One aspect of life in Rome that differs from life in the provinces occurs at dinner parties. The kinds of dinner parties Caerulia & I used to have when we were married were interesting affairs. We’d invite 3-4 friends over. Everyone would bring a course, and the food would be shared at our table.
Because Rome is how it is, our guests would be people we knew from all different paths of our lives – old friends from university, work colleagues past and present, friends of friends, colleagues of mine from the Labor Party. And we’d always mix it up – we’d deliberately invite people who didn’t know each other so the social mix would be different each time.
Inevitably, the post-dinner conversation, usually while still at the table and consuming dessert or wine, would shift to solving the problems of the world, or at least our small portion of it. Caerulia had worked for some government departments, as had I. Our guests would have worked for a different mix, and so there was some overlap but generally coverage of a lot of different areas.
As people do in these situations, everyone would chip in with their small piece of the puzzle, but the solutions to most of the issues of the day were clear-cut and simple. In essence, you sit people down at a table from different sides of a problem, and they can solve it.
It always puzzled me therefore why our Imperial leaders make such bad decisions, or why policy differences seem so entrenched. I mustn’t be very bright because it took me a long time to find the answer. It’s politics.
This is highlighted by the current election campaign we’re in. Policies are not written because they are in the best interests of the country. But because they’re aimed at winning the vote in three weeks. And whoever wins, decisions wont be made sanely and sensibly next month either, because after the vote in three weeks, it’ll all be about winning votes in three years. Road funding. Health funding. Education funding. It’s all about winning votes in marginal seats. And that’s just about pandering to the self-interest of the voters who might swing one way or another.
We’re not yet in the same boat as the Americans – where their ruling class governs almost intentionally in the national dis-interest. But we’re not far off.