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Bread and Circuses

Gladiator movie poster

Gladiator movie poster

At the end of my previous post, where I painted a generally pessimistic picture of the near future, I mentioned that I would write about the businesses which would do well in this downturn.

In my opinion, they are bread and circuses.

During the decline of the Roman empire, the Roman emperors realized that in order to prevent uprisings, they needed to feed the people (bread), and to entertain them (circuses). Life was grim, ugly and short. People lived for the day. People were reduced to their most basic needs, food, sex and entertainment. Everything else was unnecessary, and most likely, did not do well as a business.

The most popular entertainment of the time in Rome were massively staged gladitorial spectacles which were fights to the death for the gladiators. When people were this miserable, they wanted to have power, if only for a moment, to see others fight to live. People were not happy, and they got pleasure and enjoyment out of what some would call sadistic entertainment (in happier times).

The Roman emperors provided a huge spectacle as an outlet for this frustration in the form of gladiator fights at the coliseum. Instead of trying to resist this angry urge, they saw that the only way out for them was to channel the urge away from them. The state rode this wave, and brought Hollywood production values and state funding to this entertainment to keep the sheeple happy. That is how they were able to extend the period of decline in the Roman Empire to 400 years instead of being overthrown much earlier.

Bread and circuses.

The times we live in will be very similar.

In China, where entertainment is already a large part of what makes up the Internet, there is already a very large entertainment component.

Historically, Chinese rulers have been experienced at putting down rebellions and uprisings, but when it came to entertainment for the masses, they could not hold a candle to the Roman emperors. On the other hand, they did not produce characters quite as twisted as Caligula and Nero either. The Roman emperors were in a league of their own.

Now, how to get state funding and production values for huge epic productions which recreate the smell, blood, excitement and drama of a real gladitorial spectacle as was captured in the movie Gladiator? Whoever can answer that question and can figure out how to bridge online games and the real world drama of life and death gladiator fights, creating a whole new experience, is in the money, not only in China, but globally.

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.