“Put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony.u201D
~ Proverbs 23:2
One of the most frustrating, if not inane, concepts is the nihilistic and delusional disorder that all social values are baseless, that nothing can be known, communicated, safe, accomplished, or indeed, that society itself cannot subsist without government. Of course the cozened adherent to such nonsense never considers the accompanying labyrinth of governmental scat, which always comes in the form of regulations and questionable laws putting people at risk both financially and physically.
If you think my opening statement is a little austere or acerbic then ponder the following historical phenomenon.
If there is anything that government can be defined by it is the word opulence. No matter what point is picked in history we find those who have assumed the mantle of leadership living in high luxury while being supported by the toil, resulting in the abject poverty, of others.
This can be partly explained by the relationship kings have had with the pagan gods but it also has deep roots in a common basic fault of power: the fifth deadly sin GLUTTONY, represented by the demon god Beelzebub.
The most common mistake people make, concerning gluttony, is assuming it has only to do with food and drink. However, gluttony exists where there is an excess of anything and commonly takes three distinct forms.
First, an act is gluttonous when more pleasure is derived from something than for which the object was made. This can apply to food and drink, certainly the ancient Roman elite were renowned for their meals where they ate until full only to force themselves to vomit so they could eat and drink more.
However, we may also apply this form of gluttony to government and its incessant appetite for power.
Second, the glutton wants something exactly and only his way. Some, CS Lewis in particular, call this gluttonous act a delicacy. By a delicacy he meant an undue sensitivity or concern for what is considered offensive or improper; squeamishness.
All of us realize there is a certain amount of discomfort, inconvenience and hazard in life. However, the glutton refuses the lesson of life and these character-building qualities, instead wishing to be pampered and coddled from what they find objectionable.
Have you ever asked why the government passes seat-belt laws, helmet laws and a host of laws which lack sense or substance designed to protect you from yourself? Have you ever questioned the great Federal financial agencies like FEMA, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security which are said to keep you safe in your old age, healthy when you are faced with a disease, and free from worry in case of natural disasters?
Certainly, few dare to point out to these foolish, meddling lawmakers that their acts border on the demented so we are left with a continuing plethora of contemptible regulatory vomitus that have no real quintessence other than to mask reality.
Third, gluttony can be defined as demanding too much from people. In our every day lives this may mean demanding too much of our friends, family and wives, but in the case of the statist this takes on a far more sinister meaning. To a bureaucracy this gluttony requires our money, time, and person to satisfy the whims of those who are too cowardly, too weak and too incapable of seeing to their own needs and desires. Thus, they feel they can compel and confiscate from those they rule, as slaves, the bodies who will fight their wars, the money to pay their bills, and expertise to serve their needs.
A case in point is the reign of Caesar Nero through some of those who followed him to the Roman throne.
Any semblance between the following reign of Caesars and the events occurring today in America, particularly in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama are purely historical and certainly not coincidental.
Nero reigned as Caesar from 54 AD until 68 AD and was a very talented artist. He had a very creative mind and was an imaginative person. As Dr. Eric Nelson puts it, Nero had u201Cstar poweru201D.
During the first eight years of his reign all went pretty well in the Roman government. This is due in large part to Agrippina Nero's mother, Seneca, Nero's tutor, and Burrus, Nero's prefect. While Nero was under the control of these three people, the empire of Rome was managed well. The needs of the population of the Roman Empire were provided for and Rome gained victories in the East as well as Britain.
However, it was not long before Nero discovered that his mother had more power than he did. Indeed, Agrippina was powerful, popular, and very well connected within the political circles of Rome. Nero began to fear Agrippina's power and influence, so he murdered her. Next, when Nero was 24, Burrus, Nero's prefect died and finally Seneca left the service of Caesar by retiring, in disgust and disappointment.
With all controls removed, Nero was free to pursue his artistic personality. He began appearing in public as a competitor in musical competitions, acting, and chariot racing. According to Suetonius, this was encouraged by staged public adulation and culminated in a grand concert tour of Greece in 66 AD and 67 AD.
While Nero was enjoying his tour through the artistic tulips, the government of Rome was coming unglued at the seams. His artistic antics bred an intense hatred from the Roman senate and the rest of Rome's ruling class. This hatred was further intensified by his confiscation of large, rich estates and the adjoining land to pay his debts. He began to mishandle the provinces and ignored paying his legions stationed throughout the empire.
Nero became more and more dictatorial and his personal life descended into complete depravity and this decadence almost cost him his life. Nero would disguise himself and at night go into town for an evening of mugging, stealing, and sexual assault. Until one night he assaulted the wife of a senator who then beat Nero badly enough that he never went on the prowl again, without being accompanied by his personal guards.
The boy who, at sweet 16, had become emperor was fast becoming a monster. Nero believed that fortunes were made to be squandered. He professed admiration and praise for his uncle Gaius (Caligula), merely because he had run through the vast fortune which Tiberius had left him; and never thought twice about giving away or wasting money. He seldom traveled with a train of less than 1,000 carriages; the mules of which were shod with silver.
64 AD was the turning point in Nero's in reign. That was the year when the city of Rome caught fire and burned for three days. Most of the city, including the imperial quarters and the city center, was annihilated. Whether Nero was responsible for the fire or not is open to debate. What did happen was that Rome's citizens blamed Nero for the fire because he wanted to build himself an imperial palace, which he named the u201CGolden Houseu201D. Nero's attempts at blaming a secret Jewish sect and the Christians did not work, but what did work were the laws of economics. The rebuilding of the city of Rome and Nero's new home brought on economic depression and this coupled with his already wasteful reputation fueled the fires of rebellion.
Nero, through his squander of wealth and lavish taxes, had brought the Roman Empire with all her providences to the point of bankruptcy.
Nero's suicide in 68 AD left the government of the Roman Empire spinning out of control. Roman armies from different provinces marched on Rome to claim their commander as the next princeps. This chaos leads to what historians call the u201Cyear of four emperorsu201D.
The first to take the throne was the elderly Galba, who was in his 70's. Galba had been the governor of Spain and had promised the Praetorian Guard, along with the military, a large sum of money if they would throw in with those he supported in the rebellion against Nero.
As soon as Galba took the title of emperor of Rome, he found that he could not keep his promise to either the army or the Praetorian Guard. The reason he could not pay what he had promised was that the Roman Empire was broke. The military was in no mood to hear any more excuses so after seven months as emperor, one of his rivals, Otho, saw his chance and bribed the Praetorian Guard to murder the emperor Galba.
Otho knew he was the next emperor when a soldier with the rank of private brought Galba's head to Otho with his thumb thrust into the mouth.
To say that Otho had a propensity for being decadent would be an understatement. His reputation was made during his time with Nero, and it followed him for the rest of his life, which was not very long.
The best that can be said for Otho is that he tried to make peace between all the armies, but it did not work. The legions of the Rhine and Gaul wanted their commander, Aulus Vitellius, to be emperor and these legions marched on Rome to prove it. A full-scale civil war was imminent and to avoid it, Otho at age 37 and on the 57th day of his reign, committed suicide, probably the noblest act of his otherwise miserable, self-indulgent life.
Vitellius became emperor according to the wishes of the Rhine and Gaul legions and as Dr. Eric Nelson points out, u201Cyou can't say enough bad about Vitellius.u201D Historians describe Vitellius as the reincarnation of the very worst traits of Caligula, Claudius, Nero, and Galba. He was a murdering butcher, drunkard, glutton and wasteful with money. His total bill in just food, during his short reign, was 9 million sesterces and that was just for dining! The average soldier earned about 900 sesterces a year. What Vitellius paid in just food would have paid the salaries of 1000 soldiers for 10 years.
Vitellius' excesses were the excuse for the legions of the east were looking for to rebel, because they wanted their commander, Titus Flavius Vespasianus, to ascend the throne and take the title of emperor. The eastern legions ceased their repression of the burgeoning rebellion in Judah and returned to Rome with the intent cleaning up the cesspool there.
When Vitellius heard that Vespasian was marching on Rome, he tried to abdicate the throne but Vitellius' supporters refused to allow him to resign. When Vespasian's brother, Sabinus, and his friends heard what was happening they tried to seize the throne from Vitellius, but Vitellius heard of the plot and had them killed.
Within two days Vespasian's army had fought their way into Rome. Disguised as a commoner and a huge money belt hidden under his cloths Vitellius tried to sneak out of Rome, but his odious plan was discovered and he was caught.
Again according to Suetonius, Vitellius u201Cbegged to be placed in safe custody, even if that meant prison, because he had something to say concerning the welfare of Vespasian. Instead, his hands were tied behind him, a noose was fastened round his neck and amid cheers and abuse the soldiers dragged him, half-naked, with his clothes in tatters, along the Sacred Way to the Forum. They pulled his head back by the hair, as is done with criminals, and stuck a sword-point under the chin, to force him to expose his face and not lower it. Dung and filth were hurled at him, also such epithets as u2018Fire-raiser' and u2018Glutton', and his bodily defects were resoundingly mocked. The soldiers then put him through the torture of the little cuts before finally killing him near the Stairs of Mourning. Then they dragged his body to the Tiber with a hook and threw it in.u201D
As you can see the egregious effect of gluttony, in the public sector, is an ever increasing loss of rights, financial stability, and social well-being, while leading to war, civil war, murder and general public carnage.
It then should be clear why the god of gluttony is Beelzebub meaning the u201Clord of fliesu201D for it is to a dung hill or a corpse that flies mass in the greatest quantities.
You see gluttony is a ruthless form of depravity, in that it is self-limiting. Gluttony is a deadly parasite that will eventually destroy its host. As in the cases stated above from ancient Rome, time will take its toll.
There is a time that the power of the statists is stripped from them. There is a time in which reality crashes the party demanding that life is not a bed of roses. Finally, there is a time when people refuse to give any more and the slavish hoards revolt. Nero learned the lesson of time the hard way.
Nero thought about dressing in black and making a pathetic but theatrical appeal for his life to the people of Rome via the public Forum. However, before he could put his desperate and pitiful plan into effect, he found that his palace was completely deserted. That night he spent running around calling and pleading for someone to help him. Running into the streets of Rome, Nero found a freedman, by the name of Phaon, who offered to help by disguising him and taking Nero to a nearby villa.
The disguise failed and Nero was recognized along the way. He was terrified by what he heard people were saying about him and engaged more than once in self-indulgent pitiful displays of cowardliness and self-aggrandizing comments.
What finally drove Nero over the edge was when Phaon brought him a letter from the senate that declared Nero a public enemy who should be captured and punished in the u201Cancient style,u201D by being stripped naked, having his head thrust between the tines of a wooden fork and then flogged to death with rods, when caught.
Not wanting to face this type of death Nero, with the help of his secretary, stabbed himself in the throat, and died with these words on his lips, u201CSuch an artist dies in me.u201D With Nero's death, the beginning of Rome's gluttonous period comes to a bloody end.
Are you wondering about the anger of the people in Louisiana? Are you dumbfounded by the ineptness of state and federal agencies who are suppose to be helping those in need? Are you concerned about the death of those who cannot help themselves? Are you puzzled by the crime of man against man in the form of rape and senseless murder? Then look no further than the welfare state and the kismet of social engineering. It is there that we found the misconduct in public office by scoundrels who have laid the foundation for social chaos.
In the wake of Katrina if we have learned nothing else we have learned that when America's bureaucracies purport to be an omnipresent god but cannot deliver, as God, the blessing of well-being, then the knife of Proverbs is poised at the throat of the sluggardly glutton called government. The question is; where and when will be found the helper that brings the knife to bear in its final duty?
September 5, 2005