Once Nero thought about making a comeback. Perhaps he hadn’t given it his best shot. After all, people said he’d only fiddled while a city burned. Leaders these days, however laughable their view of themselves as new Caesars might be, fiddled away entire countries; some seemed bent on fiddling away the entire planet. And without even breaking into a sweat. Nor did you need to be clever in the least about the business, apparently. Any bumbling fool could set fire to whatever he’d been entrusted to safeguard, judging by the number of servants of the people turning their offices into ash heaps. Everywhere you looked, the sight was the same. Arson was the new growth industry in government circles. If you weren’t burning up the budget on some foreign adventure of dubious wisdom, you could dispense with any pretense to sanity from the start and set the home front itself ablaze, flaunting your indifference to the consequences just to show you had the power to. Who dared stop you? You hardly needed bread and circuses anymore to quiet your critics. Simply waiting them out worked equally well. Or merely fiddling away at a higher pitch to keep from hearing the protests or alarms. Besides, for every fire you set yourself, a hundred loyal pyromaniacs you’d granted your patronage would repay the favor with a hundred of their own. At that rate, there wouldn’t be much left untorched when you finally did decide the party was over and it was time to move on. You could all leave town together. Some to continue their handiwork in the service of one corporate takeover or another. Some to endowed chairs at universities, big bucks on the lecture circuit, or a bigger book deal. Some to the eternal bonfires of the lobbying world. Some just to lend their practiced skills to whoever promised them the most in return. But you, you could simply relax, your work done. Maybe sit on the porch down home and muse about your legacy or spend the time ambling around the empty rooms of a library in the sun your followers had no choice but to build for you, searching for a book, any book, to set your match to. Wouldn’t that be the life? Just like old times.
Copyright © 2008 by Geoffrey Grosshans