Posted by: Christine Donovan | July 6, 2009

The 4th of July, the Romans, and You

Happy Belated Fourth!  And that ties into today’s post…

When I launched this blog, my vision was to offer commentary and advice on workplace and personal excellence… and generally, I’ve remained focused on that goal.

But although our attitudes, perspectives, and levels of determination affect our personal and professional success, we still have to be knowledgeable of the world around us.  We can’t live and succeed in a vacuum…although many try.

 That external world can guide us closer to, or away from, our life purpose, and so it’s imperative that we are knowledgeable of the reality around us:  government, society, culture, etc.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, I took a moment to “take in” the reality of the world around me.  It’s been so depressing lately that I’d tried to ignore it, but any responsible person knows that to succeed and survive in any culture means we also have to pay attention, contribute, and speak up when something just doesn’t make sense.

So after a few minutes reading the headlines, I was reminded of why I had tried to avoid it all in the first place.  My five minutes in the newspaper told me that…

Another talented celebrity has died of an apparent overdose (Michael Jackson) and the investigation into the corruption around him has just begun.  Then, after pouring billions of borrowed dollars into our economy, unemployment reports continue to rise with no end in sight.  Next, the biggest tax bill in our nation’s history is about to go before the Senate, loaded with legislation that will burden, not only us, but our grandchildren and great grandchildren.   And there was so much more negativity out there…my brain couldn’t handle it, and won’t allow me to dwell on it for too long.

But… amazingly, so many of our American brothers and sisters seem to be blind to this sad reality.

With our heads buried in Blackberries, laptops, Wii and Playstation 3s, I wonder if anybody is paying attention to the deterioration and declining values of our world… and how that affects US.   We’ve become so accustomed to lives of ease and our entitlement mentality, that we use it as justification for apathy.  “Somebody should do something about that,” we say.  Or, “I wish the government would turn the economy around,” becomes our mantra.

But we are the government by the people and for the people… and what do we do?  Complain, whine, and do nothing.

In my lifetime, I can’t remember a time when the country was more divided, more conflicted and more at a loss at what to do.  Unfortunately, the worst side of humanity raises its ugly head under stress, and we’ve been stressed for a long time… starting with 9/11… through the war in Iraq… and now as we traverse the dangerous road of a faltering economy.

We’re largely in this mess because the majority of Americans continue to keep their collective head in the sand, don’t bother to vote, and choose to watch American Idol instead of C-SPAN.  We’ve become so accustomed to the “they” component of the world that we continue to assume “they” will figure it out, fix it, and get us back to our safe and boring lives of leisure.

I’ve never been much of a historian, but I’ve recently become intrigued by the fall of the Roman empire… does it have lessons to teach us TODAY?

A quick Google search found these answers.  Just why did Rome fall?

Note: The Roman Empire was one of the greatest civilizations in history, responsible for many great cultural and technological achievements.  The glory of Rome lasted around 1000 years. (Keep in mind that America is a mere 233 years old by comparison.)

Here are some generally agreed-upon reasons for the “fall,” which I’ve taken from a variety of sources too numerous to list.  I’m just regurgitating the facts; you can make the interpretation, if you see any similarities to today —

The reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire include:

Economic factors

  • Inflation
  • Poor management/leadership
  • “Bread and Circuses” (the Roman practice of providing free food, costly circus games and entertainment as a means of gaining political power through populism)
  • Poor work ethic (due to the “bread and circuses”)
  • Spending too much on the poor in efforts to lift them up (welfare), thus draining the financial resources of the entire Empire
  • Hoarding
  • Growing trade deficit
  • Declining productivity so that Rome became more dependent on foreign products
  • A breakdown in the labor force as the traditional work ethic declined
  • Class economic warfare between the rich and poor
  • Unequal tax policies: parts of the empire were not taxed while others were overtaxed
  • The small farm all but disappeared
  • The cost of government, including the military and welfare, became burdensome


  • The State collapsed under the weight of its own bureaucracy
  • Rome became “too big to defend”
  • Abandonment of the old religion, which had given moral strength to the Roman People
  • Abandonment of the old, good  institutions and virtues which had helped to bring Rome to greatness
  • The powers of government were divided/conflicted


  • Easy living made the Romans soft, permitting the Barbarians to overrun them with ease
  • Moral decay was evident as depicted in its literature, amusements, and lifestyles that often portrayed gratuitous sex and violence
  • Patriotism declined as people lost their allegiance to the state
  • Citizens lost interest in government as it became distant to them
  • Corruption also plagued the Roman legislature.  As the senate’s power grew,  they tended to rule for themselves rather than the people.

“Internal causes included political corruption, economic problems, and a series of leaders that — were more interested in their personal gain than in the welfare of the common people.  After Marcus Aurelius, emperors stopped ruling for the masses only to bring about a growing poor class and a dwindling rich.  The most important people in the empire had put aside the interests of the nation in place of their own.”

Wow.  That’s kind of like watching the nightly news.  Maybe we need to meditate on the old axiom, “History repeats itself.”

I don’t have any particular political affiliation; I don’t like labels.  But I always try to remain neutral and stay on the side of common sense and values of excellence and quality of life.  Yet excellence and quality of life usually require some form of sacrifice – the postponement of immediate gratification for the greater outcome.

So for me, this Fourth of July marked a time to rethink my own values, character, and the fact that… as a citizen of this world… I have a responsibility to speak up and get involved.  And if I don’t, then I need to shut up, go live my life on a mountaintop and contemplate my navel, because the world owes me nothing.



  1. Hello Christine,
    My name is joe young, I am an Efusjon Energy Club associate, and all I can say to your article is bravo, well said, well written, well researched. I don’t say it to ride your coat tail and spit at all the negatives, but because it is just truth. I became a part of the efusjon energy club because I saw something. I saw I could stand up in a country that I live in and make a difference for other people not just for my family. People I saw suffering and going into bankruptcy, being layed-off or suffering a reduced work week. After reading your article I re-hashed my reason and thought “Make A Difference In” not reach for leisure and support the uninvolved, the lazy, and head in the sand mentallity.

    Thanks so much for your article, kind regards, joe young

  2. Thanks for your comment, Joe; these really are tough times and we do need to support each other… as well as take responsibility for our own lives. We can’t wait for the government to do it.

    And, congratulations on your new venture. I looked up Efusjon Energy, and it looks like a good product…definitely needed in a time when everyone is so stressed.

    Best of luck…


  3. thanks Christine! Look forward to more of your articles…keep them coming!


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