Cicero on: Caesar, Sulla, and Obama
During the last months of 44 BC Cicero wrote a long letter to his only son Marcus giving him counsel about how to live a noble life.
Among the subjects he addressed with his son was the importance of generosity. Generosity itself – while a virtue – can retain its good name but be turned into a squalid vice.
Surely this is the most evil of deceptions: using the goodwill of the long use of a righteous practice – generosity as a disguise for the practice of its exact opposite.
Paul wrote to Corinthian Christians and pointed out the evil of men who use the good name of Christ and the Apostles to spread false teachings and we should not be surprised when they do this he said, because, “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (2 Cor. 11:14)
Using the reputation of a courageous person as a disguise for a coward is the same kind of deception.
Cicero is writing to his son to encourage him to think correctly about generosity, and shows how a thing as good and noble as generosity can be hijacked by a person with evil intentions desiring to make his evil appear as good. The skin of the virtue is retained, and the stuffed with evil in order to deceive the people.
Cicero addresses three things we must remember about true generosity
“First of all,” Cicero writes, “we must see that our kindness does not harm the very persons whom it is meant to benefit, or anyone else.
Secondly, our generosity must not go beyond our means.
Lastly it must be distributed according to the merit of the receiver, for this is the foundation principle of justice, by which all deeds of kindness should be measured. For those who wish to please someone they wish to help, and bestow on him something harmful to him, are not kind or generous, but dangerous pamperers.
And those who injure one party in order to heap kindness on another are as unjust as those who help themselves to other men’s property for their own benefit. Many people, especially those who are ambitions for grandeur and glory, take from some to enrich others, and expect to be thought benefactors of their friends, if they fill those friends’ pockets regardless how they do it.
Yet duty requires something different – precisely the opposite in fact. Our kindness should be such that it benefits our friends but hurts no one else. So when Sulla and Caesar took property away from its rightful owners and gave it to strangers, that should not have been considered generosity, for nothing is generous that is not also just.”
Another point for caution is that your generosity does not go beyond your means. Whoever tries to be more generous than his means allow is guilty first of wrong to his own family conferring on outsiders property that should justly be used for their support or left to them by bequest.
Also this kind of generosity often leads to rapacity and robbing of other people in order to get the means to make large gifts. We see many people, not so much generous as coveting glory, who do many things to seem benevolent that come closer to ostentation than true good will. Such pretense is more likely hypocrisy than genuine kindness.”
Let’s just remove the bandage that covers the fetid gangrene that is spreading through American politics, culture, and economics.
Arrogant deceivers like Sulla and Caesar seek to be seen as generous and magnanimous because a reputation for generosity serves as a virtuous cover for the evil they plan to do.
Julius Caesar was ambitious beyond the comprehension of a normal person. He created the conditions that ended the Roman Republic defended so eloquently by Cicero in a losing cause. Caesar brought his army across the Rubicon in violation of Roman tradition and marched on Rome. After his assassination, his adopted son Octavian became the first of the Roman Emperors; and the Roman Republic which we don’t remember became the Roman Empire which we infamously do.
Less than a century later, Vespasian built the Coliseum, and murder for sport began in earnest. The phrase “bread and circuses” was written by the Roman poet Juvenal describing how easy it was for the Roman Emperors to distract the citizens from concerns about their loss of freedom and dignity so the rulers could live as they wanted.
The Roman decline from Republic to a sadistic, bloodthirsty empire was made possible by phony generosity about which Cicero wrote. During the 100 day inaugural celebrating its opening, more than 9,000 animals were slaughtered in the Coliseum to the delight of the people. During one display in 240 AD, 2,000 gladiators, 70 lions, 40 wild horses, 30 elephants, 30 leopards, 20 wild asses, 19 giraffes, 10 antelopes, 10 hyenas, 10 tigers, 1 hippopotamus and 1 rhinoceros were all killed to distract the people from the agony resulting from their loss of freedom. Then, it was the arena; now it is a milder distraction – “Squirrel! Squirrel!”
So many exotic animals were killed by Roman Emperors to keep the people happy that hippopotamus were made extinct in their Nile River habitat. Elephants, tigers, and lions were hunted by those who provided them for entertainment for the people of Rome and became extinct from many of their habitats. The Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis), the European wild horse (Equus ferus), and Aurochs (Bos primigenius primigenius), were almost completely made extinct because of the Roman blood-lust.
All this slaughter was provided free to anyone who wanted to come watch, and, as Juvenal noted, it was done to distract the people from their true situation; as a cover for their loss of Republican government.
I mention this because the same path – minus the slaughter of people and animal for sport – is being followed in the United States while we watch feeling helpless.
The Coliseum was built with money taken from Jews as plunder when Titus laid siege to and completely destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD. The animals for slaughter were purchased from hunters and shipping companies that imported them from distant places with plunder from the conquering Roman army as they destroyed one ancient civilization after another. Then the entertainment was provided free – at no cost! Just like the “free lunches,” and “free health care,” and “entitlements” of our time.
Let’s look under the bandage that covers the rot in our Republic
First, Cicero says that false generosity harms the people who receive it. We only need observe what became of the Roman Republic to note that providing people with food and entertainment at no cost to them results in changing the kind of people they are.
People who are provided for and who contribute nothing to their provision have a changed disposition toward other people.
- They come to depend on government to come up with the money to continue to provide for them.
- Their votes for those seeking public office will go only to those promising to continue to make provision for them.
- They develop unconcern for the welfare of other people thinking only of their own personal situation.
- They come to resent those more productive than themselves
- They remain restless unless they are entertained and provided for, and represent a threat to the peace of the culture
- Eventually they threaten revolt if their needs are not provided for by others
Secondly Cicero says that generosity must never go beyond the means of the nation or person giving it. The wise republican living a few decades before Christ understood what happens to nations and individuals who want so badly to be seen as generous that they give more than they can afford.
He understood that when the desire to be seen as generous is so strong, it can lead a man to impoverish himself in order to look good. He counsels his son that this is not a moral thing to do. “Whoever tries to be more generous than his means allow is guilty first of wrong to his own family conferring on outsiders property that should justly be used for their support or left to them by bequest,” he said.
But he goes even further describing a man so hungry for adoration and power that he would resort to robbery. Cicero writes of false generosity provided by one who is willing to, “injure one party in order to heap kindness on another are as unjust as those who help themselves to other men’s property for their own benefit.” Who would rob other people in order to look good? “Many people, especially those who are ambitions for grandeur and glory, take from some to enrich others, and expect to be thought benefactors of their friends, if they fill those friends’ pockets regardless how they do it.”
He said, “This kind of generosity often leads to rapacity and robbing of other people in order to get the means to make large gifts.” And indeed that is exactly what we see in the squalor of the American left today. They engage in robbery and rapacity of individually and legally gained wealth in order to appear generous to other people.
But look under the bandage covering the American sore and you will see that this kind of generosity can be understood by this parable:
A man says to people who are out of work or struggle to make ends meet, “I understand your pain, you have not received your fair share, you are entitled to your piece of the pie, and evil men are denying you what is your right! They are stingy profiteers taking unfair advantage of you, holding you down, keeping you back so they can make more money.”
And the people say, “Amen!”
He continues, “Elect me and I will make the path straight, I will make justice roll down like a river, and righteousness like a mighty stream; elect me and I will right every wrong! I will do this by using all my moral strength. I care about you so much, I feel your pain so deeply, that I will use the power of government to take more and more of what the evil money changers have taken and I will give it to you! I will make this sacrifice for you because I love you that much.”
And the people shouted, “Amen!” and elected the man their leader.
All the while, the man – Mr. Obama – is earning $400,000 a year, just guaranteed himself armed protection for the rest of his life, will earn $191,300 a year for the rest of his life indexed for inflation as an ex president; will get office space, staff, equipment, phones all of his own choosing along with all office supplies including paper and everything else for the rest of his life paid for by others.
He sends his two daughters to a school that costs $32,069 a year each where the students are guarded by armed officers. This from a man who spends more than $4 million a year for his vacations paid for by other people; who lives rent free in the Peoples House with numerous chefs, servants, and housekeepers all paid for by other people; a house protected by hundreds of armed people costing tens of $millions a year. He travels in several specially created cars that cost more than a $million each while getting 8 miles to the gallon and is always accompanied by tens of specially trained guards. He flies in one of several helicopters and one of two planes with the planes costing more than $186,000 per hour to fly.
Yet it is this man who doesn’t want to spend more than he himself can afford i order to be generous, but who wants to spend more than he can actually steal from other people so he can appear generous. Look at his personal history of generosity:
- 2002: $1,050 out of income of $259,394 (0.4 percent)
- 2003: $3,400 out of income of $238,327 (1.4 percent)
- 2004: $2,500 out of income of $207,647 (1.2 percent)
- 2005: $77,315 to charity out of income of $1.66 million (4.6 percent)
Only when he became a U.S. Senator did he give anything to charity, and while he was earning $1,000 a day Monday through Friday in 2002, he was willing to give only one day’s worth of his annual income to the poor; a quarter million a year isn’t enough to waste any of it on poor people. And this is the man who wants to be feted for being generous.
Well did Cicero declare that “When Sulla and Caesar [and Obama] took property away from its rightful owners and gave it to strangers, that should not have been considered generosity, for nothing is generous that is not also just.” Mr. Obama is an unjust leader; he is the captain of injustice, and that’s the bad smell you detect coming from under the bandage on America.
Cicero addressed one more thing regarding generosity: “Our kindness should be such that it benefits our friends but hurts no one else.” Socialism is not generous, it is robbery; and it would smell as bad by any other name if I may borrow from Shakespeare. No matter what you call it, depriving some of their substance by force and giving it to other people without any measure of required merit is evil. And it is more evil when done in the name of generosity.
He is not the first, but hopefully he will be the last to make it his life’s work to deceive the American people he seeks to lead. He labors day and night to make the American people believe a lie. The lie is that he is generous; that everyone merits generosity, that it costs nothing to provide it; and that this is good for the nation and for the people. He is not Satan, but he presents himself as an angel of light while he works his evil deceit.
Generosity requires cheerful giving of what you have earned to another person you reckon merits your gift.
When you are required to give, and another receives without merit, and the bureaucrats get rich in the distribution process, generosity and thanksgiving are completely excluded. The state that engages in this subterfuge will end as Rome ended; shrunken, trembling; and cowering before others more bold than they, waiting to be given their orders.
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