Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Death of an Empire?

This op-ed piece in the New York Times -
What A Terrorist Incident in Ancient Rome Can Teach Us - Pirates of the Mediterranean
raised some interesting questions. After 9/11 when the Patriot Act was passed, it concerned me that rights that were fought for and earned after much struggle were being casually discarded. But history has many lessons for us. This piece relates the contemporary panic to the panic that the Roman Empire went through after a pirate raid, and that was the beginning of the end of the Roman Empire (the beginning of the age of all-powerful Caesars)
We see it here in Trinidad and Tobago as well. Crime is a concern to many. Kidnappings caused a panic (even though they have decreased dramatically after the arrest of the gang that was allegedly responsible) - so now it's normal to have joint Army-Police patrols. Closed circuit cameras have been installed downtown, with no discussion of checks and balances on the use of the information. Parliament is pretty much a ceremonial place. Cabinet informs Parliament what they are doing as a courtesy, but it's just a rubber stamp. We've got a draft constitution written by one man, that proposes an Executive President, with virtually unlimited powers.

Check this out - sound familiar?
The national budget must be balanced. The public debt must be reduced; the arrogance of the
authorities must be moderated and controlled.
Payments to foreign governments must be reduced, if the nation doesn't want to go bankrupt.
People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.

- Cicero 55BC
Roman author orator & politician (106BC-43BC)

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