The building Roman Coliseum was begun by the Emperor Vespasian in the year 72 A.D. and was completed by the Emperor Titus in 80 A.D.
We all know what happened in the coliseum (or colosseum, if you prefer that spelling) and we have used the historical knowledge of “death and violence as entertainment” that occurred there, as a way to justify, or excuse, all types of bad behavior.
In the modern era, our time, an image of the building is featured on the Italian version of the five-cent Euro coin.
There are three things to consider about the coliseum, and the events that occurred there, and how they relate to our own potential, social commons future:
The Emperor Vespasian constructed the Flavian Amphitheatre as a part of the beginning of Imperial Rome’s transformation “from a kingdom of gold to one of rust and iron.” In essence, the construction of the building and the acts committed in it were the beginning of the last gasps of Imperial Rome.
Historians, politicans and philosophers often get stuck explaining the events at the coliseum. But keep in mind, they were not considered to be out of the ordinary for the 80-90% of Roman citizens who lived at a subsistence level or just above.
Imperial Rome had it’s own 1% issues…
Spectacles, events, and contests between people could—for the Roman crowd—quickly degenerate from merely an observed spectacle to a violent mob action, requiring troops to kill people.
So what, right?
Well, think about it for a second: The social media coliseums that contemporary, Western technologists have built, where bully, hazing, and trolling runt rampant is our own fault, from Reddit to Twitter.
The tragedy of the social media commons, is that when a party (or parties) uses a resource for free and is then tasked with maintaining order in it, the resource is damaged by signs of conflict, bad behavior, and other poor choices.
Similar to the coliseum, the social media commons (some would call them cesspools) seem to allow and encourage any spectacle, no matter how debased, debauched, and damaging to the participants—and the observers.
And, as our world becomes more interconnected, not less, the coliseum grows, to encompass people from different faith backgrounds and ideologies (Has anyone seen the latest ISIS video on YouTube?) who will use the forum of social media to recruit, train, propagandize and in general “do unto others.”
What’s the way out of this?
We don’t know, but we do know this: The circles of the arena are getting larger everyday, not smaller.
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: firstname.lastname@example.org