Citizen Trump: The last Caesar
“Brilliant, stupid, crazy, and cowardly, enlightened, dazed, talented, crippled, insane, but always powerful. They governed half of the then known world, with hundreds of different peoples, languages, cultures, conditions and characteristics. A range of the conquered from passive to horrendously aggressive, yet some emperors performed with unbelievable ability. Others with almost unimaginable incompetence. No one can disagree with the importance of the emperors both in the growth and survival of the empire and the weakening of the empire.” (culled from “The mighty emperors of powerful Rome – A collection of humans and not so human fellows.” Google).
Regardless of their strengths, proclivities, idiosyncrasies, foibles or mental state, the power of the Roman emperor impacted the wide flung Roman Empire. Today, more alarmingly, the dreaded military force and financial juggernaut, which is the United States of America, has the potential to impact or affect every nation on the planet. The U.S. is the “primus inter pares” among super powers, possessing the world’s strongest military and the world’s reserve currency. This informs our decision to monitor unprecedented current U.S. political events and trends dispassionately with eagle eyed interest and amidst much universal trepidation.
The fact that President Trump needs constant affirmation and adulation and cannot survive without being pandered to and fawned over, is not only palpable, but painful and pathetic to digest, leaving stakeholders and onlookers dazed and discombobulated. He will never brook any dissent or criticism -constructive, corrective or otherwise, even in the face of blatant fallacies, improbabilities, incongruities and absurdities that he chooses to advance willy nilly. Nothing short of “emperor worship “will quench his insatiable thirst for unrestrained attention and lavish approval, as well as assuage his hypersensitivity. Caligula (AD 12 – 41) was similarly burdened with these character traits. He was supposedly prematurely bald and this was a source of great embarrassment. Consequently, he made it a capital crime for anyone to look down from a high place as he passed by and he sometimes ordered those blessed with healthy locks of hair to be shaved. Conversely, he had copious amounts of body hair, which was equally embarrassing. Therefore, great care was taken by those in conversation with him not to utter the words “hairy goats,” no matter how innocuously.
President Trump has held democracy hostage as he pours all his energy into muzzling the American free press, a sacrosanct democratic institution, pivotal in ensuring the transparency and accountability of the government of the day. On his first day of office he deemed it a high priority to declare “war with the media,” which by extrapolation is tantamount to “war on democracy”. He will only favour and tolerate members of the media who are prepared to “genuflect or prostate” before him. His goal is no doubt “a state endorsed media”. This is antithetical to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, a travesty that American legal luminaries might do well to look into. Not only are his actions and random diatribes against the media shockingly disgraceful, his “war” is an egregious affront and tragedy of epic proportions to the many countries that have suffered from American wars of aggression, in its self-anointed role of “custodians of democracy.”
Furthermore, the deepening and widening crisis does not bode well for the health and stability of democracies all over the world, as aspiring and jaded politicians take their cues from the “model democracy.” The American populace and global citizens were promised by members of his inner circle that Mr. Trump’s dangerous campaign rhetoric, flights of fancy, tantrums and off kilter, bizarre political positions, would yield to conduct and attitudes more befitting to the person and office of the U.S. President and leader of the free world, if he were to win the 2016 election. However, it would seem that his power elite retainers, including his vice – president, press secretary et al, are his willing or reluctant accomplices who are still being reduced to a “mop up crew” on “tidy up duty.”
This devil may care attitude led to the downfall of Julius Caesar (100 BC – 44 BC) who was fêted for his brilliance and celebrated as an erudite scholar, orator, military tactician par excellence and indefatigable leader. He had an insatiable lust for power and was also cunning and exploitative. Julius Caesar had 3 wives and several mistresses. He viewed himself to be above the law and when the Roman senate attempted to prosecute him, he led an army on Rome ,which resulted in a civil war from which he emerged victorious. He was eventually killed by a group of senators due to his lust for power.
On the other hand, the Achilles heel of Domitian(AD 51- 96) was paranoia, a condition described by Merriam-Webster as “systematized delusions of persecution or grandeur.” He was also despotic and eager to seek glory. He was not deemed fit for office by his father, Vespasian, who carefully groomed his heir Titus, elder brother to Domitian. Upon the demise of Titus, Domitian was declared emperor by the senate. He then embarked on military campaigns designed to enshrine his prowess in perpetuity and rival the achievements of his predecessors. He would often visit the senate in full military regalia, commensurate to that of a victorious general and would a times venture in to public areas, clad in the same sartorial magnificence. He was able to raise the wages of soldiers, which was overdue as a result of inflation. This made him immensely popular. He was a megalomaniac and preferred to be addressed as “dominus et deus” (master and god). He proclaimed himself “perpetual censor” which gave him almost unlimited power over the senate, whose members he treated with open contempt. Eventually, his tyranny became unbearable, leading to his assassination. He was remembered for his “reign of terror.”
On the 25th of January, in referring to President Trump’s first official tour of office, which was a visit to the Central Intelligence Agency, a CNN political analyst stated that proceedings at the event were “a strange start to the Presidency”. It is an irrefutable fact and one of universal application, that power is a corrupting force and influence. Such is its potency, allure and addictiveness, that by its very nature, the irrational and unrestrained exercise of power always lead to catastrophic results. The salient question is whether things will improve or spiral downwards from here on? Given that “absolute power corrupts absolutely”, I think not. I believe that such will be the very hard lessons learned by the American electorate that “character” and “temperament” will always be a major factor in future elections. That is why I believe that president Trump will be the last Caesar!
Fowler, LL.B, B.L, LL.M (Harvard).