How often do you think about the Roman Empire?
There is a fascinating trend currently on TikTok in which women record men responding to the question, "How often do you think about the Roman Empire?" Most men respond with a frequency that ranges from once a week to multiple times a day.
Here is a compilation of some:
This highlighted an interesting insight into privilege. The trend reveals the luxury some people have pondering abstract ideas like a fallen empire. Most people with chronic illness will tell you that it consumes their life, for instance. It is difficult to even think about basic needs let alone dedicating mental energy to esoteric interests that go back 2,000 years.
Securing food, shelter, and healthcare does not allow for much time to think about one empire out of the many vast and powerful empires that have existed. Those dealing with poverty, disability, chronic illness, or other challenges do not have the privilege to ruminate on subjects like the Roman Empire. Their mental capacity is devoted to meeting basic needs, managing pain, accessing social services, and surviving within financial limitations.
People with medical conditions have thoughts that are often dominated by navigating access to medical care and maintaining life with disability. They must constantly weigh the prohibitive costs of care against their health needs. Appointments, medications, and treatments require difficult decisions about affordability. Will insurance cover this test or medication? Can I pay the copay? What if I need an ambulance or need to go to the emergency department? The exorbitant costs of healthcare in the United States hang over every choice and thought for the ill and disabled.
Beyond costs, people with disability, chronic illness, and/or pain must manage fluctuating health and functionality day-to-day. Simply getting through daily obligations requires assessing one's current pain levels, energy limits, mobility, cognitive function, and medical stability. Tasks become exercises in listening to one's body and balancing productivity with self-care. The privilege of constant and steady good health is rarely appreciated by those that have never faced this struggle.
Additionally, those with medical challenges must endure the mental load of emergency preparedness that the healthy often overlook. Who can I call if I run out of medication? Do I have access to treatment if my condition suddenly worsens? How about during a natural disaster? Having a plan for medical crises requires significant mental real estate.
Finally, the disabled and chronically ill often worry about their livelihoods as health impacts their ability to work consistently. Keeping a job with an unpredictable body or seeking disability benefits creates endless logistical, financial, and existential concerns.
Beyond those with chronic illnesses or basic survival needs, there are many other marginalized demographics that do not have the luxury of such "intellectual" pursuits. For example, women must dedicate mental energy to assessing potential dangers when conducting basic activities like walking alone outside. The constant threat of harassment or assault means a simple act like commuting becomes a mental exercise in risk calculation, hypervigilance, and fear. Their minds cannot wander freely if they are actively ensuring their safety.
Additionally, women are aware that the freedoms they have today are fragile. As one TikTok user insightfully pointed out, the Salem Witch Trials could happen again in today's climate of “red pill” brainwashing our younger generations. This absurd chapter of human history had little to do with actual witchcraft, but an excuse to persecute, oppress, and execute women. The fact that women live with this looming possibility shows that women's rights and freedoms are still vulnerable.
While intellectual curiosity and knowledge of history are valuable, this TikTok trend highlights a privilege that many of us don’t have. You are not alone. Many people do not have the luxury of time and mental energy to dedicate to other thoughts and that’s okay. Let’s work on correcting these imbalances of privilege in society and advocating for ourselves.