Wednesday, May 14, 2008
One cannot help but exclaim at the sight of McDonald's sponsored signs pointing the way to the pantheon. In fairness, the signs are at least as accurate as they are disturbing. Although the McDonald's sign is not intended to be a piece of art in and of itself, the golden arches are a powerful representation as most art seeks to be. Much like the Obelisk of Montecitorio, they mark a publicly useful object, in this case a sign, with a representation of the organization that erected the sign. Like Augustus in ancient Rome, one is encouraged to credit McDonald's with the minor importance of helping one get through the day, if only in some small way. It seems that McDonald's, a contemporary multinational corporation, has now claimed the power of the public interest much in the way Augustus did in 10BC. This perspective both sheds light on McDonald's role in our contemporary society and on the nature of Augustus's power so long ago. Perhaps there is some historical benefit in thinking of Caesar Augustus (or the Caesars in general) as a brand of Roman leadership.