Best known for Monty Python, Terry Jones was not easily categorized throughout his long career. Choose a label: Producer, Director, Actor, Narrator, Author, Columnist, Pundit, Playwright, Screenwriter, Comedian, Historian. They all fit.
I am enjoying The Terry Jones Collection; five hours of ancient history presented on DVD in his idiosyncratic, occasionally bizarre, manner. Paying casual attention to The Hidden History of Rome, I suddenly focused on Jones’ concluding comments. The message seemed to speak, not just of a time long ago, but of the society evolving in North America today.
It reminded me of a drawing that shows a person crossing a barren landscape toward the precipice of a void. A Chinese Proverb provides the caption:
If we don’t change our direction we’re likely to end up where we’re headed.
Jones’ episode about Rome reveals the ever-widening gulf that existed between the classes of the declining empire. His epilogue:
Behind the glorious story of the Roman Empire, the story of military campaigns and imperial triumphs, there lies another story, the one that actually shaped the lives of [ordinary people].
It’s the story of how Rome was run as a Mafia-like business, of Senators worth thirty million dollars who supported a system that let the poor go to the wall while they supported free trade and low taxes on businessmen.
It’s the story of a society in which the noble families flaunted their wealth while the majority drifted into relative poverty. A society based on inequality, on the tantalizing luxury that was possible for a few as long as the vast proportion of the population had no rights at all or could be fooled into compliance with bread and circuses; a society that had no need for orphanages or contraception because unwanted children could simply be left on the town rubbish dump, or turned into slaves.
Categories: Income Inequality