Italian American Rosaria has written on Facebook today:
“To our veterans:
You were willing to pay the ultimate price to defend the principles your country stands on. We are glad you came back to your home and friends. We are glad your life was spared, so that we can hear your story, of combat, of living away from the familiar, of worrying each minute of each day if you, or your comrades were going to make it out alive, if the war was worth all the pain and resources and damages it caused.
It is that story of courage and fear and …”
I had replied in my usual dialectic-moronic way:
[paraprased, since I can’t find the original words in Facebook, MoR]:
“Stai parlando dello sbarco in Normandia, oggi, credo. Anche io come italiano sono contento di quello sbarco anche se noi eravamo i nemici. In realtà gli italiani capirono molto prima dei tedeschi che Mussolini era diventato lo schiavo di un pazzo e fu per questo che se ne liberarono. Molti criticarono l’Italia per aver lasciato l’alleato germanico. Ma chi fu più etico, i tedeschi che obbedirono al male fino alle fine, o gli italiani, che rifiutarono il male?
Forse è un dilemma etico insolubile …[e poi un antico romano avrebbe fatto la stessa cosa dei tedeschi, ndr]”
“Only one thing, Rosaria Williams, since the Romans are stubborn. I’ll speak in your maternal language.
“This post brings a new perspective to the problem of 9/11″
What is so new (I raise my voice for the sake of a discussion that will not occur, I shoot too many posts) dear Italian American woman?
For heaven’s sake, is it THAT hard to see things placing ourselves into the others’ boots?
Gli Americani pensano ai loro caduti, ok, ma perché non ai caduti (to name just a few) inglesi, canadesi, indiani, tedeschi, marocchini ecc. ? E RUSSI? The Russians? 20 milioni di morti! Non saranno loro, forse, ad aver sconfitto Hitler, mi domando? PLus, why don’t Americans care too about the deaths of the losers? (Italians, most of the French, the Germans, the Japanese?) Because, as protestants, the losers are in hell? [changing the text altogether, MoR]
Speaking of Italy, my country was accepted this year in Normandy for the first time.
Category Archives: Russia
“Europe’s crisis is mental”
Europe’s crisis is not economical, it is mental. It is a lack of imagination as for the good life beyond consumerism.
and the future of Europe
Such criticism – Beck observes– is based on a national illusion and presupposes a national horizon as for Europe’s present and future.
To these critics, Beck retorts:
“Open up your eyes! Europe and the whole world is going through a big transition.”
He then brings forth two paradoxical examples:
All British media are full of accusations against the EU. Eurosceptic Britain is nonetheless shaken by a wave of European public opinion unknown before.
China, as a result of its investment policy & economical dependence, has long been an informal member of the euro-zone. Should the Euro fail, China would get a hard blow.
citizens of the world
It is clear that advancing cosmopolitanism does not produce citizens of the world. On the contrary, the need for boundaries gets stronger as the world gets more cosmopolitan.
“Out of Euro, out of EU!”
Thus French Marine Le Pen‘ s extreme right-wing NF has won in France.
Putin, on the other hand, has collected the ‘need of boundaries of the Russians’ with his motto:
“Where there are Russians, there is Russia.”
However, such aggressive Russian nationalism – Beck continues – proves that one cannot project the past of the nations onto the future of Europe without destroying the future of Europe itself.
Ulrich Beck: “What if Putin’s ethno-nationalism were a salutary shock for Europe plagued by national selfishness?”
Alain Finkielkraut: “We Europeans are traumatized by Hitler!”
Ulrich Beck: “Yet, Hitler despised the Nation and desired to replace it with the Race. So it seems we want the nations to atone for Hitler’s folly. Due to their Holocaust trauma, should the Germans therefore erase nationalism entirely?
No, but we have a common premise here:
The catastrophe of the Holocaust, of Hitler and Nazi Germany (with the Nuremberg trials).
Such tragedy has helped us develop the notion of crimes against humanity. Hence a new dimension saw its birth, European law, which relativizes national law. At the same time a new world-wide scope of humanity was born : the ‘never again’ ethics.
Then Beck adds two arguments:
The world and us need more than ever a “European vision” for coping with the ills of globalization (climate change, poverty, inequality, 1% vs 99% etc. in the US, war, violence). The idea is that the mobilizing force of a forewarned disaster can found a European identity.
Also …. [to be continued]
Ce poste n’est pas daté, j’espère, et en tout cas il exprime l’amour des Italiens pour les Français.
Originally posted on Man of Roma:
Rome’s legacy is greater than we think – “language, literature, legal codes, government, architecture, engineering, medicine, sports, arts, etc.” – and the Roman Empire has been a powerful myth in the course of the centuries.
This Empire – Frankish, Germanic and later Austrian, dissolved in 1806 only – considered itself as the heir of the “First Rome” (the Western Roman Empire,) while the Hellenized Eastern Roman Empire, Byzantium, was called the “Second Rome” and remained unconquered until 1453 CE.
When also Byzantium (Constantinople) fell, even the Islamic conqueror, the Ottoman Mehmed II, thought he was continuing the power of Rome and tried to “re-unite the Empire” although his march towards Italy was…
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While in Russia I had a few dinners with two Frenchmen from Northern France who lived and worked in Moscow.
Claude, whose job contract was about to end, told us: “I’ve been offered a job in Toulouse. Alain, do you picture me in Toulouse, with all that mafioso mentality?”
Toulouse is in the deep French South. We passed to other topics in our conversation and dinner flowed pleasantly. Alain had brought a few bottles of Bordeaux from France. Good wine is awfully expensive in Russia. Of course Claude didn’t refer to ‘mafioso’ in the sense of ‘belonging to the mob’.
‘Mafia’ is in fact used both in a broad and a narrow sense.
According to the Dizionario Treccani ‘mafioso’ is:
1) either a criminal belonging to a mafia-like organization;
2) or one who “to the rule of law [including the laws of market, I guess] tends to replace the power of his/her own interests or of a small group and indefinitely defends his/her friends to the detriment of others.”
Now I am well aware that cliques & personal networks exist everywhere. In Russia and China they have respectively blat and guanxi relations and obligations. In Russia I heard of professionals like doctors or dentists that preferred to build a network of ‘useful contacts’ instead of being paid by each of their clients.
Cliques are terribly pervasive in the Mediterranean. In every Western country good contacts count to get things done, to find jobs etc. But here especially they represent a serious obstacle to modernization, by systematically promoting mediocrity over merit, by polluting the political arena – votes exchanged for favours, collaboration among politicians even from opposite sides by the exchange of favours etc.
Some areas of the Italian South are permeated by a mafioso mentality which often connects economical political and criminal activities into a choking whole and which from those areas radiates to the rest of the country.
Giuseppe Mazzini‘s prophecy [Mazzini is one of Italy’s founding patriots,] that “Italy will be that which the Mezzogiorno will be”, proved true, at least in some respects.
I wonder how many researchers have connected ancient Roman behaviours with the mafiosi behaviours (of any kind) that we find in Mediterranean coastal areas and in Italy. In the Mezzogiorno I see something reminiscent of the ancient Roman system of social relations [our next post tries to throw some light on this matter.]
But let’s first review how a mafia network in the narrow sense is built.
One common mistake – we had written – is that of considering the mafiosi as simple gunmen to defeat. Don Vito Cascio Ferro had no guns. He was one of the first godfathers who operated both in Sicily and in the United States. His force lay in his cynicism and intelligence and in the network he was able to create thanks to well ingrained traditions. He distributed favori, favours, to everybody, but something was asked in return.
This passage from Mario Puzo’s The Godfather is even clearer:
“Don Vito Corleone was a man to whom everybody came for help, and never were they disappointed. He made no empty promise (…) Only one thing was required. That you, you yourself, proclaim your friendship. And then, no matter how poor or powerless the supplicant, Don Corleone would take that man’s troubles to his heart (…) His reward? Friendship, the respectful title of “Don” (…), some humble gift – a gallon of homemade wine etc.
It was understood, it was mere good manners, to proclaim that you were in his debt and that he had the right to call upon you at any time to redeem your debt by some small service.”
So this exchange of favours seems an important element of the culture underlying the mafia. Ingrained in traditions that are centuries old it creates a network based on reciprocal dependence.
We’ll tentatively see how all this can somehow be connected to ancient Rome.
[to be continued]
An interesting discussion over the dangers menacing our democracies was kicked off by our latest post “Will 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.
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]
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.
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]
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.
[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 ….]
The whole world is chatting about the Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s lifestyle. The news are full of details regarding alleged wild parties in his luxurious residences (see below Villa Certosa in Sardinia.) According to these reports all sorts of women attended these festas, including alleged under-age girls and paid escorts (see above Patrizia D’Addario) attracted to a possible career in TV or in politics (see Wikipedia for details.)
Berlusconi, sometimes depicted as a decadent Roman emperor (Mary Beard in the UK Times compared him to Tiberius,) is seen by many as possessing in ways grotesque the flaws usually ascribed to Italians, a lack of sexual restraint and a loose morality, among the rest.
And in fact many Italians voting for him say they like his way of life and admire him for being rich, powerful and for the number of women in his court. This is the way I am – he said replying to journalists asking if he was planning on changing his lifestyle after the scandals – and I cannot change at my age. Italians want me like that and support me.
Other Italians however vote for him because they prefer the right-wing coalition program to a left deprived of ideas and of real leadership. The opinion of a right-wing Italian fellow blogger, Wind Rose hotel, is that being a conservative doesn’t necessarily mean to be a fan of Berlusconi. I’m sure these Italians would prefer a more prudent behaviour by our Prime Minister, although it is to be noted that Berlusconi’s success owes a lot to his frankness which makes him different from the average byzantine Italian politician.
Traditionally Italians care little about a politician’s private life, his private vices being easily forgiven whenever his political action is deemed effective (we have discussed Italian cynicism and some possible historical causes.)
Many Italians are though starting to get embarrassed, to say the least. The line between the private and public sphere seems blurred to them if it is true that women’s sexual favours were /are later rewarded with a political career in the Italian or the European parliament. Someone is talking of Berlusconi’s possible resignation.
“Mr Berlusconi’s court – writes the British Independent – has no soothsayers to warn him of the Ides of March, but the sudden emergence of hostile noises from the Catholic Church is the modern Italian equivalent of that – especially as the Catholic Church continues to hold immense sway over public opinion.”
We are going to see how far Italian cynical indifference will go. Personally I don’t think Berlusconi will resign easily, unless something unprecedented occurs. He is still very powerful, though weakened, and he controls much of the Italian media, plus a lot depends on whether he will succeed in keeping the Italian economy going.
Whether these scandals are doing any real damage to him or not, the uneasiness of the Catholic Church – whose realpolitik is hard put to it – should not be under evaluated, although an additional element has to be considered in my opinion.
Berlusconi’s ambition of playing as a separate negotiator with Russia, Iran and the Middle East is irritating both the EU and the USA. An example is Berlusconi’s support of Russia’s South Stream gas pipeline, seen as a rival to the planned Nabucco pipeline backed by the USA and the EU. The South Stream (see image below) is in fact considered dangerous by them since it would extend Russia’s blackmail influence over Europe.
A good example of Berlusconi’s foreign politics. He is so proud of being a personal friend of Putin, although it remains to be seen whether this friendship (or any other independent move) will prove profitable in the long (or even short) run.
If you want to know more:
Sex and the City (of Rome) which regards Italian sexuality and links to posts on this matter.
“Italians are Cynical, Amoral, Religiously Superficial”, on the possible roots of Italian cynicism.