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The Empire Strikes Back: On Spartacus and Kaepernick
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2017-09-27 10:27:41
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“Spartacus is the most splendid fellow in the whole of ancient history…a great general (though no Garibaldi),
noble character, real representative of the ancient proletariat.”

--Karl Marx

About a year ago, a football quarter back for the San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick, began his national anthem protests against racial and social injustice in the US. He began kneeling rather than standing when the national anthem was played before a football game.

This trend soon caught on like wild fire among other NFL teams and has been recently been adopted by the vast majority of them, to the chagrin of the Caligula-like emperor of the empire, Donald Trump, who has dubbed them “unpatriotic sons of a bitch” whom he would have no hesitation in firing on the spot and escorting out of the stadium on a stretcher.


Obviously a revolution of sorts is afoot in sports which has always been thought as neutral to politics; a sanctuary of sorts from the vicissitudes of politics; a place where people could come together to enjoy themselves and leave politics and war and preoccupations outside the arena, the way the Romans left everything behind when they entered the Coliseum to enjoy the gladiatorial games.

No longer so, it appears. The gladiators, hailed and adored inside the arena by the amused fans, heroes of football, seem to have become increasingly conscious of the sad reality that outside the arena they are just slaves of an oligarchy who simply wish to use them and be entertained by them. They can be stopped on a highway and treated as second rate citizens just for the color of their skin.

But the establishment is no mood to tolerate any protests demanding rights, refusing to stand for the anthem, disrespecting the flag, which allegedly stands for human rights and human dignity. That is the incredible paradox missed by many patriotic “all American” pundits and experts on this issue of the freedom to salute or not to salute the flag: that the greatest disrespect to the flag is not by those who refuse to salute it or wrap themselves around it, but by those who sponsor racism and social injustice.


It occurs to me that there is an uncanny parallel to be reflected upon from ancient Roman history. I refer to the revolt against the Roman Republic by the gladiator Spartacus which occurred between 70 and 73 BC.


Spartacus was a soldier with military training captured by the Roman legions in Thracia or Macedonia, enslaved with his wife and sent to Capua to the gladiators’ school. He turned out to be one of their best gladiators who eventually led a slaves’ revolt against Rome encompassing some 70,000 slaves. They marched south to Mount Vesuvius where they awaited the Roman legions, sure to come, to capture and punish the betraying rabble.

At first the Romans did not take the matter very seriously. They thought it was a police operation, so they sent a militia or Praetorian guards led by praetor Gaius Glaber, who were promptly defeated by Spartacus. Worried by this defeat the Republic then sent two legions (approximately 10,000 soldiers) which was also defeated on Mount Garganus. At this point, alarm and fear began to spread in Rome and consequently, the richest man in Rome, Marcus Licinius Crassus, (a Trump of sorts with a reputation for being cruel to the troops) was chosen to put down the rebellion and sent with 8 legions (some 40,000 trained Roman soldiers), later augmented by other Roman legions led by Pompey returning from putting down an insurrection in Spain, the so called Third Mithridatic war. It appears that the Romans, despite their vaunted claim to “Pax Romana,” spreading law and order and civilization all over the known world, were perpetually at war; war conceived as a cruel and uncompromising affair.

It was touch and go for a couple of years. Eventually the Romans got the upper hand and defeated Spartacus. As an admonition to those slaves who might in the future get the notion of another insurrection, 6,000 of the captures slaves were crucified along the Appian Way all the way from Capua to Rome. There was never again a slaves’ revolt after that.


And now some concluding comparisons and reflections. If indeed, this time around the refusal to salute the flag is a legitimate protest and a revolt, how will it end? The most plausible answer may be that it will end the way the first revolt against abuse of human rights and free speech ended: with repression and suppression. After all we now have in charge of the Republic, no, not the Roman but the American one, a president who is a known KKK sympathizer, crotch grabber, inveterate liar, psychopathic narcissist. On the other hand, this so-called president whom I have dubbed the Caligula president would be better advised to be more careful with his tweets and not repeat the Romans’ mistakes and take the matter of true or pseudo patriotism too superficially, as is his custom. He may end up needing those generals around him who are now reading the legions for a nuclear war with North Korea. The Romans, the most powerful city of the known world at the time, were given a run for their money for three years by Spartacus. Kaepernick and his legions may do no less. Time will tell. It always does.


Check Dr Emanuel Paparella's NEW BOOK
"The Caligula Presidency: A Satirical Debunking Critique"
is online now and you can download it for FREE HERE!



Check also Dr Emanuel Paparella's other EBOOKS
Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers
& Europe Beyond the Euro
You can download them all for FREE HERE!

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