Mayweather vs. McGregor. It’s been labeled “the most lucrative fight in history.” Economists estimate the bout will be one of gladiator proportion, netting nearly $1 billion spent by American consumers. I think the fight is also an omen for America’s future.
That might seem extreme. But if history repeats itself, then the Mayweather-McGregor fight is a clear sign that America is nearing its end as an empire. Not because a bell will ring and each man will throw punches before walking away with $100 million. No, what matters is for whom the bell tolls outside of the ring.
According to history, failed empires like the Romans, Ottomans, Achaemenids and Han Dynasty all share one thing in common: entertaining gladiator contests as their harbingers of death. Let me be clear: The fights alone did not cause those empires to crumble. Rather, turning away from virtues that made them great and towards vices that destroyed them is what caused their fall. Indulging in entertainment, luxurious parties and substance abuse, while ignoring the plight of its people, is what brought about destruction.
Do you remember the artful movie Gladiator? I think life is imitating art in three disturbing ways today. Remember the virtuous Maximus (played by Russell Crowe) who screamed at the crowded coliseum “Are you not entertained!?!” Or the vice-driven-emperor Commodus who recklessly sought to be loved, adored and deified? Finally, remember the crowded sea of faces roaring inside of the coliseum drowning in that mind-numbing anesthetizing drug called entertainment? We may not have coliseums to fill, but just like the movie, Americans will certainly fill living rooms, bars and other venues to watch this gladiator competition.
Speaking of egomaniac emperors, I can’t help but think of a certain someone in D.C. who “acts” just like that villain-emperor from the movie. Sadly, both America and its president are playing their Gladiator roles quite well. Where is the Maximus among us to help save us from ourselves?
We are in perilous times as a nation. Like Rome, America is neglecting its people, steeped in internal conflict and ignoring external threats. Too many American families live in poverty with no help in sight.
Moreover, Americans are engaged in deadly internal conflict. Just like the tribal warfare between the Hutus and Tutsi in Africa, none of us will escape the same pains of tribal warfare here in America – Charlottesville is a prime example. Sadly, we also have become indifferent to the external threats that grow every time our emperor tweets. And yet, America prepares to watch a billion-dollar fight while our children go hungry, domestic terrorists prepare for civil war and international agitators stoke the fires of World War 3.
Unfortunately, Charlotte is just as guilty. Following a tumultuous year of civil unrest and revelations about shortcomings in upward mobility, our leaders have shown their Romanesque leadership skills. While affordable housing dies like a moth to a flame, our leaders have lit another path for entertainment: the MLS stadium. Seriously, the prophets from the East Coast All Star group (circa 1987) were right: “self-destruction, ya headed for self-destruction?”
When the end comes for our empire, a single fight won’t be the ultimate cause. Rather, it will be how our country was so intent on being entertained, but so willfully ignorant of our problems. If history is knocking on our door, then I think the ring announcer’s “Are you ready to rumble!” should very well be “Are you ready to crumble?”
Romain is an assistant public defender and adjunct professor at UNC Charlotte who serves in a volunteer capacity at numerous local nonprofits.