What Have the Romans Done For Us?
Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts, by Australian critic Clive James, is a comprehensive guide to art, politics, and everything else worth knowing about the 20th century, and he structures the book as 110 biographical essays, ranging from Camus to Margaret Thatcher (including lots of folks I have never heard of: Paul Muratov, Virginio Rognoni Dubravka Ugresic) and he includes several figures from before the 20th century, most notably Tacitus, who has given us the tools to analyze, skewer, and debunk the ruling tyranny; I love how Tacitus (a Roman) thought the Germans perceived Roman rule: they make a desert, and they call it peace . . . and this aphorism is certainly reflective of how many people feel about our policies in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and, in a general sense, as James puts it, is a "harbinger of twentieth-century state terror" . . . but, on the other hand, we must not forget what the Romans have done for us . . . they did give us the aqueducts . . . and the roads . . . and the wine, oh yes, the wine . . . and medicine . . . and it's safe to walk the streets at night . . .