With Gore Vidal the last man of letters gone, there is a huge vacuum in a great scope of understanding of just exactly what kind of danger American history is really in and where it is going. Cicero was the last great oratorical gasp against Caesar crossing the Rubicon taking Rome from a Republic to an Empire. What Demosthenes was to Athens speaking out about overstepping bounds, Cicero was to Rome, as Plutarch in his great work Parallel Lives writes about in detail.
So why Cicero and why now? I can see a number of reasons. His searing and insightful warnings through eloquent speech. His perfect bulls-eye compositional prose with rhythm and delivery that would cut through today’s media. Also his emphasis on friendship for something as he says is, “More important than fire and water, not for mutual advantage but for common interest cemented and limited to virtue and justice.” The salient word here being “cemented.”
Another reason for just plain Ciceronian horse sense is we are mired in the midst of today’s hyper rationalism of the reductio absurdum of Dawkins’ and Dennet’s Post Modern dead-end road of the New Atheism, offering no more than just another null set. Cicero disagreed with the early Atomists of his day such as Leucippus and Democritus paradigm that everything is reduced to atoms and atoms alone leading to the presupposition of no spirit, no mystery, no divine.
Cicero said, “The general agreement of mankind establishes probability in favor of Divine Providence.” So we see Cicero siding with the consensus of the common man of the present day Optimates and Populares over the Theorists of his day, even when Cicero could easily match wits using theory and rhetoric with the best of them, because he was the best of them.
Is it any surprise that in the Post Christian Era the great Catholic Humanists like Augustine, Erasmus, Montaigne, Gilson, Maritan, and many, many others have stated that they owe such a great debt to this Pagan stoic giant? Cicero understood the wisdom of the collective common sense, having himself been raised outside of the Roman elite in the Italian countryside where his heart always remained. But I digress.
Cicero’s whole life was on the battle of the Senate floor, and this needs to be looked at by serious thinkers who choose Republic over Empire. The public sphere in today’s American arena of the marketplace of ideas is anemic, shallow, rife with chatter, all the while rushing headlong into imperial overstretch that was the same thing that brought about the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.
And, the glaring fact that nobody is even evoking his name and his warnings and not even asking the question, “Where is Cicero when we need him?” is proof positive that we indeed do need Cicero or a likewise facsimile of him today with booming verbal authority to just rip the mask off and expose the fortress of American Imperial propaganda.
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