Bringing Out the Long Knives

May 18, 2013


Augustus of Prima Porta, statue of the emperor...

Augustus of Prima Porta, statue of the emperor Augustus in Museo Chiaramonti, Vatican, Rome. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trying to keep up with the plethora of “scandals” and “investigations” carried out in Congress this week, I wondered if this had been what life was like in the Roman Empire as, passing its peak, overreach set in and the empire began its slide into decline. The corruption of political principles, the plotting and backstabbing (sometimes literally) as one venal group or another sought to overthrow their current ineffective and equally venal Emperor, might have seemed a lot like what we are watching today. The business of the people went unattended and those who lifted their heads from the bread and circuses long enough to notice, began to flee into the countryside where they engaged in subsistence farming in order to survive. 


So far, no one in our own brittle empire has literally drawn the long knives in their political machinations to subvert the “will of the people” in the last election cycle, (however malignant that will might seem to them or us, in their or our particular political affiliations). Though I suppose – if history is true to itself – it’s only a matter of time.

I ponder these things – especially this time of year, as I go out to garden. I’m too old and too slow to flee to the countryside, but in truth, what I am doing is learning my own, backyard version of subsistence farming. For once those long knives are drawn, I fear it will be too late for the bread and circus crowd.



This year, I am planting more of everything. We’ve had enough rain to bring us out of drought status and more, although that may change as we move into summer. I saved back a few of the tomato and pepper transplants, hoping to outwit whatever small critter has already devoured two of the tomato starts I planted last week in between rain showers. I’m putting up the blog post early today, so I can get out to the garden and replant them after I finish planting the other vegetables. The weather has finally settled into a late spring pattern and we are expecting more rain tonight, with possible severe weather late tomorrow into Monday and Tuesday. The early crops that came up are beginning to produce and the ones that lazed about and didn’t come up, I will replant this fall.



I don’t expect things to go belly-up tomorrow in the Empire. But the drip, drip, drip of decline, with what seems to me, at least, to be a steady increase in the cost of everything, wears away at my fixed income – as it does for many in even harder circumstances. The weather is cooperating, the soil is fertile and I am in good health. So, I plant more this year and hope I will have enough to put away for the winter, share with friends and neighbors and give to the local food banks.



And with all the crazy goings-on in Washington these days, I keep a wary eye out as I garden – just in case the long knives come out and the backstabbing begins for real.








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8 Responses to Bringing Out the Long Knives

  1. catmaxximum says:

    I find it very curious that business’s complaints about our “feeble and failing economy under Obama” are accompanied by continuance of rising prices (that’s how it seems to me, too). Didn’t prices fall when the Great Depression happened and lots of people lost their fortunes and could not afford the prices any longer? Why is it that so many of us are living on the edge of financial doom and yet the prices keep climbing and climbing. My guess is because that’s just what the wealthy want… to squeeze out the little people, so they can enjoy the takeover of prime lands that were once owned by hard-working farming families, etc., etc. How crude and rude! Rome may be nothing compared to the self-destruction of the good old USA.

    • theozarker says:

      I tend to think of it as like the six blind men and the elephant, where everyone had a hold on one particular part and therefore thought that was the entire elephant. What’s the old saying about, if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail? Everyone thinks their particular ideological bent is the solution, whether they’re economists, politicians, financiers or whatever. No one can really see the whole elephant. Or that the elephant is out of control and bringing down the house.

      Us’ns are just trying to keep from getting stepped on by the elephant while we head for the door. 😀

  2. Paul says:

    As oil underpins everything, it’s high price gets reflected in higher prices for everything else.
    Add to that the repayments to the rentier class and there you have it.
    The rentier class will soon own all the wealth that actually counts, i.e. land, and we will return to peasantry.

    • theozarker says:

      The costs of running a civilization built on cheap oil as harder to access, higher priced oil takes over, the increasing costs of more destructive weather events as climate change proceeds. It all adds increasing fragility to the system. Even the rentier class can’t control those losses. In their own way, they are just as trapped by what we’ve all helped build as we are. They may wind up with a few more assets than the rest of us, but unless they can find a cheap energy source to utilize those assets and can control the consequences of global warming,I can’t see how they’re any better off than the person with no assets in the long run.

      Whether it’s diminishing energy and other natural resources or climate change, Mother Nature seems to be the great leveler here, as far as I can tell.

  3. expedeherculem says:

    This video might be useful:

    • theozarker says:

      Thanks, Herc. I can’t download videos on this old computer without it stalling out. But I hope others find it interesting/useful. Always appreciate others adding useful information.

      • expedeherculem says:

        Ah, no worries – it’s about how the Roman Empire still kind of exists, in memory and in every empire that still invokes a claim to its inheritence. But the fall of what we think of as the original empire had more to do with internal collapse than with barbarians at the gates.

    • theozarker says:

      I managed to download about the first 15 seconds of it before the old computer stalled. Sounded like he was quite a lively lecturer. And from what I’ve read, the old empire was pretty much toasted by their own internal divisions and plottings before the barbarians arrived to finish them off. (Maybe we should send the video to some of our fearless leaders. 😀 )

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