An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals by David Hume, Eric Steinberg, J. B. Schneewind
By David Hume, Eric Steinberg, J. B. Schneewind
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Rather, in a 180-degree turnabout from the usual austere rhetoric of wartime, Uncle Sam now wants us to liberate our individual desires in the face of the axis of evil (defined primarily as anti-desire, anti-individual, fundamentalist repression): so we’re asked to consume, travel, refinance our mortgage at lower rates, buy durable household goods. Follow our personal desires; that’ll stick it to al-Qaeda. Indeed, when Led Zeppelin plays over Cadillac commercials and a Rolling Stones tour can be brought to you quite literally by the housing bubble (the Stones’ 2005 official tour sponsor was now-defunct AmeriQuest Mortgage), you have to assume that the cultural rebellion narratives of the ’60s, which often revolved around the liberation of an individual’s or group’s desire in the face of various social repressions, can now officially be pronounced dead.
Seeing that Caesar distrusts him and favors Maximus— or, worse, that Caesar intends to turn power over to the Senate—Commodus murders his father and ascends immediately to the role of emperor. Aside from the simple motivating force of Commodus’s lust for power, the audience can’t help noting that Commodus also grasps a complex historical truth: after the defeat of the Germanians, the old emperor has outlived c u l t u r e a n d e c o n o m i c s his usefulness. The skills of the father—assimilating and annexing land through warfare—are not the skills required for managing a vast transnational and multicultural empire.
Indeed, they don’t get much more reprehensible than Commodus: incest and the hint of child molesting are bad enough, but this guy’s even shown to be a bad sport, having fatally wounded a bound and helpless Maximus moments before their final battle in the Colosseum. So Maximus is forced to stumble through—and of course win—the battle while dying from this wound. After the mutual death of Maximus and Commodus in the Colosseum, the Senate is poised to take power at the conclusion of the film, with Senator Gracchus (Derek Jacobi) as their leader.