The original “Woke” icon: “Remember that I have the right to do anything to anybody.” ~ Caligula, third emperor of Rome.

February 28, 2021 By The Crusader

Caligula in a winged helmet and holding double-headed arrows before a military scene in the background, even though the emperor had no military experience. (Credit: Public Domain) Gaius Caesar Germanicus, better known as Caligula, was 24 years old when he became the third Roman emperor in 37 A.D. But the young man ruled for only four years until he was brutally slain alongside his wife and daughter by a group of guardsmen and dumped into a shallow grave. His nickname “Caligula” translates to “Little Boot.” The unsuspecting monicker might have you believe that the emperor was something of a benevolent leader, but his historical record begs to differ. The third emperor reintroduced treason trials and performed public executions.

Up on your history? Here’s a narrative that will serve to illuminate the saying, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” — Lord Acton, British historian.

In Joe Biden terms, Caligula was a “Bad dude,” perhaps even worse than “Corn Pop.” History reveals just how bad…

The third of Rome’s emperors, Caligula (formally known as Gaius) achieved feats of waste and carnage during his four-year reign (A.D. 37-41) unmatched even by his infamous nephew Nero. The son of a great military leader, he escaped family intrigues to take the throne, but his personal and fiscal excesses led him to be the first Roman emperor to be assassinated.

Caligula was not quite 25 years old when he took power in 37 A.D. At first, his succession was welcomed in Rome: He announced political reforms and recalled all exiles. But in October of 37, a serious illness unhinged Caligula, leading him to spend the remainder of his reign exploring the worst aspects of his nature.

Caligula lavished money on building projects, from the practical (aqueducts and harbors) to the cultural (theaters and temples) to the downright bizarre (requisitioning hundreds of Roman merchant ships to construct a 2-mile floating bridge across the Bay of Bauli so he could spend two days galloping back and forth across it).

His relationships with other individuals were turbulent as well. His biographer Suetonius quotes his oft-repeated phrase, “Remember that I have the right to do anything to anybody.” He tormented high-ranking senators by making them run for miles in front of his chariot.

Caligula’s profligacy was draining the Roman treasury faster than he could replenish it through taxes and extortion. A conspiracy formed between the Praetorian Guard, the Senate and the equestrian order, and in late January of 41 A.D. Caligula was stabbed to death, along with his wife and daughter, by officers of the Praetorian Guard led by Cassius Chaerea. Thus, Cassius Dio notes, Caligula “learned by actual experience that he was not a god.”

And thus, we bring our history lesson full circle with this article by Benjamin Kerstein, “When Will the Woke Go Full Caligula?”

The other day, I was scrolling through Twitter when I happened upon this particular tweet, directed against the former New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss:

“Imagine if @bariweiss offered 10% of the defense she gives white supremacy to all the antifascist, Jewish-allied, Black and brown women of color she has made a career putting in danger,” it said. “NYT staff of color felt so unsafe around her that she had to resign.”

Something about this tweet struck me instantly: it was completely insane. No thinking person can hold that Weiss is anything but a political moderate with no sympathies whatsoever for white supremacism and neither the power nor the desire to harm anyone.

I also understood, however, the likely motivation behind the attack: Weiss has recently emerged as a strident voice against cancel culture and the amorphous but potent phenomenon known as “Woke.”

Kerstein continues with an explanation of “Wokeness” and its current effects on American society. In a rather amazing comparison, he focuses on the modern manifestation of Lord Acton’s quote about “Absolute power.”

It is worth inquiring into the nature of this madness. When I read that attack on Bari Weiss, what sprang to mind was Albert Camus’ play Caligula, a retelling of the well-known tale of the deranged third emperor of Rome. In the play, the initially benign ruler suffers an existential crisis. Realizing that he alone wields absolute power, he decides to follow the logic of that power to its ultimate conclusion. “It’s just because no one dares to follow up his ideas to the end that nothing is achieved,” he says. “All that’s needed is to be logical right through, at all costs.”

The Woke wield their power through social media spectacle; but nonetheless, this power is close to absolute. The Woke can mob who they want, slander who they want, deprive who they want of reputation and livelihood and ultimately destroy them. The Woke don’t need to kill people, because they can kill everything about them that is free.

The “Good News,” if one can believe that this horrific comparison is remotely valid, is that there is an unfortunate “surprise” waiting for the Woke crowd…

“The end of the movement may be a virtual version of Caligula’s, impaled by own subjects, screaming “I’m still alive!” even as he dies. This will no doubt be a terrible thing to witness, but we may comfort ourselves with the knowledge that, when it does happen, the world will enjoy just a bit more freedom than it did before.”

Perhaps we can borrow the theme of “We Shall Overcome” and appropriate a completely new and modern meaning for freedom loving patriots everywhere. The following rendition is beautifully performed by the Morehouse College Glee Club.