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A conversation with Carla Shodde, from Australia, on Religions, Romanness & Interlingua (Modern Latin?) – Dialectics (4)

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Even the German Women were terrific fighters

Even the German Women were terrific fighters

Are the Germans ‘Always’ There?
(Why not man)

[See btw the clip at the head of the previous post]

ψ

Carla Shodde from Australia has some German DNA among the rest. A ‘budding Classicist’, as she phrased it, she is probably more than that.

We had a good dialogue at her place (see below. Here the original, not pruned, one.)

ψ

Another conversation had occurred here with Sledpress (another German, from US Virginia, this time,) which will be published as Dialectics 5, the last cherry on the pie in some way.

Why cherry on the pie?

Because Sled is a valuable writer (I have a notebook with many of her sentences since I am an aspiring non mother tongue writer in English,) she has been very much present in almost ALL discussions here and elsewhere, she being a valuable polymath (with high-level musical knowledge also,) capable of talking about everything (as our blogosphere small slice attests) … but most of all:

She has a VERY BAD temper ;-)

Which of course (any passion being powerful) is a big part of her charm and her being very good: as a writer, dialectic commentator, friend, musician (and real soul.)

Why We Love The Germans

At this point, after Easter Monday (when the exchange with The Virginian and other stuff will be already here), given the present crisis of the Euro zone, we think it’ll be high time to say aloud (from us, from many other Italians):

“Why we love the Germans and will continue to love them!”

In the meanwhile: Carla Shodde.

Impiety Among Philosophers

Found In Antiquity Carla Shodde

Carla thus presents her work and studies:

“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.” – Cicero, Ad Brutum. Carla recently finished first-class Honours in Classics, writing a thesis on accusations of impiety among philosophers in Greece and Republican Rome. She loves ancient art, ancient history, theology and pretty much anything to do with the Romans.”

 

Uncial sample

Courtesy of Carla Shodde’s Web site soon in our blogroll. Click to enlarge and for source file

 

MoR:Great post. About to repost the other one, I might repost this one as well, though I’m not sure, I am overwhelmed by business, family (my strength,) and my mentor’s ‘an article a day in languages that are not your own’ rule.

You are a scholar, a beginning scholar, perhaps, but hats-off scholar nonetheless. Ciao

[PS: hai per caso qualche stilla di sangue italiano? Carla è un nome italiano]“

Carla Shodde: “Thanks so much for reblogging the other post! You can reblog whatever you like, when you want to. :) And thanks for the encouragement, I would love to cultivate scholarship in Classics.

And actually, I don’t have any Italian blood, but my parents named me after my German great-grandfather Carl. They thought I was going to be a boy but when I was born a girl, they named me Carla. Italian is a beautiful language though and I wish I knew more.”

MoR: “Sorry I’ll be the usual Italian chatter-box. My thoughts come in floods, am too tired to prune and I proceed from chaos to order – my cognitive style, aspiring towards dialectics.

This exchange in fact, should you say yes, I’d love to publish over at my blog as Dialectics 4.

I’ll prune my texts of course but not much, this being the MoR plus I’d love you to reply extensively (in case you can and want) – the exchange of ideas resulting hopefully more stimulating for readers.

This being fussily said o_O  …

 

Roman Bona Dea (Good Goddess)

Roman Bona Dea (Good Goddess)

I)

Carla: “I would love to cultivate scholarship in Classics”

The personal opinion of a dilettante is that ‘you can’ lol become what you want if you really want it. You have ‘la stoffa’ (what it takes.)

You are creative, have passion but most of all you have discipline. Talent without discipline is zero.

A scholar I have not become (just a quirky researcher) for lack of guidance since I was abandoned to grow by myself like a weed (and am still, in the good sense though I hope, 1. Christianity and religions plus 2. intellectual curiosity helping.)

A Master Shows

I found the latter (2) after an encounter at 24 – id est a Master and inspiring polymath to whom I owe a lot and whom I call Magister διδάσκαλος, here.

The former (1) came after some study of the Ancient Roman religions (I liked that post of yours where you criticize those who consider the Ancient Roman religion void of emotions, of mysticism, simply formulaic (a total moronity imo.)

Via some study of cults, gods, goddesses and the mysteries etc. I realised how Roman Christianity was, plus Christianity was one of the several mysteries too (you might not agree here.)

A powerful blend, the ancient Roman religion – no need to tell you – which together with Christianity can provide strength and consolation. I am more Christian than Pagan, incidentally; although we ALL here, and elsewhere – eg some areas of the Roman Empire’s ex provinces – are (one may like it or not) a bit pagan.)

Let me add it is so refreshing to see a young woman – the age of my two daughters – so very ‘well’ doing what she does, and a real polyglot too (mandarin, wow, and German; Latin and Greek being of course necessary.)

 

Interlingua at Austin, Texas

Jardin de Ninos Interlingua Spanish Immersion, Austin, TX. Click for credits and source

II)

Carla: “Actually, I don’t have any Italian blood, but my parents named me after my German great-grandfather Carl. They thought I was going to be a boy”

Italian is bastard Latin so I don’t think you’ll have difficulties though my advice, you being a polyglot, is considering Interlingua instead.

Interlingua (official web site) is not artificial like Esperanto. It is ‘biological’; and, most importantly, it was conceived by solid scholars as a modern form of Latin.

For which purpose? [one might ask] English is already the lingua franca of a vast portion of the world.

A Fascinating vacation.
No ‘Direct’ contact with natives?

Ok, but take a woman from New York for example (all English speaking people we Italians btw call ‘Anglo-Saxons’, even those not wearing furs anymore – the others having passed away many centuries ago (stole this from an English guy living in Milan).

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro. Click for credits and source file

Now it turns this woman and her husband are planning a long trip to, say, Brasil, Spain, Italy and have desire to get to know the natives in a non-mediated-via-English way, ie, a more direct, ‘cultural’, way.

[As a side note, English is not much spoken the more ancient the country is (apart from India, naturally) : Romans for ex. have this couldn’t-care-less attitude thinking they are so darn universal – and they are, accepting everybody with open heart but at the same time being scared by other cultures plus also feeling superior but behaving like provincials who think they are gas nobles, or gods.]

In any case the said couple has only one solution: even if the trip will occur in 3 years (yes, they plan years in advance, the Americans lol) they nonetheless must frantically TOIL eg learn Portuguese on the first year, Spanish on the second year, and Italian on the third.

It can be done, but it’s a hard path especially until the half of it, then Latin underlying the 3 languages will make things easier.

[Getting Big Deal Man, I know ^^'  ]

Interlingua: Many Languages
at the Same Time

There is another exciting solution: learning Interlingua. It’ll take 2-3-4 months in the worst cases (or just a few weeks,) after which the couple will be able to understand and talk directly (via Interlingua) to Brasilians, Spanish and Italians, who will 70%  understand them even if they never heard of Interlingua before.

 ψ

Carla Shodde: “That’s really interesting – I’ve never heard of a language called Interlingua before, but it is nice that it uses Latin-based words to connect various Romance languages together.

I’ve been fantasising about learning early Germanic languages like Anglo-Saxon, so that I could possibly connect English and German together at their Germanic roots. A friend of mine is learning Gothic and is really enjoying the language. I’d love to read an Anglo-Saxon gospel book some day.

MoR: “By studying several cults & gods goddesses and the mysteries etc. I realised how ‘Roman’ Christianity was”

I am Christian, and I find the study of pagan theology fascinating. I believe in one God, as did the fathers of the Church, and I do not worship other gods, as it would be a deep betrayal of the sanctity of God.

While I am not a pagan, I still find pagan Roman theology interesting, both as a counterpoint for early Christian apologetics and as a subject in its own right.

“Christianity was not
a mystery religion”

Regarding Mystery Cults: I follow the most recent and well researched wave of scholarship, which concludes that Christianity was not a “mystery religion” in the same vein as, say, the Mithras cult.

“The evidence we have been examining suggests that there was little contact between Christianity and mystery cults at any time. This contrasts with a long-established scholarly tradition that tried to find considerable influence of mystery cult on Christianity. Often the debate was as much to do with contemporary concerns as with the distant past. So, for example, it suited Protestant polemicists to argue that the ‘primitive Christianity’ of the early church was corrupted by the incorporation of rites and doctrines drawn from non-Christian mystery cults… And it suited critics of Christianity as a whole to claim that many elements of Christianity, including the sacramental rituals of baptism and holy communion, were taken over directly from Mithraism.” – Hugh Bowden, Mystery Cults of the Ancient World, Princeton University Press (2010) p.207

“Pagan Theology: Overlooked”

I like studying pagan theology. I think it has been so often overlooked in modern studies of Roman paganism. Instead of viewing religion as a religion (i.e. a proposed way for reasonable humans to interact with a divine being or beings) people want to see religion only as a coded way of expressing sexism, elitism or some other secular or political goal that reflects narrow-minded modern concerns. I find it very surprising that some prominent scholars who study Roman religion have openly said they are contemptuous of all religion. Little wonder that it so commonly said that Roman religion was invented for the sake of empty traditionalism alone, or that it was a tool to manipulate the unthinking masses. I think Roman religion, at least in philosophical texts and grave inscriptions, meant much more to the people than just empty rituals.”

Answer to a complex question:
Found in the Holy Week?

MoR: “Well, gosh, wow. This will keep my brain juices working for a while I’ll admit. Not for long though. And I always (90%) come back. I spot some German determination. Schodde —> Schotte? Good. I’m a Bach wrestler since I was 19 :?

MoR: “Dear Carla, I like dialectics, as you & others know too well, id est Diskurs als argumentativer Dialog so my lateinisch discursus feedback, LOL, will be:

The answer to your very-German reply is to be found, in my view, in the Holy Week (Ἁγία καὶ Μεγάλη Ἑβδομάς) where Christians celebrate the events related to the last days of Jesus – passion, death and resurrection, among the rest.

Last Sunday I was feeling tense, tired. Therefore for some weird reason I randomly chose a Church (every 5 meters we have one in Rome) and had the luck to find a real shepherd speaking from ‘a heart’ and from a sound-theological-knowledge (as far as I can tell) brain, as well.

I’ll say I was moved to tears twice but since I never believed in signs, in the past, it is unlikely I will believe in them, in the future.

Jesus carrying the cross. Click for credits

Jesus carrying the cross. Click for credits

Regards from Rome.

Giovanni

How to write Greek Uncial

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Man of Roma:

Found In Antiquity Carla Shodde

For lack of time I’ll reveal tomorrow the secret of secrets.

(How to Learn Ancient Greek in 7 days)

ψ

I will thus reblog Carla Shodde‘s fantastic post.

Mario: “A lose lose situation then”
“Not at all. It will allow readers to rest on the Seventh Day, according to Universal Good and Justice”
Fulvia: “I don’t get it”
30-year-old Samnite Youth: “Daje Fulvia, you’ll get ahead one day by just watching Carla Shodder writing in Greek Uncial ca. 350 CE.”

*Fulvia is staring*[Just ancient craftiness, her inner soul is void, blank void]

 

Capitoline She-Wolf. Rome, Musei Capitolini. Public domain

 

Originally posted on Found in Antiquity:

Have you ever wondered how to write in one of earliest Ancient Greek calligraphic scripts? Wonder no more! I’m happy to present the first video I’ve made for Found in Antiquity, so that you can see first hand how to write the alphabet in Greek Uncial.

What exactly is Greek Uncial?

Greek Uncial hails from the first few centuries of the Common Era. Unlike Ancient Greek cursive, Uncial is surprisingly readable even if you’re mostly used to reading modern Greek letter forms. While most of the surviving examples were written on parchment, Greek Uncial started life on papyrus and was generally used for literary texts like Homer’s Iliad (below).

2nd century AD, Greek Uncial on papyrus. From Thomson, An introduction to Greek and Latin palaeography (1912), p142.

2nd century AD, Greek Uncial on papyrus. From Thomson, An introduction to Greek and Latin palaeography (1912), p142.

It is an understated script. There are very few serifs or extra decorations. Its minimal aesthetic makes this script look very clean and…

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Toxic academic mentors

Man of Roma:

Tenure, She Wrote

Magistri Mendaces

καὶ ἐν ὑμῖν ἔσονται ψευδοδιδάσκαλοι
in vobis erunt magistri mendaces
2 Peter 2.1

ψ

Mentors are important for a young person’s mind, in Academia and elsewhere.

Like all of us, made poorer by a fraudulent economy, a youth’s mind can be treated similarly by toxic mentors

This post is about them.

[Courtesy of drmellivora from @Tenure, She wrote]

Originally posted on Tenure, She Wrote:

Unfortunately for potential scientists, professors don’t receive any formal training in mentoring – and a disastrous mentoring situation can derail a trainee’s career.  Although some professors go out of their way to think about mentoring (see Acclimatrix’s post), and many want to be good mentors, the truth is there are some downright awful ones out there.  So what creates a ‘toxic’ mentoring relationship?  To me, the worst relationships happen when the person in power (the mentor) takes advantage of the mentee’s work without sufficient regard for their career and mental health.  Unfortunately, I’ve never been part of a department where there wasn’t at least one professor that “everyone” knew was a toxic mentor.  Some examples include:

  • One who drags out a student’s defense date for years because of limited resources for that type of research (doesn’t want the competition)
  • One who blocks mentee publications or degrees by putting up…

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“History deals with living people: it can’t fail to please us. Besides, we are the result of what has happened in the past”

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Stonehenge

Stonehenge. Click to enlarge and for attribution. Wikipedia

I’d love to know
How things got to be
How they are.”

Marilyn Monroe

ψ

“Darling Delio, I am feeling a little tired and can’t write much. But please write to me all the same and tell me everything at school that interests you. I think you must like history, as I liked it when I was your age, because it deals with living people, and everything that concerns people, as many people as possible, all people in the world, in so far as they unite together in society and work and struggle and make a bid for a better life – all that can’t fail to please you more than anything else, isn’t that right?”

Antonio Gramsci, Letters from Prison

ψ

“History is interesting because the world today and we who live in it are the result of what has happened in the past, the result of history. If we know something about the past, it is easier to understand the present. It is not true that history repeats itself: no event is exactly the same as another. Yet if we know what happened in the past we can make a better guess at what is likely to happen in the future.”

Neil Grant, foreword to his Hamlyn Children’s history of Britain’, 1977

Sex and the city (of Rome). Season II. 1

Monica Bellucci walking in Rome (Martini Gold by Dolce & Gabbana). Click for file source

Why a New Season on ‘Roman’ Sex

I hesitated before continuing this series on ‘Roman’ sex. Two recent facts though have convinced me I’d better go on with it, the latter probably more important.

1) Some interest grown around the way I connect Italian sexual (& non sexual) behaviour with ancient Roman culture, not only from weirdoes but from qualified people: journalists, an international Tv Channel, a few university scholars (& college students who apparently found here inspiration for their theses,) a couple of Web companies.

2) Such incipient interest (ephemeral I’m sure) had though the prodigious side effect of making the three Sybils who subtly govern my life suppose that perhaps I’m not just entirely fooling around when typing like mad on my keyboard.

Well, THIS simplifies things, readers, by providing me with (family) peace of mind so that I’d have a few of stories too tell … ;-)

Here other stories, of a totally different kind.

Sex and the city (of Rome) II

Venus de Milo, back view. Via Wikipedia

In the preceding post I was saying that, not having had brothers but sisters and needing to play male games etc., I was fortunate enough to meet at 3 a boy of 4 who became like my eldest brother.

Paul: “I have been a fratello maggiore [ie an eldest bro vs younger bros]. Believe me, it is no picnic.”

MoR: “It is no picnic with sisters either. Brothers and sisters – one doesn’t choose. My ‘eldest brother’ (the one in the poem), I chose myself. And he chose me being an only child.”

I then narrated two stories somewhat regarding the ehm éducation sentimentale we two lived together (see below).

ψ

At this point Jenny popped in (I guess she had already read the stories I now paste below) :

Jenny: “What a sweet photograph of you! I must tell you, in the small town where I grew up: three Catholic churches and nothing but boys with surnames like Petruso, Petrillo, Gianti, Limano, D’amico…the list goes on and on…”

MoR: “Jenny, yes, Italians are scattered all over the world. One blunt question allow the silly man such as I am: did you feel desire for these Petruso, Petrillo, Gianti, D’amico and so forth?

Jenny: “There he is: the charming and disarming Man of Roma. Not the place here for relating episodes from my ehm éducation sentimentale. We will just say, generally, that as Italians are scattered all over the world, girls (all over the world) like them.”

MoR: “What?? Even old (and odd) Italian blokes like me? Next time don’t forget your telephone number” (my usual flirtatious tone, what a moron I am :-( )

They Were Ready to Eat us Alive

Ok. Time to get back to Paul and to my ‘sex souvenirs’. I’ll remind you I was telling Paul:

MoR: “My ‘eldest brother’ (the one in the poem), I chose myself. And he chose me. Nothing sexual between us tho LOL, quite the contrary.

In fact as soon as we got the foggiest interest in the other sex our hunt began and became scientific. We had hunted lizards, mice, birds (you name it) – it was time for bigger preys we thought.

We were 12-13 (in the image below I am 7, but via the link above you can see him at 13).

Our first move was therefore a girls orphanage 15 minutes on foot from our houses, the Istituto Thevenin. The girls, from 8 to 16, were more than ready to eat us alive. They could not. The darn nuns were ALWAYS watching for virtues that didn’t give a damn to remain virtuous, or so it appeared to our boys’ minds.”

ψ

Story one ended, I then addressed readers and said:

“One anecdote that may be funny or annoying, according to who is reading. It regards ehm our (mine and my ‘eldest brother’s) éducation sentimentale.”

MoR at 7 in Castiglione della Pescaia. ‘He’ has to send pictures yet

Lovely Butt (With a Bottle but)

A couple of summers we both went for a maybe 15 days to Marina di Massa, on the Tuscan sea-side coast, although the rest of the summer we continued to spend it in Arezzo’s country as usual.

We now were 13-14 maybe.

One day while we were driving a tandem bicycle along an isolated road we saw a woman walking alone on that same road who had a great ass – we thought. I frankly still today believe she actually had.

In any case she was carrying a bottle of wine in her left hand and we being behind her but not that close we pedalled up to her and BAM! I slapped her ass with my left hand (I was a leftie and was freer since sitting in the back seat).

She yelled a bit at us but not much, and laughed also, she perhaps being 30 or something.

Aphrodite Kallipygos

Had Venus Kallipygos (ie Venus of the ‘beautiful buttocks’) the best butt in Antiquity? Scholars are still debating (via Wikipedia)

Terribly excited about our success (she had laughed!) we made a big U turn through side roads and there again behind her we were, pedalling this time up to her with all possible softness in order for her not to be aware of us.

BAAM I went again. She much surprised turned around, probably not thinking we would dare again, and this time she yelled a tad more angrily, but not that terribly angry – or so it seemed to us.

Made therefore even more daring and like drunk so as to try our luck a third time, there we drove on that road once more but before we could get close enough to slap her round bottom again she turned around abruptly and furiously holding her bottle towards us she really YELLED this time something like:

“Se un la smettete di fare i bischeri vi spacco questa bottiglia su quella testaccia!!! COGLIONI chevvoisiete!!!”

(“If you don’t stop play the jackasses I’ll smash your heads with this bottle, ASSHOLES!!!”)

Taken aback by such fierce reaction we lost control of our tandem that hit the side-walk curb – which caused the front tyre to burst – and headlong we fell over the side-walk asphalt.

Gosh now of course we felt more humiliated than excited and didn’t know what to do in such an embarrassing situation. She was looking still furious at us but after a while her eyes softened a bit (possibly seeing how young we were and how embarrassed we were? Or for some other, unhoped-for, reason?)

In the end she smiled at us and laughed. We laughed back and felt some joy coming back.

But I guess we learned that, when gambling with Fortune (and maybe at that age, I don’t remember, when playing with people) one has to know when it is time to stop.

Related posts:

Sex and the City (of Rome) season I

American Engineer, German Philosopher & French Politician: Gramsci’s Ideal Blend for the Modern Leonardo da Vinci

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Our conversations take us wherever they like so before talking about my instructional experience in Russia I’ll present a few passages by Antonio Gramsci (1891 – 1937) written in the 1930s while he was in prison.

Gramsci is considered the father of democratic communism [a thing, to say the truth, that remained in his mind and was never realised.]

All his works, and notably his Prison Letters and Prison Notebooks, are not only amazingly valuable for their intellectual & moral depth – acute analyses of Italian & European history, literature, theatre, philosophy, linguistics, political strategy etc. -, they have also been recognized since their appearance in 1947 as masterpieces of our language and literature.

His powerful brain was feared by both the Fascists and the Russians, and it pained me so much to learn that his Russian wife Julka or Julia Schucht (see her below with their sons, Delio and Giuliano,) together with her sister Tatiana Schucht, were probably spies for the Gpu (Kgb.) [Also a few of Gramsci's and Julka's descendants confirmed that.]

[Magister and Gramsci were the mentors who saved me from being a savage – although I am still a bit: you migh read here]

I was surprised to find the words – Gramsci’s words -, that to me best describe the importance of classical education in our country – ie the connection to our roots, this blog’s theme -, in the inspiring web pages of a certain Max Gabrielson, a Latin & Greek teacher at the Wilton High School in Wilton, Connecticut, considered one of Connecticut top performer schools according to the Wikipedia.

With such words from his Prison Notebooks Gramsci refers to the classical education delivered in the Italian Ginnasio and Liceo that, compared to his school days, had been changed a bit by the first important reform of Italian education (Gentile‘s & Croce‘s, 1923) after the unification of Italy 60 years earlier (1860-70.)

[An education that didn’t change much even until my days and my daughters’ days. No change at all? Well, it progressively became comprehensive mass education (with its pros and cons) so that its solidity, like a merum from the ancients, was diluted in the years – the wine being still there, but its inebriating effects having almost dissolved]

Let us listen to Antonio Gramsci describing the deep meaning of such education:

“In the old school the grammatical study of Latin and Greek, together with the study of their respective literatures and political histories, was an educational principlefor the humanistic ideal, symbolized by Athens and Rome, was diffused throughout society, and was an essential element of national life and culture. Even the mechanical character of the study of grammar [criticised by Croce and Gentile, MoR] was enlivened by this cultural perspective. Individual facts were not learned for an immediate practical or professional end. The end seemed disinterested, because the real interest was the interior development of personality, the formation of character by the absorption and assimilation of the whole cultural past of modern European civilization [...] Pupils learned Greek and Latin in order to know at first hand the civilization of Greece and Rome — a civilization that was a necessary precondition to our modern civilization: in other words, they learnt them in order to be themselves and know themselves consciously.

‘In order to be themselves, to know themselves consciously …”

ψ

Gramsci criticises in 1932 the multiplication of vocational schools that in his view aimed at perpetuating social differences. Moreover, a true democracy needed adequate people:

“The labourer can become a skilled worker, for instance, the peasant a surveyor or petty agronomist. But democracy, by definition, cannot mean merely that an unskilled worker can become skilled. It must mean that every ‘citizen’ can ‘govern’ and that society places him, even if only abstractly, in a general condition to achieve this. Political democracy tends towards a coincidence of the rulers and the ruled (in the sense of government with the consent of the governed) …”

As for K-12 education we see today a tendency to focus on 3-4 subjects only in countries such as Great Britain with students aged 15, a big mistake in my view especially now that we have to compete with lands that do most of the basic manufacturing to the extent that we need extra added-value creativity in our products.

Gramsci would certainly have agreed. Born to a backward Sardinian peasant milieu, with big family and health problems, his intellectual success influenced his view that a more comprehensive education of the working class was possible.

He was in fact irritated by his wife’s inclination to guess specialised interests in their 2 very young sons (one time she thought Delio could become an engineer, another time a poet etc.)

Gramsci’s wife, Jiulia Schucht, with the 2 sons, Delio (on the right) and Giuliano. She was – hideous detail – a spy for the Gpu (Kgb). Amazing how Giuliano resembles his father.

Gramsci wrote to her from his cell:

“To say the truth, I don’t much believe in such precocious display of tendencies and I haven’t much faith in your capability of discerning what professional aptitudes they might have. I should think that in both our sons, as in all children, there are likely to be found all sort of inclinations - the practical side, the theory and the imagination, and that it would consequently be more appropriate to guide them towards a more harmonious blend of all intellectual and practical faculties, since the time will come when specialisation in one or the other of these will occur on the basis of a personality vigorously formed and totally integrated.”

Gramsci then continues, expressing to her his humanistic faith in human possibilities and his 1930s ideal of the fully developed man:

“Modern man should be a synthesis of the qualities which are traditionally embodied in these national characters: the American engineer, the German philosopher and the French politician, thus recreating so to speak the Italian man of the Renaissance, the modern Leonardo da Vinci become ‘mass man’ and ‘collective man’ without sacrificing his own strong personality and individual originality.”

Post Scriptum. Gramsci reflected on many aspects of the American society (his notes on Americanism and Fordism are crucial) while he was quite worried about what was happening in the Soviet Union after 1930.

Differently from his mentor, Neapolitan Benedetto Croce, basically Hegelian, Gramsci was very much connected not only to German Kultur (he was into Hegel too and had a perfect knowledge of German – plus French, English, Russian, Latin and possibly other languages) but also to French culture: thanks to ascholarship won in 1911 he had studied in Piedmont at the University of Turin.

In 1921 he co-founded the Italian Communist Party. He then spent 2 years in the Soviet Union where in a sanatorium (his health was precarious) he ‘strangely’ met a beautiful woman, Jiulia (Julka) Schucht, who will become his wife. Back to Italy in 1924 he became head of the party. Being no orator but making use of a one-by-one-persuasion strategy he had won the majority of party delegates by totally fascinating them.

In the same year he was elected at the Italian Parliament. In the Fall of 1926, at the age of 35, he was arrested at 10:30 pm in his home located outside Porta Pia, a nice Roman area efficaciously depicted by the Italian poet Grabriele D’Annunzio. He will die at 46 after 11 years of prison.

Soon after the arrest he wrote to his wife:

“I am sure you will be strong and courageous, as you have always been. Now you will have to be even more than in the past, so that our sons may grow well and be in all worthy of you [italic is mine, MoR.]”

More on Antonio Gramsci:

Seven Aspects of Antonio Gramsci’s Thought
America, the Greatest Collective Effort Ever existed”. Antonio Gramsci
Is America Too Young to Maintain its Cultural Hegemony in the Long Run?

Related posts:

Democracy, Liberty & the Necessity of a Solid Education of the People
Culture, Kultur, Paideia
The Last Days of the Polymath

Democracy, Liberty & the Necessity of a Solid Education of the People

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An interesting discussion over the dangers menacing our democracies was kicked off by our latest postWill Fascism Come Back? Easy, a Bit is There Already.

Most participants asked themselves whether democracy is at a turning point in many countries.

I am fortunate to have such great commentators.  I’m also glad I received additional insight on the American mind I always found fascinating also because elements of it are not that easy to be grasped by Europeans (the collectivism vs individualism thing, for example.)

I’ll freely transcribe here a few sentences of the said dialogue where the dear-to-me topic education in a democracy stands out a bit.

A scene from Videocracy, by Erik Gandini, an Italian Swedish film director

The idea behind this is a follow-up post on a work experience I had in Russia where I was sent in the year 2000 in order to carry out a TACIS* financed educational project for the integration of military personnel into civil society.

It seems very much to the point since it regards the topics discussed in the said conversation, ie individualism, collectivism, education in democracies or in flawed (or almost non existent) democracies.

[*TACIS was a programme financed by the EU for "grant-financed technical assistance to 12 countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia"]

MoR: Is fascism coming back in a way or another? We see “the contempt for the composed reason replaced by the reason of those who shout louder, by the hubbub that rages every evening in the televised debates etc.”

Paul: I’m afraid [fascism] has never been very far below the surface. [Paul’s blog]

Douglas: “I cannot think of any true democracies. Republics, yes, but democracies, no. [Douglas’ blog]

MoR: I agree. Demo-cracies are often aristo-cracies, ie the rule of the happy few. There is in fact a prerequisite imo for a democracy to work correctly: a solidly educated people. Without such prerequisite, demo-cracy degenerates into dem-agogy, ie a rule manipulative of the people via their emotions, fears, bias etc. The health care debate in America is an example of that I presume. Berlusconian Italy a much bigger one.

Andreas: Nobody actually fears fascism will win in America. But the rancor, the shrillness, the animosity obscuring reason and thought: that is everywhere. [Andreas’s blog]

Cheri: On both sides of the aisle, I might observe. [Cheri’s blog]

[Everybody seems to agree that it is not a Left or Right thing. The attack to freedom after all has historical roots in political ‘churches’ of any colour, and often in churches tout court (and, alas, especially in one Church)]:

ZeusIsWatching: Fascism is the kissing cousin of communism, the similarities are clear enough. [Zeus‘ blog]

Sledpress: Fascism [will live] with us as long as authority and submission are considered vital components of human culture … conditioning from birth onward … [cult of] “strong leadership” … We’ve all seen people bounce from Catholicism to Communism or whatever. [Sledpress’ blog]

Douglas: [he gets back to the educational thing] Do you really believe, MoR, that any country will produce a solidly educated people? …I think that as long as education is in the hands of the government ….there will only be people educated to support that government.

An image from the Italian TV. Click for credits

MoR: I understand America is suspicious of any state intervention in society …continental Europe, and possibly French Canada, have a rationalist, non empiricist, tradition (‘reason’ moulds society or kinda) so that a state should be ethical enough to try help the ‘losers’ of societal Darwinian competition, ie the poor, the uneducated etc

Portions of the sotosay winners’ income – a widespread mentality here, not necessarily leftist – should go to the less wealthy, without condoning tho those who take advantage of such a system (many of course do, tons of money gets wasted to the extent of foolishness).

While (almost) not spending a euro I have an excellent medical care, I myself once was a state school teacher trying to do something for the uneducated in the poorest districts of Rome.

And in Russia, a great but nightmarish place where I worked in 2000 (a moment when ALL was crumbling down there,) the masses were nonetheless amazingly educated in S&T and were reading Tolstoy, Pushkin in second class trains. Education didn’t save them from many forms of tyranny, big and small, which they accepted as their tradition, but I’m sure after these 10 years they are still bearing their tyrannies but must have copied the worst from us and are now reading crap in trains as well, as we do in moronic Berlusconian Italy.

Ana Téran: [a Mexican writer I just met at Andreas'.] Public will is a powerful weapon. Why in the hell don’t we use it MoR?

Lichanos: The “masses?” I wonder what percentage of people were reading Tolstoy and Pushkin. On the other hand, I meet lots of technically educated Russians who are surprised to find that I, an American engineer, know their history and literature, as they know ours. So, clearly there is a difference. [Lichanos’ blog]

Ψ

The final twist of the conversation brings me then to talk about Russia a bit. A marvellous (but puzzling) place from any point of view. See you soon then.

Ψ

Related posts:

[The 3 posts below illustrate – with really ample discussions – the notion of ‘personal knowledge’ related to what I mean by ‘solid education’, ie specialisation plus general knowledge. There is for example a difference (diminishing, alas) between the Latin countries plus Germany and Austria, on one hand, and the Anglo-Saxon countries on the other hand.

As Magister wrote, before the young are inserted into specialised activities they should first attain “a certain amount of maturity, of capacity of autonomy, orientation, initiative.” The last 30 years have seen in Italy the debacle of any effective education – both the Left and the Right having responsibilities, but Berlusconi added a big cherry on the pie by the propagation of a degrading culture in which he sincerely believes, it seems. I invite you all to get a copy of Videocracy. Here is the film’s official web site.

We had good ‘general culture’ orientation according to Italian traditions (but less specialization, a flaw, ok,) but now we have none of the two. AND Berlusconi has now convinced many Italians that priority num 1 is a reform of the constitution that will give him the power of a French (or American) President without any French or US counterbalance. And the economy? And unemployment? If this is not manipulation ….]

Culture, Kultur, Paideia

The Last Days of the Polymath

American Engineer, German Philosopher & French Politician: Gramsci’s Ideal Blend for the Modern Leonardo da Vinci

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