Once Nero thought about making a comeback. Perhaps he hadn’t given it his best shot. After all, people said he’d merely fiddled while Rome burned. Leaders these days, however laughable their posturing as new Caesars might be, fiddled away entire countries. Some seemed bent on fiddling away the entire planet if they could. Nor did you need to be clever in the least about the business, apparently. Any bumbling fool could set fire to whatever they’d been entrusted to safeguard, judging by the number of politicians and political appointees turning the trust of the people into ash heaps. Everywhere you looked, the sight was the same. Arson was the new normal in governing circles. If you weren’t burning up the budget on some foreign adventure of dubious aim, 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 ignoring them worked equally well. Or else giving a jaw-jutting smirk, a wink, and a thumbs up to your rabid rally crowds as a signal to do their worst to anyone who opposed you (or was it thumbs down)? Nero couldn’t remember for sure. Whichever it was, if it failed, then merely fiddling away at a higher pitch with each new day would work to drown out any unwelcome protests or alarms. Besides, for every fire you yourself set, a hundred loyal pyromaniacs you’d either favored with your patronage or scared the wits out of with unsubtle hints of your displeasure would dutifully set a hundred of their own. At that rate, there wouldn’t be much left untorched or many left to complain when you finally did decide the party was over and it was time to move on. It’d be just like old times.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans