Are We Fiddling While Rome Burns?

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

Solutions abound, but they require the retirement of obsolete systems that defend entrenched interests and soul-crushing inequalities.

It turns out Nero wasn't fiddling as Rome burned--he was 60 km away at the time. Did Nero Really Fiddle While Rome Burned?

The story has become short-hand for making light of a catastrophe, either out of self-interest (one theory had Nero clearing a site he desired for a palace with the fire) or out of a mad detachment from reality.

Are we fiddling while Rome burns? I would say yes--because we're not solving any of the structural problems that are dooming the status quo. Instead, we're allowing a corrupt, corporate mainstream media to distract us with fake "Russians hacked our election" hysteria, false "cultural war" mania, and a laughably Orwellian frenzy over fake news which magically avoids mentioning the propaganda narratives pushed 24/7 by the mainstream media--narratives that are the acme of fake news.

The media is only half the problem, of course; the audience doesn't want to hear about structural problems that can only be fixed by disrupting the status quo. If we don't accept that the financial system we inhabit is imploding, maybe all the problems will go away.

The system is coughing up blood and we still want to believe it is "recovering" from a cold.

Here's a short list of structural problems we should be tackling:

1. Soaring inequality and the institutionalization of economic privilege. Systemic economic privilege doesn't exist in a vacuum--it's enforced by a centralized hierarchy, a dynamic I describe in my book Inequality and the Collapse of Privilege. Systemic inequality doesn't just undermine the economy--it also undermines the social and political orders.

2. The central state (government) has one default setting: endless expansion into every nook and cranny of daily life. There are no mechanisms for contraction and no institutional memory of government reducing its control of every aspect of life.

As I explain in my book Resistance, Revolution, Liberation: A Model for Positive Change, this concentration of power attracts concentrations of wealth which then buy the machinery of governance: democracy is reduced to an auction that excludes the bottom 99.9%.

3. Finance has detached from the real-world economy, distorting every function via financialization, which concentrates income and wealth in the hands of the few. As I have often explained in the blog (and in my book Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform), if we don't change the way we create and distribute credit-money, we change nothing.

4. Our educational system is obsolete but the the current system is incapable of transformation for structural reasons. These include high sunk costs, bureaucratic sclerosis, self-serving fiefdoms that fear disruption of their gravy trains, a lack of understanding of the emerging economy, a dysfunctional centralized hierarchy and the state-funded exploitive machinery of student-loan debt.

I explain all this and present a model that would cut costs by 90% in my book The Nearly Free University and the Emerging Economy.

5. The economy and thus our society (i.e. our mode of production) are changing beneath our feet in dramatic ways. Highly centralized hierarchies (government, corporations) are the wrong unit size and structure to manage this transformation to the benefit of all rather than to the benefit of the few.

I present a decentralized non-state, non-corporate, non-financialized model in my book A Radically Beneficial World: Automation, Technology & Creating Jobs for All.

For individuals navigating these disruptive forces, I wrote an overview guide to the emerging economy, Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy.

Solutions abound, but they require the retirement of obsolete systems that defend entrenched interests and soul-crushing inequalities. The world is changing rapidly, and centralized systems that worked well in the past are failing because they are optimized for a world that no longer exists.

The status quo is coughing up blood, and the situation is dire. Denial won't fix what's broken, and neither will magical thinking (the economy is "recovering," symbolic gestures and virtue-signaling will fix everything, etc.) Clinging to the absurd hope that the status quo just has a nagging cold will only increase the disorder when the system breaks down.

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The Cooler King's picture

Well my daddy taught me young

how to hunt & how to whittle

taught me how to work

& play tunes on the fiddle

Gaius Frakkin' Baltar's picture

The worst problem is changing demographics.

You know, the problem no one wants to talk about.

The sacred cow. The elephant in the room.

skbull44's picture

Unfortunately, large, complex systems cannot be fixed through tinkering. It is only through some type of system reset that things will 'improve'. In fact, once the costs of these systems become overburdonsome most people will opt for simpler solutions by abandoning complexity and welcoming the coming collapse.


The Cooler King's picture

Well I'd play Sally Gooding all day if I could,
but the lord and my wife wouldn't take it very good.
So I fiddle when I can and I work when I should

shovelhead's picture

Need some mando chops and a few random triplets for that Sally?

Handful of Dust's picture

The Dems are too  busy tearing down America rather then building it up.


Don't bother them. or one of those peeple dressed in black may you to death in the name of peace.

GUS100CORRINA's picture

Are We Fiddling While Rome Burns?

My response: YES!!! ROFL!!! This "fiddling" has been going on for two decades now.

When America wakes up from HER slumber is anyone's guess. But I do know one thing for certain: "GOD in HEAVEN is long suffering and patient, but HIS patience is NOT INFINITE!"

To quote Thomas Jefferson ..

"I tremble for my nation when I know that GOD is JUST and HIS JUSTICE cannot sleep forever."


HalinCA's picture

"Most people" have no choice, really.

People who live month to month, wihtout a self funded retirement, are just fooked. The collapse will kill them.

CHX13's picture

Nuclear option... ? "If you like your mushroom in the sky, you can keep your mushroom..."

lil dirtball's picture

WTF is this article? "My book, my book, my book ... "

Another three-name seller of truth. It's 'Alt', so it must be good/true.

Spooks and stooges.

Muslimania's picture

Bingo. This sounds like a used car advertisement. Prick is just trying to sell books. Must be an academic type with the flowery language he uses. Double adjectives and all. I am throwing the BS flag on this article.

Uncertain T's picture

I thought this was an advertisement for a home library

peopledontwanttruth's picture

Blood is thicker than water

The day is coming where demographics will play a much bigger role than we could see coming. People will seek out their lineage and blood, Babylon will split and her resources dry up.

shovelhead's picture

Oy Veh! Always with the Babylon...

When are you gonna get over it?

detached.amusement's picture

most people that mention her have NO fkn clue what they're talking about

peopledontwanttruth's picture

I'm always open to any interpretation and information to ensure what I think Babylon the Great is, that's the one I was referring to since the other fell in 539BC and eventually destroyed and abandoned centuries later.


SixIsNinE's picture

Bumba Clot!  Mob Barley mon!


peopledontwanttruth's picture

When she is totally destroyed. So will everyone else.

Do you track everyone's comments or just mine since our first encounter on ZH

Mustafa Kemal's picture

"The worst problem is changing demographics."

I disagree. Yes, demographics is big, but that is doable.

The real problem is the Banksters and the CIA/ Moussad

and Citizens United.


Donald now officially owns Winning in Afghanistan.

Soon we will have Winning in Venezuela

and Winning in North Korea

That is, if we can get our Navy to steer their boats correctly.


Antifa and BLM are raising hell over statues. And what are they doing about our War Machine?

shovelhead's picture

You think they give a fuck about reality?

These are the original "Look, Squirrel" people.

Real Generals pushing buttons and wiping out hundreds of people aren't nearly as important than statues of dead Generals in the park.

SixIsNinE's picture

and of course the media softened up on The Don today...

big article  "Trump Team Prepared for 2020 contenders "  and Chelsea Clinton sticks up for lil Baron Trump again !


see... Wag the F'in Dog, Biatchezz !  GoldBitcoins FTW!


Cash2Riches's picture

The geopolitical situation that we are in, is obviously still eroding, will we hit a full blown tipping point, who knows? But honestly, it definitely feels like we are in a massive cultural change. Inflation is going to rocket higher again and gold is eventually going to resume its bull run as the markets realize that we are short term screwed.

pc_babe's picture

Save the mohair! Save the Helium! Save the EPA!

Arrest Hillary's picture

Rampant Socialism needs to be fine tuned .... with a little Capitalism .... "Glasnost" ? LOL

Mustafa Kemal's picture

"Rampant Socialism needs to be fine tuned .... with a little Capitalism ."

That indeed is the root of fascism

Son of Captain Nemo's picture

First of all this Empire called America ain't Rome and WILL NEVER BE given it's soon to be SHORT ASSED 228 year old LIFE!

"Fiddling" was so 9/11/2001!

What has followed it could have only been the dream of someone far moar devious and demented than Nero and the worse than retarded slave/"citizens" that the Republic of Rome NEVER would have allowed in the FIRST PLACE!

Xredsx's picture

None of this chaos we are seeing is in no way by accident. And the actually truth of the bigger picture is the simple fact that we dont know, what we dont know. But there is a war on for the mind. And the out come is either the death of humanity, or peace on earth. 

lil dirtball's picture

> death of humanity, or peace on earth

Quite the conundrum. With one will come the other.

Son of Captain Nemo's picture

Well Arnold it's debatable when the Roman Empire's best days were officially behind them but even after Augustus the Empire still had Marcus Aurelius and Constantine which was added another 350 + years to the roughly 200 that were in front of it!

I guess to my point. Both the Roman Leadership and the people in that Republic had critical thinking skills that were far beyond anything we possess in the 21st Century and knew what the self-imposed boundaries and rules were that kept them from complete collapse and would get them "whacked" if they crossed them!

Not so for Washington D.C. London and Tel Aviv CLEARLY!!!

Justin Case's picture

Rome managed to exist for almost a 500 years.
Merica will come to an end b/c those that run the corporation will only continue to seek moar power and riches. They live in a different world and fail to see what is going on or why. They are arogant and feel they make all the right decisions. They will never admit to failure.

Steady as she goes, batten down the hatches.

Son of Captain Nemo's picture

No JC Rome lasted for more than 500 years. More like 700 to 900 years. And the reason it did is for the comment I previously made about "boundaries" and laws they followed "OR ELSE"!

nevenbridge's picture

27BC–476AD Western (503 years)
27BC–1453AD Eastern (1480 years)

but Rome as a city was fundend in 753BC so you could say that the roman journey lasted for 2206 years.

marathonman's picture

The reverb is the modern fiddle.

Arrest Hillary's picture

I like my Capitalism .... like my gold .... .9999 pure ?

Justin Case's picture

Capitalism is a society where billionaire capitalists own vast companies, banks, shares, and much of the land as well. Elected governments are bent to the will of the big corporations which the capitalists own. To achieve genuine socialism, this ownership of the world's wealth by the 1% must be ended. Capitalism means that a great deal of our society's resources, needed to produce the things we need, are privately owned.

Capitalism is based on the private ownership of the productive forces (factories, offices, science and technique)

The bosses of the big corporate enterprises always threaten that if wages and conditions are not worsened, they will take their business to another country where wages are lower.

factorypreset's picture

I doubt there has ever been a time where pure capitalism existed in this country or any other. Like any socio-economic system it is vulnerable to corruption by the humans implementing it - specifically "cronyism".  That said it still seems to stand up better than socialism or communism. 

shovelhead's picture

Capitalism is buying screws at the hardware store. which is handy because making your own screws ain't easy. Division of labor is a benefit.

The screw manufacturer buying Congressmen to write favorable laws that exclude small manufacturers from competing is not capitalism, but crime. Legal, but still crime nontheless.

A useful distinction. The problem isn't capitalism. The problem is crime.

nevenbridge's picture

the problem is not crime, the problem is that you, "the people", don't care about crimes, you just wine, eat hamburgers, watch TV and fart. You deserve everything that you accept. If you accept to be a slave then you are nothing more than a slave.

Kina's picture

When the structures of a building age, decay and fall apart the whole buildiing comes crashing down.

US economic, financial, societal, political, cultural and geopolitical stuctures have advanced emphysema and suriving on oxygen thereapy.

Ron_Mexico's picture

hey, could ya pass me one of those "Newports"?

SixIsNinE's picture

sorry Ron - Newports are banned, for you health - but here, have a Marlboro



(California actually recently announced maybe banning newports - haven't seen if they did or not)


J J Pettigrew's picture

"..obsolete systems that defend entrenched interests and soul-crushing inequalities."

you mean like a Federal Reserve that is run by the banks for the banks by bankers and brokerage houses?

That disguises itself as a free maket tool but sets the cost of money by committee?

Justin Case's picture

The Dodd-Frank Act was the Financial Stability Oversight Council (“Council”) to oversee financial institutions. Once this act was repealed, markets became a casino. Fraud runs ramped with dog and pony shows of violating institutions, getting a slap on the wrist and they carry on with fraud. It's not a deterant, it's just for the public to believe there is oversight, to keep sheeple playing the markets. Justifications such as TBTF are excuses. The real problem was they were too big? Chop them down and regulate their size.

Merica is doomed to fail and there is nothing that can stop it.

Life of Illusion's picture


BS, repealed my ass

FSOC never used powers they had to liquidate assets.

FED steps in and buys toxics

marathonman's picture

Dodd-Frank was a gigantic nothing burger that was designed to strangle the smaller banks.