Sunday, October 10, 2010

9th October 2010

So the Bruvvers have chosen the younger Bruvver Ed, and Big Bruvver has chosen to keep his powder dry and leave him to it. So, probably, would any ambitious Roman—for the time being.

Romans philosophers might have recommended getting out of government entirely and become an Epicurean, seeking ataraxia—the absence of physical and mental pain. The key lay in avoiding a desire for anything that might cause anxiety, especially anything that had no limits, like wealth, status or power, because these could never be satisfied.

Alternatively, Roman Stoics would have suggested, in Seneca’s words, that he ‘deal with his own ills, sift himself, see for how many vain things he is a candidate—and vote for none of them. How can you call it enjoyable, when a candidate promises gifts here, does business through an agent there, accepts the kisses of people to whom he will reject even a finger touch when elected ...seeking yearly honours, permanent power, triumphs and riches?’ That would not mean giving up labouring like Hercules for the common good. It would mean seeking and praying for nothing but what it is in one’s own power to do—and that primarily is to make a moral choice, broadly (in ancient terms) doing the right thing for the right reason without having to think about it. Just like his mentor Tony Blair.

But remaining in government and destroying his brother from within—ah! That’s show-biz. This hallowed tradition began with Romulus and Remus and was enthusiastically perpetuated; Roman imperial history is full of sibling rivalry of this sort. The emperor Septimius Severus (died AD 211) wanted both his sons, Caracalla and Geta, to succeed, giving the advice ‘don’t disagree, but enrich the army and ignore everyone else’. Caracalla was not having that. He invited Geta to a conference in their mother Julia’s quarters and had him murdered as he clung to her.

This is surely, too, what Big Bruvver’s father, the fervent Marxist Ralph, would have wanted. Families are (obviously) oppressive institutions, designed to maintain the values that support the dominance of the ruling class, and no one is now more ruling-class than little Bruvver. Away with him!

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