It was the Ancient Roman poet, Juvenal, that once said that the masses were no longer interested in anything other than panem et circenses, i.e. “bread and circuses”, at the expense of things which may, ultimately, have been more beneficial to them in the long run. 2000 years on from Juvenal and not much has changed, it seems - just take a look at “the beautiful game”, for example.
This week, Manchester United have signed Paul Pogba for a world record transfer fee of £89m. The player himself is rumoured to earn wages upwards of £200,000 a week - more than most teachers, doctors, etc., earn in years.
Ironically, of course, #Football is supposed to be the game of the working classes. It goes without saying that, in order to be able to sustain the football bubble, much of the cost of ever-spiralling transfer fees and wages will be passed on to the football fans themselves. Tickets are practically unobtainable for many, the price of team replica shirts is rocketing and the price of watching games on TV shows no sign of arresting its increase.
Of course, football fans are, for the most part, blind in their devotion to their club and thus will fork out (after little or no grumbling, of course) of their own measly wages to pay for the privilege of watching these millionaires play the “beautiful game” more or less well on the pitch and getting paid a fortune for so doing. There is, of course, no chance (as far as most of football’s adoring fans are concerned) of staging a walkout and vote with their feet, so to speak.
And so the circus continues. The bread side of it, however, is less secure.
In Britain as well as abroad, people are homeless, dying of hunger and/or suffering from similar lack of basic necessities for life. Most of those people can only dream of ever attending a football match and don’t desire handouts - just a fair chance at a decent life. Sadly, for many of them, there is no money available to assist with that - and their presence is an uncomfortable truth for us, shaking us out of our #Denial-based complacency - which is why some of us would rather make them as scapegoats for every ill than to acknowledge their existence - for it disturbs our escapist sleep.
In short - and this is, for me, one of the malaises of modern society - some people seem to have forgotten the value of money, amongst other things. “I have worked hard for this money, therefore I shall do as I please with it”, is the tune, and I have no objections to that. #Escapism is at a premium, and, for the many of us that have no other means of escape, it is a vital way of retaining mental sanity. I merely note, however, that, in our denial of some of the sheer, wasteful cost, financial and otherwise, of our chosen modes of escapism, we seem to be living in this bubble of denial of anything else that exists outside of it that we don’t want to know about; a fragile bubble that may not last for long, but which we desperately hope will last us for the best part, if not all, of our living years - and to hell with the rest.
The bubble of denial
And so the bubble of denial goes on, in football as in anything else. We shall pay exorbitant sums to watch millionaires, some of which couldn’t care two hoots about us, kick a ball around for 90 minutes and be grateful for the privilege, too. We shall treat ourselves to the latest technological gadgets on which to follow them, and we shall turn a blind eye or even make a scapegoat of the very thought of considering that our incredible waste of resources could be put to better use, for we see no immediate benefit to ourselves in that. We shall pull the ladder up, if we can, and forget about the rest, for life is short and escapism is vital - and we shall resent anyone that tells us this uncomfortable truth to our face, for why doth not the healer heal himself? And we shall regard this as normal, for this is the very nature of life, isn’t it? Panem et circenses, therefore - and to hell with anything else ... ?