"The fundamental rights of a Classical people (demos, populus) extended to the holding of the highest state and judicial offices. For the exercise of these the people was `in form' in its Forum, where the Euclidean point-mass was corporeally assembled, and there it was the object of an influencing process in the Classical style; namely, by bodily, near, and sensuous means - by a rhetoric that worked upon every ear and eye; by devices many of which to us would be repellent and almost intolerable, such as rehearsed sob-effects and the rending of garments; by shameless flattery of the audience, fantastic lies about opponents; by the employment of brilliant phrases and resounding cadenzas (of which there came to be a perfect repertory for this place and purpose); by games and presents; by threats and blows; but, above all, by money. We have its beginnings in the Athens of 400, and its appalling culmination in the Rome of Cæsar and Cicero. As everywhere, the elections, from being nominations of class-representatives, have become the battle-ground of party candidates, and arena ready for the intervention of money, and from Zama onwards, of ever bigger and bigger money. `The greater became the wealth which was capable of concentration in the hands of individuals, the more the fight for political power developed into a question of money.' It is unnecessary to say more. And yet, in a deeper sense, it would be wrong to speak of corruption.110 It is not a matter of degeneracy, it is the democratic ethos itself that is foredoomed of necessity to take such forms when it reaches maturity. . . . And, after all, in a dictatorship of money it is hardly fair to describe the employment of money as a sign of decadence.
"The career of office in Rome from the time when its course took form as a series of elections, required so large a capital that every politician was the debtor of his entire entourage. Especially was this so in the case of the aedile-ship, in which the incumbent had to outbid his predecessors in the magnificence of his public games, in order later to have the votes of the spectators. . . . Then again, to flatter the crowd of loafers it was necessary to show oneself in the Forum daily with a brilliant following. . . . Dinners were offered to the electors of whole wards, or free seats for the gladiatorial shows, or even (as in the case of Milo) actual cash, delivered at home - out of respect, Cicero says, for traditional morals. Election-capital rose to American dimensions, sometimes hundreds of millions of sesterces;111 vast as the stock of cash available in Rome, the elections of 54 locked up so much of it that the rate of interest rose from four to eight percent.112 . . . But the conquest and exploitation of Gaul - this also an undertaking motivated by finance - made [Cæsar] the richest man in the world. . . . For it was for power that Cæsar amassed these milliards, like Cecil Rhodes,113 and not because he delighted in wealth like Verres114 or even like Crassus,115 who was first and foremost a financier and only secondarily a politician. Cæsar grasped the fact that on the soil of a democracy constitutional rights signify nothing without money and everything with it.116 When Pompey was still dreaming that he could evoke legions by stamping on the ground, Cæsar had long since condensed the dream to reality with his money. It must be clearly understood, however, that he did not introduce these methods but found them in existence, that he made himself master of them but never identified himself with them. For practically a century parties grouped on principles had been dissolving into personal followings grouped upon men who pursued private political aims and were expert in handling the weapons of their time.117
"Amongst these means, besides money, was influence upon the courts. Since Classical assemblies voted, but did not debate, the trial before the rostra was a form of party battle and the school of schools for political persuasiveness. The young politician began his career by indicting and if possible annihilating some great personage, as the nineteen-year-old Crassus annihilated the renowned Papirius Carbo, the friend of the Gracchi, who had later gone over to the Optimates. This was why Cato was tried no less than forty-four times, though acquitted in every case. The legal side of the question was entirely subordinate in these affairs.118 The decisive factors were the party affinities of the judges, the number of patrons, and the size of the crowd of backers - the number of the witnesses was really only paraded in order to bring the financial and political power of the plaintiff into the limelight. The intention in all Cicero's oratory against Verres was to convince the judges, under the veil of fine ethical passion, that the condemnation of the accused was in the interests of their order. Given the general outlook of the Classical, the courts self-evidently existed to serve private and party interests. Democratic complainants in Athens were accustomed at the end of their speeches to remind the jurymen from the people that they would forfeit their fees by acquitting the wealthy defendant. The tremendous power of the Roman Senate consisted mainly in their occupancy of every seat of the judicial (jurors') bench, which placed the destinies of every citizen at their mercy; hence the farreachingness of the Gracchan law of 122 [b. c.] which handed over the judicature to the Equites and delivered over the nobility - that is, the official class - to the financial world. In 83 [b. c.] Sulla, simultaneously with his proscription of the financial magnates, restored the judicature to the Senate, as political weapon, of course, and the final duel of the potentates finds one more expression in the ceaseless changing of the judges selected.
"Now, whereas the Classical, and supremely the Forum of Rome, drew the mass of the people together as a visible body in order to compel it to make that use of its rights which was desired of it, the `contemporary' English-American politics have created through the press a force-field of world-wide intellectual and financial tensions in which every individual unconsciously takes up the place allotted to him, so that he must think, will, and act as a ruling personality somewhere or other in the distance sees fit.119 This is dynamics against statics, Faustian against Apollonian world-feeling, the passion of the third dimension against the pure sensible present.120 Man does not speak to man;121 the press and its associate, the electrical news-service, keep the waking-consciousness of whole peoples and continents under a deafening drum-fire of theses, catchwords, standpoints, scenes, feelings, day by day and year by year, so that every Ego becomes a mere function of a monstrous intellectual Something.122 Money does not pass, politically, from one hand to the other.123 It does not turn itself into cards and wine. It is turned into force, and its quantity determines the intensity of its working influence.124
Gunpowder and printing belong together - both discovered at the culmination of the Gothic, both arising out of Germanic technical thought - as the two grand means of Faustian distance-tactics.125 The Reformation in the beginning of the Late period witnessed the first fly sheets and the first field guns. xxx.
110 Just as each of us who desires to be civilized must fight against our instinctive nature to follow "The Law of the Jungle," so too must we fight against the "corruption" inherent in the politics of money. Modern Americans would see this sort of thing as corruption, and would at least give lip service to the need for reform. The battle for effective reforms rages onward, even today.
111 Figuring out a rate-of-exchange for the "sesterce" is no easy task. My best guess is that the Roman "denarius," listed as "equivalent to" a Greek "drachma" (which was 65 grains of silver, after the time of Alexander the Great), was probably about 60 grains of silver, and a sesterce is one quarter of a denarius, or about 15 grains of silver. There are 480 grains to the troy ounce (by which silver is measured, to this day), so there would be 32 sesterces to the ounce, and an ounce of silver currently is worth about $5 (U. S.). So, when Cæsar and Pompey contrived to extort 144,000,000 sesterces out of King Ptolemy of Egypt, the payoff was worth about $22,500,000 in current dollars (1996). So, things have not changed much, as that is nearly half of the maximum amount which the Federal Election Commission has doled out to each candidate for President of the United States for running in the general election (roughly $60 million).
112 This is a phenomena that any modern economist would instantly understand.
113 Prominent in South Africa, he controlled diamond and gold mining interests there. As Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, he acquired Matabeleland, which was renamed "Rhodesia" in his honor (but is now called Zimbabwe). He was forced to resign in 1896, and his last few years were marked by scandals associated with Princess Radziwill (a Polish royal family later associated with the family of President John Kennedy). His will established the Rhodes scholarships at Oxford, still given today. Just recently, they were awarded to over 30 American scholars for them to study for a year at Oxford.
114 A notoriously corrupt Roman politician, prosecuted by Cicero in 70 b. c. He left town before the trial ended, and lived in exile, until he was murdered upon orders from Mark Antony, in 43 b. c.
115 Marcus Licinius Crassus Dives (115 b. c. - 53 b. c.) was a member of the First Triumvirate (formed in 60 b. c.), with Julius Cæsar and Gnæus Pompey. His untimely death (he was defeated and killed in the battle of Carrhæ, in southern Anatolia) in 53 b. c. led to civil war between Cæsar and Pompey (which war raged in 49 b. c. - 46 b. c.).
116 We still grapple with this. While we attempt to provide a "good" defense to every poor criminal defendant, we never do supply enough money to allow them to "get away with murder," as did the wealthy O. J. Simpson. Just think about how the taxpayers would revolt if the courts ordered them to pay for an O. J.-like defense of EVERY criminal defendant. And, as I note elsewhere, constitutional "freedom of the press" really applies only to those who are wealthy enough to own a newspaper of some size with a significant circulation. (see footnote 67.) While some organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union try to ameliorate this by providing legal assistance to those who are not wealthy, such assistance is basically conditioned on the ability of these organizations to fit the plight of the impoverished into the overall scheme of their own political agendas. This is merely "borrowed" wealth, obtained at the sufferance of the contributors.
117 It remains to be seen if the new Reform Party is one based on principles or just the personal following of Ross Perot. (see footnote 81, and the text to which it refers.)
118 Spengler's footnote at this point states: "Extortion and corruption were the usual charges. As in those days these things were identical with politics, and the judges and plaintiffs had acted precisely in the same way as the defendants, the art consisted in using the forms of a well-acted ethical passion to cover a party speech, of which the real import was only comprehensible to the initiated. This corresponds entirely with the modern parliamentary usage. The `people' would be very much astonished to see party opponents, after delivering wild speeches in the chamber (for the reporters) chatting together in the lobbies, or to be told how a party passionately champions a proposal after it has made certain by agreement with the other side that it will not be passed. In Rome, too, the judgment was not the important thing in these `trials'; it was enough if a defendant voluntarily left the city and so retired from the occupancy of, or candidature for, office." This hits very close to home. This is the rough equivalent of what drove Nixon to resign from the presidency; and also too close to what the Republicans are now attempting with Clinton and the Whitewater investigation.
119 What a sentence this is! However, it must be challenged, in any case. Spengler's assertion for "British-American politics" is predicated upon the now totally obsolete notion that each individual would get all of their intellectual input from a single local newspaper. Technology is in the process of destroying any and all monopoly power which emanates from control of media outlets. A primary example would be Rush Limbaugh, who has a successful right-wing media empire, and I would not be at all surprised to see Rush associated with a right-wing cable television network before another ten years pass. The evolving technological capability to deliver a virtually unlimited number of video channels to each consumer will create such a vacuum for content providers that, at some point, it may be possible for anyone with a home computer to become a media magnate. But this is all in the future, and is a consequence of the trend which Spengler did NOT see, that of the Technology Revolution.
120 This one sentence exemplifies so much of Spengler's basic thesis that it will pay us to examine it closer. The terms "dynamics," "Faustian," and "passion of the third dimension" are all catch-phrases which Spengler associates with Western Culture. The terms "statics," "Apollonian," and "pure sensible present" are all catch-phrases which Spengler associates with Classical Culture.
121 The footnote at this point, from Spengler's translator (not the great man himself), acknowledges that "Radio broadcasting has now emerged to enable the leader to make personal conquests of the million, and no one can foretell the changes in political tactic that may ensue therefrom." Remember, I previously asserted that the appearance of radio broadcasting was a "revolutionary" change in the lives of mankind. Spengler never contemplated a democratic process where even the weak political forces would still have full access to whatever portion of the public was prepared to hear them out. The vision Spengler presents here is of a press which is controlled by the dominant political party, and is thus an extension of the current government. While we are seemingly always screaming about "liberal bias" in our media, it is the conservatives who seem to get elected because they have the most cash. This dichotomy has provided the conservatives with a counter-press of their own, including people like Reed Irvine and his "Accuracy In Media;" essentially glorified yellow journalists, but they manage to keep their little newsletters going, year after year. But the future holds even more ready access for just about any kind of splinter group, as technology gives us a huge new quantity of available bandwidth for us to fill with whatever we please. (see also, footnote 119.)
122 If you understand the image of Charlie Chaplin in the movie "Modern Times," then you should understand the image conveyed by this rather lengthy sentence. If we were, in fact, subjected to this sort of drumbeat propaganda-image, with little control and less alternatives, then we would tend to become slave intellects to those who managed the press. Fortunately, technology has expanded the bandwidth of our options, and has thus left room for dissident viewpoints which at least tend to expose the most egregious aspects of the propaganda foisted upon us by the "establishment media."
123 I do not know where Spengler got this thought. Perhaps things were enough different in Europe in his time that such transactions were not as obvious as they are today. Now, we label the passing of money as a "campaign contribution," and in all other respects, things are as they were in Rome. And it is true that most of us feel that most politicians are "on the take," and those who are caught scream that they were "set up," much as the victims of the Roman courts must have felt. Once the soul of the Culture dies, the foundations of morality disappear, and corruption becomes a game where we tolerate it so long as the amounts are small in comparison to the amount of public funds which are managed honestly. We then tell ourselves that only the truly greedy end up getting caught (although we have no reason to believe that those selected to be caught are any other than those in disfavor with their accusers, just as things were in ancient Rome).
124 This is, of course, the penultimate description of modern politics. Money IS the life-blood of political discourse, and money buys access, in both directions.
125 By this sentence, Spengler implies that, for Western Culture, you control your friends with the printing press (a concept explored further as we go on) and your enemies with guns and powder.
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