Monday Over Coffee: "Furthermore, I Propose..."

Published January 23, 2023 by Greg Funderburk

Furthermore, I propose that Carthage must be destroyed.
— Cato the Elder (234–149 BC)

The Roman senator known to history as Cato the Elder for a long time ended every speech he gave like this:

Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam. 

"Furthermore, I propose that Carthage must be destroyed."

It didn't matter what topic Cato's speech actually concerned, he would invariably conclude in this way before taking his seat. If the question at hand was about a mundane domestic matter—the harvest, an aqueduct, something about the disposal of trash in the city—he still ended his remarks with his emphatic position on the city of Carthage's existence. It didn't matter what his audience had come to hear or the time allotted for him to speak, he always pivoted as he wrapped up in order to remind everyone that he considered it imperative that Carthage, Rome's rival city-state neighbor to the south across the Mediterranean, must not just be defeated but be altogether obliterated.

Although Rome had already been victorious over Carthage in what historians call the First and Second Punic Wars, in Cato's time the Carthaginians—from their bustling seaport city located along on the northern coast of present-day Tunisia—continued to vex the Romans, inflicting losses and ongoing humiliations on their bigger neighbor. Cato took note of this. A soldier himself, he had visited Carthage and, even after their defeats, saw that Rome's nemesis remained wealthy, angry, and altogether committed to plans to fight again. With this in mind, he considered Carthage an ongoing existential threat to his own country and said so. Repeatedly. It took up, we might say today, a lot of bandwidth in Cato's mind.

After Cato died, Rome did in fact wage against Carthage again in what became known as the Third Punic War, and this time the Romans indeed razed their rival city to the ground, even salting the soil so that nothing would grow there in the future. The senate in Rome then passed a law stating that no structure could be built upon their conquered territory in North Africa to ensure they'd not have to address the matter again. Carthage had been destroyed.

Marianne Thieme is a Dutch politician, author, and animal rights activist. For about two decades, she's led a political party in the Netherlands known as the Party for the Animals. Serving in the Dutch House of Representatives from 2006 to 2019, Thieme adopted Cato's ancient oratorical practice, modified to some degree to suit her own political beliefs, with the phrase:

Voorts zijn wij van mening dat er een einde moet komen aan de bio-industrie.

"Furthermore, we propose that factory farming has to be ended."

While her formulation was perhaps not as dramatic as Cato's, Thieme, just like the Roman senator from whom she borrowed this phraseology, concluded every single one of her speeches and addresses during her public career in this way. Just as Cato had done, no matter what the underlying subject, Thieme emphatically, repeatedly, and memorably expressed her deepest convictions—the key imperative on which her life's work was based—in this way.

I don't know what exactly you might think of these particular stated devotions of the Roman senator Cato or Marianne Thieme of the Netherlands, but what if—conceptually if not specifically—we considered doing the same thing as they did. That is, what if we were to adopt a ceterum censeo statement of our own—a "Furthermore, I propose..." declaration for ourselves?

Give it some deep consideration. What is imperative for you? What, more than anything else in the world, do you want to bring about, in your lifetime, or even beyond your lifetime? What would you propose? What sort of assertion is worth repeating again and again and again because it must, in your estimation, transpire? Can you devise an affirmation of your most closely held conviction in such emphatic language that no one, least of all you, might forget how you intend to spend the currency of your highest attentions and most effective energies? What noble endeavor merits such bandwidth in a life? Think about it. Here, let me help:

Furthermore, I propose, ____________________________.

God — Help me to propose, then fix upon a single, noble, and well-considered aim for my life, exerting each day my primary, though not exclusive efforts, toward its accomplishment. Amen.

— Greg Funderburk