"Sed fortuna, quae plurimum potest cum in reliquis rebus tum praecipue in bello, parvis momentis magnas rerum commutationes efficit; ut tum accidit."

C. Iulius Caesar - Commentarii de Bello Civili Bk III.68

Saturday, April 16, 2005

The barge of the dead

The Gens Minia has apparently emigrated from Nova Roma to found a new organisation. This group, I forget its name and have no intention of looking it up, intends to best Nova Roma at its own game, by being home to just about anyone. No viewpoint, ideology, belief, goal or time period is outside the scope of this barge of the dead.

No doubt it will stagger across the e-waves, initially born slightly faster than it deserves, navigating the choppy waters of imperial rule, constitutions, laws and issues over religions. Eventually though it will strike the rock of reality and spill its cargo of cadavers into the waters of the Internet, forever to be sundered and lost in recriminations, dashed dreams and petty squabbles. Could I be wrong? Of course, but given the fate of most Internet based groups I doubt it.

The actual event itself is utterly irrelevant to Nova Roma. There has already been a range of views expressed, from outright sarcasm and references to an association with sanitary equipment, to a request from Caeso Fabius Buteo Quintilianus for a more sombre approach to the matter.

I say let them sail on, no doubt tipping overboard the corpses of those who either actually find something concrete to believe in, or those who fall prey to the caprices of their “Imperator”. They should all greet him on some message board with the phrase “Those who are already dead and just unburied salute you!” Imperator of what? What absolute fatuous, and predictable, childish nonsense.

This event only serves to demonstrate that Nova Roma cannot become all things to all people without becoming equally ridiculous. There is a real issue underpinning this though, and that is purpose. What is the purpose of Nova Roma? The long term goals have been fairly well enunciated, debated, fought over, buried, exhumed, re-buried and generally praised or vilified, without much critical thinking in-between.

Citizens need to be given immediate goals to work towards. The Senate needs to give leadership, vision and direction in this respect. The Senate is the key to the success, or failure, of Nova Roma. The model of republican government is exactly what a volunteer Internet community needs, for nothing else makes sense or has a basis in adult and rational thought.

The citizens of Nova Roma may elect buffoons, or they may elect non-entities, but the Senate is the counter-point to the insanities that maybe perpetrated on us by our magistrates. That is the well-established theory, and one that I subscribe to wholeheartedly. Transforming the theoretical into reality may prove somewhat harder.

If the Senate is content to sit and debate the minor issues of Nova Roman life, rather than deal with the lack of immediate purpose for citizens, then the people in time honoured fashion will turn their idle hands to each others throats.

A certain amount of political carnage is healthy and very Roman, but were this Rome of antiquity at some point, normally when the forum became so drenched in blood, the Senate would have to stir itself to act. Most worrying of all is that the people are now so lethargic that they cannot even summon up enough energy to cut each other to shreds on the lists.

A complete lack of purpose, other than reading the ramblings on various lists and ogling at the latest crisis or drama (and as they go this latest one has been pretty third rate entertainment), grips our citizens. They have no “work” to do. I wonder how many citizens at times struggle to find a reason to log onto the Main List? Just what is the reason for paying that tax?

I know that some people think that many of our citizens only expect to receive a benefit, rather than contribute one iota of creativity. Such is the curse of modernity that undoubtedly many do expect to receive rather than give. The concept of service is sadly lacking in many quarters of Nova Roma.

This is not however an entirely fair portrayal of our citizens. Many expect to join and be given a task, a role; a function. Titles do indeed abound in Nova Roma, but once one is either gifted one, or wins one through election, the reality sets in that few above them in the Nova Roman pecking order have a clue what their “staff” should be doing.

If the Senate cannot formulate short and medium term goals for Nova Roma then we will continue to stagnate. I say the Senate since the stability of that body, not being subject to re-election, could ensure continuity of sound policies even in the face of incompetent or invisible magistrates.

Determining what “work” could be assigned, that benefits Nova Roma, advances its long term goals and increases the citizen base, is another matter. The first step is a general recognition that if we don’t want more disenchanted citizens to seek some sort of activity or purpose elsewhere, then the Senate needs to bestir itself and propose, debate and pass resolutions on firm policies for the here and now.

The Senate needs to take this lead if the trickle of emigrants leaving our gates is not to grow into a stream, then a river and finally a tsunami as people rush to the next barge of the dead to be built, to escape the eruption of terminal boredom that threatens to smother us all in the ash of inactivity and meaningless existence.

If the Senate chooses to do nothing in this respect, then it should at least place an order for more Nova Roman coins to be minted so that it can have them ready to pay the ferryman as more of our citizens depart into the shadows.