In the year 1075 AD, the conflict between Pope Gregory VII and the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV, gave rise to the Investiture Controversy. The Investiture Controversy was the power struggle between high ranking church officials and the kings of Europe, regarding the appointment of the regional church officials, such as the bishops or abbots. This controversy led to a civil war in Germany and the adjoining regions, and was also responsible for the disintegration of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1077 AD, Henry IV took a long and dangerous journey, barefoot, through the Alps to the Fortress of Canossa in Emilia-Romagna, Italy, to meet Pope Gregory VII and beg forgiveness. It is rumored that the Pope left Henry standing in the snow for three days before opening the gates of the fort to forgive Henry. (My italics.)
Well, my professional life in topdown organizations has taught me a good bit of grovelling, so that when I need something from management, my first step is to visit a local Builder's Supply Emporium, and invest in a new set of kneepads. (Or as one former colleague of mine (a machinist) once addressed another, who was kneeling down working on some conductive screening, "Hey you look cute in those things, Vladimir; Jeez, maybe I should get my old lady a pair!") But I digress....
The real point about penance and debasement and prostration is to be found in today's NY Times, describing President Obama's walk from the White House to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to exhort the nation's business leaders to loosen their monetary sphincters and let some of their great reserves of hoarded cash flow out into a river of job creation. (The prepared text of the President's remarks is here.)
It is beyond me what the President hoped to achieve by making nice with a group which seems bent on destroying him. The response from progressive and liberal groups was in any case tepid to negative. All that was lacking was bare feet in the snow. And of course, the kneepads.