The new colosseum is the smartphone in our hand that evolved from the technology of the television and we have become addicted to a new form of blood, sweat and tears because our innate desire for entertainment is the blood that flows through our veins. In the vastness of the new colosseum lurks something even more sinister than the plots of the Lannister who is the autocrat over the gladiators. Lannisters wrapped the minds of the gladiators into a spiral of devilish subjugation but, all gladiators could not be subdued. What is this sinister plot? It is the means to warp the mindset of people into accepting a world order that they will never understand. To understand this new world order I look into the era of gladiators to bring perspective on who we are. Spartacus, the gladiator, is alive within all of humanity who want to break away from the oppressive colossal chains crossed over our brains but, with too many overwhelming persuasions, the Spartacus in humanity will have to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat to survive.
Defeat was never a feeling Spartacus became overwhelmed with but, fear of losing his innate right of freedom spurred him on to rise hell with the Romans. His eventual defeat resonated with triumph too because the Roman Empire felt threatened. Whilst the might of Empire crushed the rebellion it opened the door of realisation that even the most powerful power can fall. This realisation gives impetus to the fact that the lone action of a single person can change the path of destiny for the whole of humanity. Spartacus is the hero of the downtrodden and the unconscious hero within each person all because freedom is the greatest gift. The gift to yourself is the freedom from a shackled mindset. A shackled mindset is one where self-growth is not encouraged rather, accepting subjugation is seen as being good especially when subservience as underlings is the order of the day.
Today we live in a world where subservience to the colosseum of news disguised as entertainment makes us less of thinkers than of doers. Therefore, when you look at Spartacus whose history is still written by a foreign hand and not by himself bears testimony that our lives are not ours to own if we are not writing about it. Education was real problem for the gladiators in the realm of slavery they found themselves in but, as people their intelligence cannot be underestimated. They managed to stage a rebellion and begin a revolutionary spirit and learn from their masters the treachery of deceit, use of power and the influence authority has. Their history however is coloured by the hand of victors and so too would ours be if we do not begin writing our own history.
The history of the gladiators gave hand signs a new significance which today we use to acknowledge agreement or disagreement. In the arena of contest, the ‘thumbs up’ meant mercy. When shown by the King or Lannister the defeated gladiator’s life was spared. If the ‘thumbs down’ sign was given, it meant the death of the gladiator. The power of decision gave such dominance that it deified the King, Lannister and Royalty. Deification became the enjoyment of the Royalty and their lifestyle envied because it gave them such superiority which made them control the lives of slaves. In controlling the lives of slaves they were looked upon as demigods who could change the fortune of slaves. Life was tough, torrid under the yoke of combat to the death, horrid as a slave and dreadful amongst fellow gladiators too. Parallel to their lives our lives are truly different but we perceive it not because our sense of freedom has comforted us in modern slavery. Freedom is so relative in every age but our eyes are blinded by our self indulgence.
Imagine the defeated gladiator who looks with desperation into the eyes of the Lannister desiring life but gasps in despair when he sees the sign that his life will be no more. In that instant hope dissipates with the honour of noble death and his body is dragged like a carcass out of the colliseum to greater insignificance. The crowd clamours for more blood and gore to the greed of the Lannister and the noise is just another summons for another gladiator’s death. Now return to the reality of the present moment and reflect deeply on how you feel on the ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ you get on an Instagram post, a Facebook post, a WhatsApp message and the likes and describe that feeling to yourself. Most definitely, for a ‘thumbs up’ commendation your esteem is boosted and slighted when you receive a ‘thumbs down’ response indicating that you want acknowledgement in the bigger space of a virtual world where the stakes are high for great popularity. Like the victor gladiator screaming to the crowd, your triumphant feeling of receiving many ‘thumbs up’ puts you in the same arena. The arena of vain glory and self aggrandisement with the difference that the gladiator took a life or was spared whilst you have just a boosted ego or a dampened one. Strange but true, the ‘thumbs down’ responses has led people to the brink of suicide and to suicide or made them slump into a depression to point of hopelessness. The colosseum changed but the games still continue with a change of language and fascination. Spartacus is reborn!
“…For as the fowler whistles to decoy a bird he is bent on catching, which hears the note of its mate and comes down from the air and finds itself trapped. So does a vile man steal language of dervishes to fascinate and deceive on who is simple. The work of holy men is light and heat; the work of the ungodly is trickery and shamelessness.” J.Rumi. excerpt from “The Ladder to Heaven.”
Is Spartacus victim of decoy and of vile man or of dervish tongue ? Thats is the question.
Sculpture of Spartacus.
Spartacus, no doubt, had a mystical grip over the people and his Lannister I believe, played the fowler and inveigled him with a dervish tongue to continue killing in the name of Rome whilst the crowd mesmerised by the trickery remained stupefied into shamelessness of seeing wanton killing to please the carnal self. The indulgence of pleasing the crowd, generating a fan base, working on creating following and maintaining it comes at a cost on the self. Spartacus broke from the crowd because he kept a check on himself. He also used the popularity to play the decoy of divided loyalty which made him the hero we know today. Today, in the virtual colosseum to break away from the crowd is extremely difficult because our feeling of being hero captures us with passionate intensity. Different from Spartacus is that our lives are displayed to the world in real time many times in a minute to the extent that our privacy is diminished for sake of a thumbs up whilst for Spartacus every time was a duel with death in the arena. Death lurked on the fringes of every sword for Spartacus but, we kill our lives every second because it’s a post about our lives for others to view entirely based on vanity. Vanity is the god that enslaves man with such sweetness the likeness of a rose dipped in honey which wets the appetite with such sumptuous pleasure that the biting of the thorn and the release of blood is also taken as exotic. Alas! when the thorn embeds into the skin, the slow damage splits the vein and blood is let loose and mere anarchy engulfs the soul and death of self sends the demons of despair to take control of mind, body and soul. Like the dying gladiator under the foot of the victor, seeking mercy but cannot convince because of weakness of character is left like carrion to hyenas. Having nothing to save him, he dies a death ‘full of sound and fury signifying nothing.’
Spartacus did not die for nothing nor, did he break the bonds of slavery for nothing. What he did was to convince the slaves he freed with the understanding of freedom but, the freed slaves did not know much of freedom and it was harshness of the war that made them realise the price of freedom. One can say that freedom is under the shade of swords but, to handle the sword for the sake of freedom is the greater liberation therefore, freedom comes with a choice. Choice in this century is no different and for us to become free from the enslavement of vanity through all forms of social media requires a sword on our base desires and this sword is most difficult to wield. The slaves of Rome and Africa were beaten into submission after being snatched from their lands of birth through genocide and war making their enslavement a brutal form of mind control. Their were minds warped to the acute sense where they felt freedom would come only in the imitation of their master’s culture, language, dress and social mores. Even upon emancipation, the criterion of success remained that of the slave driver. Centuries have passed and the mind is still enslaved. Eons have elapsed and mankind is still enslaved to vanity worse than the salve under the yoke of an oppressive Roman or the likes of them. Putting two types of slaves before you is to make you aware that a Spartacus is alive in you and when given ‘life’ it must also be reigned in otherwise the glory will be overshadowed by pride. Yes, pride cometh before the fall.
The colosseum did fall when Rome succumbed to its vanity but, the concept of the Roman empire still looms large in the minds of those who have power. In the minds of the ordinary there is little tenacity to fight the establishment for a world order that will annihilate thinking and self reliance because the world is fractured with wars and the populace in the main are kept busy on social media and NETFLIX binges. The binges are further coaxed with mindless shopping, constant drinking of liquor, stupefying addiction to smoking, enticing gambling dens and greed for more stunning inventions to own. So stunning that living on Mars is seen as a means to do real estate marketing on earth and it is working. It works so well because of our enslavement to the god of self-aggrandisement and consumerism is an appetite we cannot satiate. This is the colosseum and the gladiators are designed to steal our free time and to give it to sport and millions of other vain glory passtimes and our freedoms come under the sword of it all. So powerful are the swords that it defies logic. A reality of this is where a hungry man today, when given money to buy food, will first budget for the bottle of liquor. This reality tells you about the overbearing influence of the new colosseum. It is now that you need to ask yourself where in the colosseum you are: are you a Spartacus fighting to eventual carve out your freedom or are you the gladiator fighting for glory with vanity as your sword? The smartphone in your hand, the smart TV on the wall full and all that they offer lies in the power of choice you can make. What choice will it be? Is it the one where you become its master or it becomes your master? You see, Spartacus used the colosseum as a means to engender social action for his eventual goal but, to the world it felt he was worshipping the gods behind it. When he broke free, people joined because they knew Spartacus and the flavour of the games in the colosseum lost its taste because of his absence. Your absence from the new colosseum is not exiting the whole reality but to advance a new social action that can change the destiny of people. One such example is how the Arab Spring started and gained momentum but was soon crushed because it lacked the Spartacus behind it. Today, the Arab Spring lies like a wounded gladiator on the sand of the colosseum covered in blood whilst the empire attempts to rise like the phoenix. The rise is challenged by the general populace because the Spartacus in the populace refuses to die. This current time with all that we are exposed to is a time of a ‘cognitive surplus’ to use Clay Shirky’s title of his book, Cognitive Surplus. He sums up how we should understand the power of what we have in our hands by quoting Ito:
...From Pokemon to massive political protests, what’s distinctive about this historical moment and today’s rising generation is not only a distinct form of media expression, but how this expression is tied to social action.Clay Shirky, Cognitive Surplus. 2010. Penguin Books. pg. 38.
Social action can change many things and it has a thread today in the new colosseum. It is just we have not explored it all to make the difference. The one story of Josh Groban way back in 2002 when his fans decided to buy him something for his twenty first birthday, the idea of material possessions were soon thrown out and, the idea of starting a charity in his name and that was their to gift to him. Today Grobinates for Charity is providing charity across the world. In this colosseum too, are the likes of Dr Imtiaaz Suliman who moved out of the general framework of making loads of cash as a doctor and became the founder of the Gift of the Givers Foundation that serves humanity across the world in ways unimaginable to the mind. This is the Spartacus we need to look for within ourselves and tame it to get what we want for the benefit of humanity at large. The colosseum is humungous with billions as crowds wooing your attention and its time now to find a new motive to control your life and not let it be enslaved by the controls in your hand. Then is Spartacus within you reborn!