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Calendar guy

  • 18 May 2007

Calendar guy

The manager of a troubled and sharply criticised business recently claimed, much aggrieved, that he was the victim of the tall poppy syndrome. Trouble was, he said, he wasn’t even a tall poppy. He certainly wanted to be a tall poppy, but people kept cutting him down before he could get there.

The sad story reveals the urgent need for a Patron Saint of Failed Tall Poppies. A suitably height-challenged candidate could be Dionsyius Exiguus—Tiny Denis—who was good at working out dates. He fixed the date of Mary’s conception of Jesus, and worked to get agreement on computing the day of Easter. But, as later happened with the Standard Gauge in Australia, things then fell apart. The calendars remained separate, and Denis remained unsainted.

Roman idol

Elections always end with the triumph of the victor, maintaining a tradition that traces back to Imperial Rome.

Only Generals who had won particularly significant battles enjoyed triumphs. They were solemn affairs. The General would lead his troops into the city wearing his Nike toga, gold crown, and armour of burnished bronze.

In the procession, he displayed his booty—consumer goods and hangdog slaves. The latter had then to listen to the imperial orators tell them what miserable people they must be to fight against the might and morality of Rome.

In the meantime, the soldiers doubtless meditated nostalgically upon the origin of triumph: the Greek procession in honour of Bacchus, the God of wine and anarchic behaviour.

To pay suitably reverential homage to the victors of recent electoral triumphs, though, you can’t go beyond Thomas Babington Macaulay, one of whose English Civil War poems was mined for the Battle Hymn of the Republic:

O wherefore come ye forth in triumph from the north, With your hands, and your feet, and your raiment all red?