“If you’ve got distractions in front of you, your mind goes nuts.” Simon Cowell
Contrary to what we’ve been told in history books, The Roman Empire didn’t fall because of barbarians. Not that there weren’t barbarians. There were more barbarians than you could shake a stick at. Thing is, though, the hordes, as they were called, wouldn’t have been an issue if Romans weren’t distracted by everything from gladiators to peacocks.
When the Goths stormed the gates, Roman citizens couldn’t tell the difference between an invasion and a reenactment. In fact, their first words to the interlopers were, “Are you performing at the Colosseum tonight?”
By the end of the 3rd century AD, men refused to marry, children were raised without fathers, and wives lost interest in childrearing.
Rome was a hopping place, offering free performances in open-air theatres, Olympic games, and regular blockbusters like gladiators, naval battles, and feeding Christians to the lions (actually, this has been disputed; Christians were never eaten by lions, they were simply mauled until they didn’t care what religion they were).
History tends to be full of distractions that either make or break an empire. Wars are distractions, usually led by leaders who can’t lead and societies that can’t think. With it comes a type of moral decay which Romans had in spades. By the turn of the 3rd century AD, men refused to marry, children were raised without fathers, and wives lost interest in childrearing.
As women started attaining more wealth and position, men lost their motivation. They turned to things like prostitution, homosexuality and vice. Women — not to be outdone by men — turned to women.
All their games, toys and sexual romps showed what silly ninnies the Romans had become. They were no match for the Goths, who were serious interlopers and made a lot of coin kidnapping and ransoming Roman subjects. Within a ten-year period, they collected over 6 tons of gold in ransom.
All that ransoming put quite a strain on the Roman coffers, but Rome was rich, and paying off barbarians was pretty common. Romans didn’t think a thing of it until the barbarians turned ugly. There was a lot of blood spilled, something you had to expect from barbarians. Did it cause the fall of the Roman empire? Not really. If anything, the barbarians were a mopping-up operation, something that quickened what was already a moral collapse in Roman society.
Now let’s fast forward to today. It seems what took Romans centuries to achieve, we’re doing in a matter of decades. In just the past year alone, we’ve brought distractions to a level never seen before in history.
Today, the equivalent of the barbarian hordes are the Islamic extremists threatening attacks on American soil. Imagine what would happen if an Islamic terrorist came face to face with an American looking for a Pokémon.
In Indonesia, officials banned employees from chasing Pokémons at the Presidential palace.
A few years back, in an exercise of true ninniness with a tragic outcome, a teenager was killed trying to find a Pokémon in someone’s kitchen. The owner, an elderly widow, thought he was a burglar and shot him.
At least in Bosnia, Pokémon Go players were told to avoid marked areas littered with unexploded mines left over from the 90s. In Indonesia, officials banned employees from chasing Pokémons at the Presidential palace.
The Toronto Transit Authority sent out warnings that “no Pokémons were on the TTC tracks.”
These may seem like silly old examples, except we’re following the early Romans more than we think. Like them, we’re now at a below-replacement birthrate, which we’re shoring up with increased immigration numbers.
A Missouri rodeo clown was banned from performing because he wore a Obama mask. He’s since had to take sensitivity training.
We’re also doing a better job than the Romans when it comes to rumor, backstabbing, and general badmouthing. We may not be bumping off emperors, but we do like a good messy fight, especially if political correctness and litigation are involved
A high school senior sued the Tallahassee School Board after she didn’t make the cheerleading team. A Missouri rodeo clown was banned from performing because he wore an Obama mask. He’s since been taking sensitivity training.
Pokémons, talentless cheerleaders, rodeo clowns—they may all seem like harmless affectations of our modern age, but they’re serious distractions—more so now than when Romans sliced and diced Christians (with the help of lions, which couldn’t tell a Christian from a Visigoth).
Distractions affect us more than we realize. In fact, we don’t know what we’d do without them. One reader pointed out, “Nobody wants their problems solved. They want their distractions. They want their mess cleaned up. Because what would they have left?”
That’s a good question. What would we have left? If life is just distractions, maybe we need a few angry hordes. Not the raping and pillaging kind, obviously. What we really need is a refresher course on why we’re here in the first place. Surely it’s not to chase Pokémons or admonish rodeo clowns.
Or is it? Are we too distracted to find out?
Robert Cormack is a freelance copywriter, novelist and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores. For more information, check out Skyhorse Press or Yucca Publishing.