Maybe the title should read, “Et tu, Americane?” Might be more familiar to Shakespeare fans, or fans of Julius Caesar. But I’m going with Google Translate on this one. My theme then, is that we Americans of privilege have become increasingly like Roman aristocrats. Seriously.
For one thing, I know that we of privileged status eat better than an Emperor. Our biggest complaint in recent years has been that too many people have hoarded toilet paper, or that our favorite brand of energy drink is in short supply. You know, supply chain issues, all that sort of thing. Sure, those things are true, but so what? Toilet paper makers kept right on making toilet paper, to the point that there has been an actual glut at times. And nobody, I repeat, nobody at all, needs to be able to choose between six brands of something that isn’t particularly good for you in the first place. Ask yourself what the Romans used for toilet paper, out in the public restrooms that were the only restrooms available. Do you know? I’ll tell you, then. A WET SPONGE ON A STICK! No emperor from August onward ever had KFC or McDonalds, or ever lived in a society where weight loss was a major industry either. (If you want to tell me how awful KFC and McDonalds are, you are demonstrating my point.)
For another thing, we have become used to the idea of fast, if not instant, gratification. Hungry? Just order something and it will appear quickly. Cook your own supper? Deus forbid! Want to know who that new guy acting on your favorite show is? Whip out your pocket device and check the IMDB! Feeling cold? Turn up the heat. Feeling hot? Turn up the AC. What’s the weather going to be tomorrow? Ask your digital assistant, Google, Alexa, or Siri as the case may be. (Nobody used Bixby, do they?) Want to see the Grand Canyon? Hop in the family chariot, er, SUV. Inconvenience? Never heard of it!
Just like those aristocrats of old, we have come to take extreme privilege as the norm. The truth is that over the millennia only a very small percentage of humans has ever actually had such privileges, and their privileges weren’t as good as ours. And, for a good section of American society today, that privilege is limited at best, or doesn’t exist. Those homeless people you chase out of your neighborhood are Americans, too. Not so privileged. Minorities, well, maybe a mixed bag, but I for one would not trade positions with a minority person. I enjoy privilege. Of course, some folks say that we’d lose ours if we extended the benefits to everybody. Others say that it’s not zero sum, and that there is enough of everything to go around. But hey, that’s crazy talk, isn’t it? Pure communist propaganda! Yeah, that’s it! It’s not like we have machines to be our servants and do all the dirty work, or that our society produces enough wealth for everyone in it to be well fed and healthy, is it?
Well, folks, that’s just what the Roman aristocrats thought. And it wasn’t easy, but they managed to survive. The aristocrats, that is. It took a millennium before people started knocking them off of their pedestals, and even today a few of them survive, or their descendants do, anyway. So, what the heck, let’s do that to America, too! Let’s, by all means, retain our privileged positions, friends, and let the little people suffer. It worked great in the fourth century, and it’ll work just as well today! Just think: plagues, autocracy, splintered societies, poverty, misery, ignorance and superstition! What a world, huh?
Or we could, you know, laugh the would be medieval retrogrades clean out of the public eye, and get on with our decidedly better society, absent so much of the feeling of entitled privilege. We could. Honest.
Why I use the term “American” for “United States Residents.” Yes, the entire continent, from Barrow to Tierra del Fuego, is “America” too. But, on this continent of America are the United States of America, Los Estaos Unidos de Mexico, and Los Estados Unidos do Brasil. (United states of Mexico and United States of Brazil.) The residents of the latter two countries are known as Mexicans and as Brazilians. So, the residents of the United States of America are known as Americans. There are two meanings of the term American. Hawaiians are, in one sense, not at all Americans, but in the other, as a part of the US of A, they are Americans whereas Mexicans and Canadians are not, in that sense, but certainly are in the first sense. If this bothers you, get used to it. Many things that I never mention bother me.