear a group of four fifteen-year-old girls in a failing inner-city comprehensive cooing at the fact that one of their peers was pregnant, and that “her mam was made up” [overjoyed] to hear daughter was pregnant.  So, this is Post-Thatcher Britain – single motherhood as a “career choice”.  To echo The Specials and their song, Too Much, Too Young, “…If you’re happy with a nappy, then you’re in for fun.”
  • The country has a vast percentage of “neets” (“not in employment, education or training”), unemployed and often unemployable, under-25’s, with poor levels of literacy, social skills and work ethic.
  • Why is it that white, working-class boys are the problem sector of English schools?

Are there enough role models?  Is there too much a ready acceptance of second-, third-, or fourth best?  “They’re only oiks, anyway.”

Is there too much of an attitude that goes like this:

My Dad worked down t’pit.  Me granda too, and me uncle, and that’s all I want to do.


Trouble is, in some estates, the adult males chose being in and out of prison as their “career path.”

Have an aspirational day, won’t you!


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