"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

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Off with their heads!

The long period of drought on the Main List momentarily broke today. A faint splash of acrimony fell on our heads, or to be more accurate on the head of the hapless Publius Minius Mercator.

This new and eager citizen had the temerity to not only have an idea but also tried to demonstrate the advantages of it by a test implementation of his proposed forum. Did this display of enthusiasm prompt a round of “hurrahs”? Was the list witness to posts congratulating, if not the actual idea, at least his proactive attempt at improving Nova Roma? Some posts did appear in that vein. One was not so generous.

On the Main List I encouraged people not to douse new citizens with cold water, but in reality the liquid used was in fact quite acidic. Having myself been quite responsible for dousing more established citizens with verbal solutions ranging from mild vinegar to sulphuric acid, it may seem somewhat incongruous that I appealed for mercy on behalf of Mercator.

The explanation is that while I am more than comfortable entering the arena of written (and if I had the opportunity – verbal) combat with seasoned veterans of the Nova Roman political scene as my opponents, I see absolutely no point in selecting a new citizen for such treatment. It is utterly counter-productive to continued recruitment efforts.

This was a minor incident but it is actually quite illustrative of one of the principal problems we face in recruitment. As I have said in previous articles, new citizens arrive and find that there is little direction awaiting them. Oh yes, there is the page on the Nova Roman web site that attempts to provide a guide as to “what next?” but there is little assistance on a one-to-one basis, or even an actual live “greeter”.

While on the one hand I shudder at the thought that we may have to sink to the level of Wal-Mart and have someone pressing the flesh of new citizens and leading them on some virtual induction tour, some guidance and contact is necessary. Currently we offer perfunctory congratulations on their probationary citizenship and then open the door of the Censor’s office and usher them into the forum and then close that door firmly behind them. If like Mercator you have the temerity to have an idea and act on it you may hear the clink of the nails as someone starts preparing the cross they intend to crucify you on.

We could of course expect new citizens to remain silent and unseen as they dutifully plough through the annals of Nova Roma, on the now defunct web forum, the old Yahoo Main List and the current Main List. Possibly by the time their tax payment came due the following year they may have at least assimilated 75% of the information. In reality though expecting people to play the role of the dormouse in our version of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party is unrealistic. New citizens are fired up and want to become involved. This does inevitably result in some of our citizens feeling as though Ground Hog day has struck again. So we are faced with two choices; patiently explain the background and previous discussion threads, or, start drenching them in acid rain. I think anyone who is relatively sane and rational will agree that the former is the only choice.

This anal retentive obsession with petty fogging details is a hallmark of where Nova Roma currently rests its sagging bottom. Process and protocol are important but if we as a “state” make so little effort to officially provide new citizens with the tools necessary to master those aspects of life in Nova Roma, then how on earth can we be surprised when some eager and keen new citizen drops a “clanger”?

As “clangers” go this one could not be classified as horrendous, dangerous, let alone as was suggested subversive. Even the reaction didn’t even register on the scale of Nova Roma eruptions – for us as onlookers or third party participants. For Mercator though, he may have been left feeling as though he was caught in the leading edge of a storm, and possibly that he should like the dormouse have climbed into the teapot and hid from view for at least six months. I would be most surprised if he didn’t feel he had fallen down Alice’s hole. We came close, very close, to having the Queen of Hearts appear shrieking “Off with their heads!”

So what is the solution? Possibly the only practical thing we can do is recommend that new citizens equip themselves with a copy of “Alice in Wonderland” and use it as a survival guide to the insanity that is life in Nova Roma.

Alice: “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?”

Ah Alice – your dream has become reality – well virtual reality. From the wreckage and flotsam of what was once Nova Roma now arises Nova Womaland, where everything is back to front.

Alice: “It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.”

After a few months in Nova Womaland Alice would quickly realise that having things make sense would be an even more unlikely event than her being able to grow and shrink in size

So let me provide, through of course a slight alteration in dialogue, an insight into how a simple act of enthusiasm becomes an act of sedition in our topsy-turvy world:

Queen of Hearts: Who's been using my Nova Roman flag? WHO'S BEEN USING MY NOVA ROMAN FLAG? / Who dares to hate through vulgar imitate / The royal communication gag? / For using my Nova Roman flag / Someone's head will fall in the bag.