"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

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Sooty faces

The New Year has struck in Rome already. Our Consuls have changed. Looking back on the last twelve months, Nova Roma has hosted a re-run of the film "The Great Race". Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon) and his sidekick Maximillian (Peter Falk) bumbled and stumbled their way from one failure to another. Wheels fell off their car, plots were laid and went awry, unlikely alliances were forged and forgotten, and of course a huge pie fight ensued. Sound familiar?

Nova Roma's consular versions of Professor Fate and Maximillian managed to accidentally pour sugar in their own gas tank and attempted running repairs to breakdowns of their own making, managing to short circuit their electric system in the process.

If that wasn't enough they stuffed their vehicle full of multiple navigators all of whom seem to have either had no map to read, fought over the same map and tore it in the process or if they had their own map read it upside down and back to front. If they had all pulled together then the result might have been different.

Instead the result, not surprisingly, was that the consular version of the Hannibal Twin-8 bucked and swayed all over what should have been a fairly straight forward course, managed to "go agricultural" by veering off into fields, lost a few of the occupants along the way, caused a fair swathe of damage and saw many onlookers shaking their heads in amazement at this carnival of disaster and mayhem.

Now of course, weighed against the realities of the world outside our virtual gates, none of these events of the last twelve months could be described as a "crisis" or a "disaster". They were however a series of botched ignominious failures, brought about by a total lack of leadership and vision.

The consular engine was fuelled by partisan politics and personal grudges, and therefore it is hardly surprising that the year reverberated to a series of backfires and coughing and spluttering as they ground to a halt. This fuel was simply too explosive. On more than one occasion our own Fate and Maximillian emerged from the driver's seat with soot on their faces, the result of this combustible mixture exploding.

They not only lost the race through navigational errors, coarse steering, hasty gear changing, poor vehicle maintenance, and generally inept driving skills, but they also failed to finish the race. What makes this level of bumbling and stumbling even more staggering is that this was a one car race.

This wasn't meant to be a Great Race, instead it should have been a comfortable little jaunt into the countryside and back, along well maintained roads. They decided however to head off into the great unknown, chart a dangerous and divisive course, stop frequently for extended rest breaks and then drive with reckless abandon in order to make up for lost time.

They didn't even cross the finish line and are still out there in the wilderness of Nova Roman politics. Tonight as the sands of time ran out and as the last grain dropped, Fate and Maximillian were nowhere to be seen. It cannot even be said with any honesty that they passed the first checkpoint.

Instead we have watched them drive around in circles for a year, achieving nothing and wasting their entry form into this exclusive race. Simply staying in the race is not a success or anything to be proud of, rather it is the baseline expectation for elected officials.

So their race has ended without any explosion of champagne corks, no streamers, no honking horns, no adoring looks, in fact nothing has marked its end, other than Professor Fate rushing to enter another race in the censorial Hannibal Twin-9, and it should serve as an object lesson to all current and future consuls, a veritable model of poor planning, incompetence, irritability and impatience.

We can only hope that the year ahead sees our new Consuls embarking on less dangerous and more considerate driving and definitely paying more attention to the road ahead; less haste more speed.