Thursday 23 February 2017

Fiddling While Rome Burns

We know now that Hollywood’s portrayal of Nero may have been an exaggeration, but you get the point. In fact if you look for some of the background – in this case lifting from - on the phrase ‘fiddling while Rome burned’ the parallels become even more apparent.
The expression has a double meaning: not only did Nero play music while his people suffered, but he was an ineffectual leader in a time of crisis”. But Nero was only rumoured to have sung about the destruction of Troy while watching Rome burn, with no eyewitness confirmation. “When the Great Fire broke out, Nero was at his villa at Antium, some 35 miles from Rome. Though he immediately returned and began relief measures, people still didn’t trust him. Some even believed he had ordered the fire started, especially after he used land cleared by the fire to build his Golden Palace and its surrounding pleasure gardens. Nero himself blamed the Christians (then an obscure religious sect) for the fire, and had many arrested and executed.”

So we don’t really know whether the great fire, which destroyed 70% of Rome, was instigated – even ordered – by Nero, whether it was a plot by a group of zealots intent on seeing the city fail, or whether it was just an accident. What we do know is that by the time the fire happened Nero had already so burned his bridges (as it were) by his previous actions that nobody believed him, that the people he tried to blame for the disaster went from being an active minority to dominating the Western world for a long time, and that Nero’s experimental efforts to recreate Rome in his own image, including a 100ft-tall bronze statue of himself, ended in abject failure. And just four years after the fire Nero’s incompetence and arrogance saw the Pretorian guard and the Senate turn against him, declaring him an ‘enemy of the people’. Nero opted for suicide rather than arrest and execution. Apparently his last words were “what an artist dies in me”. Fast forward and we could instead have “what a scientist, politician and football visionary ...”

We read that the regime is to “begin consultation with fans on a potential restricting of the club’s Fans Forum”. You have to admire the efforts of our expensive PR team to justify their existence. The statement declaring this dramatic initiative refers throughout to ‘the club’, with no mention of Meire. It claims that at the start of the season the club made a commitment to engage with the fans “more than ever before” and that after “well-attended” meetings with “points noted and changes made”, apparently unbelievably “despite this, some supporters don’t feel fully engaged and some supporters have raised questions about the Fans Forum”. Don’t feel fully engaged. Only a PR person could write such BS when considering the situation of our club.

It’s been said many times before. The Fans Forum is a worthy and well-meaning body, albeit one with limited objectives, which has been usurped by the regime to support the pretence that it fully engages with the fan base. Because of this, for the time that the regime remains it is better discontinued and its meetings not attended. The statement says that at the latest Forum meeting the options of an independent chair and a fully elected group were discussed. It’s the regime that has devalued the Forum, not those who have given up their time and effort to help our club. Tinkering with it now will serve no purpose, just ask Nero.

On the subject of asking Nero, to my lasting shame I don’t think I can make it to Belgium on 4 March. Those who do will in the years ahead be able to look back with pride on their contribution to the ending of the Duchatelet years and the subsequent rebuilding of our club. I doubt that Nero will be around for their visit, but that’s fine. If he’s chased out of attending his home town club’s matches and events, just where will he go for his post-match dance?

As a philosophy graduate, I always have the upper hand (morally and intellectually) in discussions with friends of a more scientific bent. After all, when scientists are not scrabbling around to try and come up with some thesis based on empirical evidence which makes what we know loosely explainable and (possibly) predictable, only for that theory to be replaced when other facts contradict it, and instead embark on theoretical work they are actually doing philosophy. Some might suggest that scientists have made a more meaningful and practically beneficial contribution to humanity than philosophers, but that is a discussion for another day. The point here is evidence and what a good scientist makes of it.

Football is a zero sum game: our success is someone else’s failure (or rather vice versa). To succeed you have to outperform your peers. There are many ways this can be achieved: pouring ever-larger amounts of money into buying the best players, having an outstanding manager, a great team spirit etc. The contribution of fans can be said to be necessary but clearly not sufficient. It just goes without saying that if you have an alienated fan base you cannot succeed as a football club. All the available evidence supports this. Any intelligent scientist would consider the evidence and draw the necessary conclusions, follow the argument as they say. ‘If I want my club to succeed I need the fans on board; the fans are not on board, can I get them on board?; yes, but only by making real changes (getting rid of Meire, apologising for the mismanagement of the club etc). So if I don’t want to make the changes I can’t succeed, so should I end the experiment? It is one option, or perhaps otherwise I just really don’t care after all.’

Just a hunch on my part, but I doubt that Karl Robinson’s position is under threat despite recent results, our current standing, and our owner’s propensity to look for Christians to blame for his failings. After all, Robinson seems to have bought into (or rather been bought) the youth fish-farm approach, whether or not he has any personal financial interest in the on-sale of our players (that issue of his shareholding in Deli Ali’s agent’s company seems to have gone cold but will no doubt resurface unless answers are given). So unless for some reason of his own Duchatelet really wants to get Chris O’Loughlin in charge I can’t see the benefit in getting rid of Robinson. Only cost more money to pay him off, attract yet more ridiculing of the club, and won’t impact on which division we will be playing in next season. Of course, this is to apply logic rather than to look at the empirical evidence, so we shall wait to see just what is Nero’s pleasure.