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Where is Europe going? Piero Boitani’s letter to David Cameron (debate at the Man of Roma’s cafe). 2

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David Cameron &  Jean-Claude Junker controversy over Europe

Jean-Claude Juncker (left), now president of the European Commission (voted by the European Council and recently by the European Parliament) was fiercely opposed by David Cameron. Britain and Hungary were isolated. “Instead of building alliances in Europe – said Ed Milliband, leader of the British opposition – ” he’s burned them”

I warmly thank Professor Piero Boitani for letting me publish here the letter to the British PM David Cameron he has just sent to the London’s daily The Independent.

Piero Boitani – a medievalist, Dante scholar, steeped in ancient myth as well as modern literatures – is Professor of Comparative Literature at Sapienza, University of Rome, and is also teaching at the Universities of Notre Dame, Indiana, and of Italian Switzerland.

He is also – among the rest, the list IS mind-boggling – Fellow of the British Academy and Honorary Member of the Dante Society of America (together with Umberto Eco.)

Here is Piero Boitani’s voice, loud and clear.

[a ‘Roman from Rome with ancient traits’ voice, I’d say. Wonder if he’d agree, he is not a reader of this blog, he doesn’t need to; links below are MoR’s, not Professor Piero Boitani’s]

Professor Piero Boitani is an extrovert despite his immense knowledge. Goethe wrote somewhere that  “the one who doesn’t understand 3000 years of history, lives in the dark, unaware, from day to day."

Blue-eyed, pensive, P. Boitani is an extrovert despite his deep knowledge. Goethe wrote that “the one who doesn’t understand 3000 years of history, lives in the dark, unaware, from day to day.” It is not the case of Piero Boitani, as one learns by reading his magnum opus, Il Grande Racconto delle Stelle [quote from here]

Dear PM,

I have followed the recent developments in your attitude to the EU with a growing sense of concern and irritation. Since the age of 10, I have been a strong anglophile. I have studied in England, have taught and published there. I visit it at least once a year. Quite frankly, I do not understand your opposition to Juncker, which has left Britain isolated in Europe with Orban’s Hungary (sic!).  Juncker is by no means the ideal President of the European Commission, but he is no worse than, say, Barroso. Was your opposition dictated by the fact that Junker is supposed to be a ´federalist´ and that he was indicated by the European Parliament rather than the governments? That is actually a more democratic method of indicating a new President than the old one of negotiations between national governments. Is Juncker against novelty or reforms of the EU? Well, governments can actually make Juncker do what they like, so if they want reforms he will pursue reforms.

In short, your opposition seems to me purely instrumental – dictated more by Mr Farage’s victory in the recent EU elections, i.e., by UK politics, than by the well-being of Britain. Unless at the back of it all be an unconfessed attempt at going with the presumed British feeling of annoyance with the EU. Threatening the other EU members with ‘The UK will leave the EU if Juncker is nominated’, or ‘Anti-European feelings in Britain will grow to the point that the 2017 referendum will turn out to be against Britain staying in the UK’, is quite inappropriate, and useless, blackmail.

Britain ought to examine herself very deeply on the matter of Europe. There is first and foremost a question of roots and culture. The cultural roots of Britain are European, from the 1st century AD to the present. Yes, there is also a different strain, wider and tied to the British expansion on the sea, and narrower because of its feeling of insularism and isolation from the Continent. But at the critical moments in history, Britain has always made a decidedly European choice, witness the Napoleonic wars and First and Second WW.

Secondly, there are political and economic reasons. Would the UK be better off outside the EU? Or, has Britain been worse off since it joined the then EEC? To say so would be a gross error. Has Britain been less ‘free’ since joining the EEC? You drive on the left and use miles, pounds, and pints. You have kept the pound sterling. You are out of Schengen. Is someone forcing you to eat taramasalata or sauerkraut? Or to learn ‘foreign’ languages? Or to surrender your navy to the Germans?

The European Economic Community. Courtesy of Britannica Kids

The European Economic Community. Courtesy of Britannica Kids. Source

What is there in ‘Europe’ that annoys the UK? Its bureaucratic structure? I admit it could be simplified and made more efficient, but you must yourself admit that a democratic administration for nearly thirty countries is not easy to achieve without a bureaucracy, and that the mandate of this bureaucracy is to uniform and unify, not keep the thousand tiny differences that exist within Europe. If you want free circulation of people and goods among those 30 countries, you will need laws – uniform laws all over – to protect that circulation. Didn´t the British Empire do exactly this, impose the same laws all over?

Or is it that Britain does not want a supranational European state, something many (not all) Europeans want so that Europe may count more in a globalized world? But Britain already is out of that state. It has ‘opted out’ of so many things. But to think that it can stop the others from having a tighter union if they so wish, wouldn´t that be considered presumptuous in any human relationship?

Yet the British public is annoyed by Europe (you will of course understand that the rest of Europe might be slightly annoyed with Britain). I suggest that the British public serenely and rationally examine themselves about Europe and decide once and for all whether they want to stay in or quit. Should they decide to leave, they should realize that they will give up, together with what they consider the disadvantages of being in the EU, also the advantages.

Britain’s prime minister David Cameron holds a news conference during European Union leaders summit in Brussels today after Jean-Claude Juncker was nominated for European Commission president by an overwhelming majority. Photograph: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters. Source file

“Britain’s prime minister David Cameron holds a news conference during European Union leaders summit in Brussels today after Jean-Claude Juncker was nominated for European Commission president by an overwhelming majority.” Source and caption: Irish Times

One no longer is a member of a family, or a club, if one decides to leave it. They shall have to pay duty on their wines from Europe and grow resigned to selling less whisky in Europe because we will have to pay more duty on it.  But at least they will stop having headaches about being or not being European, being or not being in the EU.

I confess that I feel upset when I have to show my passport upon entering Britain. I am particularly annoyed at having to change euros into sterling (something from which only banks profit) and having to buy plug adaptors for every electrical appliance I acquire either on the Continent or in Britain (something from which only the makers of such adaptors profit).

If Britain, at the end of such self-examination process, decides it wants to leave the EU, I shall be sad, but will face the situation serenely – and will give up my strong anglophilia without any further headache.

Piero Boitani

Recovering from the brink: a tale of the two-body problem

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Man of Roma:

Men's depression occurring whn they lose their job

“Identity loss: One in seven men who lose their job will suffer six months’ depression”. Source (Daily Mail)

Does a woman’s success damage a male partner’s ego?
[You may also like this article by the Washington Post]

Originally posted on Tenure, She Wrote:

Today’s Guest Post was contributed by Family First Research Professor.

Our story is familiar. My husband and I completed our postdocs and went on the job market together. We carefully identified universities with opportunities for us both, applied, and waited.

I had the good fortune to be recruited and choose between offers for assistant professorships at R1 universities. My husband didn’t get a single interview. I started on tenure track, while my husband applied for unemployment. The process triggered minor panic attacks for me. My husband became crippled by severe depression.

Over the past year, I have faced two challenges as a new assistant professor: building up my lab and supporting my husband’s recovery. Somehow, the latter makes the race to tenure seem like a piece of cake, or at least substantially less important.

As with any severe disease, depression upset all aspects of our lives. At the office, I…

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At a Londinium cafe. Exchange between Maximus (soldier of Rome) and Richardus (an Ancient Briton)

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An outdoors cafe in Rome

Outdoor cafe in Rome. Courtesy of Lonely Planet

[stolen from here onwards]

MoR: “I think I’ve commented here twice. Well, ok. Good night Richardus.”

Richard: “Twice? That’s because you’re so much faster than me, relatively speaking.”

MoR: “I am slower, Richardus.”

MoR (*using too many smartphones in outdoor cafes, people screaming toasting): ” I am confused. Got moderated, probably. 1:20 am Rome’s time. Time to get back home. G’night.”

Richard: ” Keep a watch for predatory animals and itinerant males.”

Manius Papirius Lentulus Maxumus (soldier of Rome):

“I always do.”

An old Anglo-Saxon weapon, called an axe-hammer. Click for credits

An ancient Anglo-Saxon weapon, called an axe-hammer. Source

M. P.L.M: “An inspiring man, Richardus, stemming from the Ancient Britons, id est the Romano-British prior to the adventus Saxonum [the good ol’ days, *sighing*]. Hope R. won’t get upset about my reposting his article on The Magic Mountain. ”

Richardus: ” I hereby give retrospective consent, relatively speaking. Not so sure about the inspiring, unless you refer to my snoring.
I was just guessing about my Ancient Briton heritage. It must be there somewhere.”

MoR (*tapping on his phone, sun having risen tho his studio getting none*):

“Wull, snuuring can be inspuuring”
Said the Saxon with distraction
Rising his axe that is never lax
Tho THIS Brittonic is faster: he *thwacks*

Now the time, sodalis, has arrived,
An ancient heritage we ought to dive,
For u to reveal in full detail
Tonite, u sprite, [yes!] over ale.


Capitoline She-Wolf. Rome, Musei Capitolini. Public domainYou might like other dialogues of the same sort.

The gentle nature of friendship

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Man of Roma:

Alma Tadema 001_Small

Invocation, before a mind journey

To my belovéd Anglo Saxon friends,
And to Chaerie dearest Faerie,
Queene of the Greatest Isle, Américà.

O Goddess, Thou, so heauenly and so bright!

Shed pls thy faire beams into our feeble eyne,
And raise, our thoughts being humble and too vile,
The argument of our afflicted style.

M. P. L. M.

Originally posted on Notes from Around the Block:

Chip at the Wheel

by cheri

I remember visiting my grandparent’s home in Oakland in the late 50’s. On the wall of their kitchen nook was a framed cross-stitched message in blue which read, ” To Have a Friend, Be One.”

What an order! As the years passed, I glanced at that little frame, usually in a hurry.

This week friends named Sharon, Doug, Mary, Donna, Pam, and Linda have been on my mind. Zuby, Gary, Sara, and Ben. Christy, Joyce, and Anna. Richard, Don, Bill, and Susie. Kayti, Jennifer, and Vicki.

The souls I am privileged to call friends are  loyal, diverse, intellectually curious, and most importantly (for me), authentic. Some of my friends I don’t see often. They have been patient with me throughout the years and were you to call for their evaluation of my attention to the edict in the cross-stitch, they would say that I have always been too busy. Too…

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“Why we still like the Germans (and will always like them).” 2

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Ulrich Beck:
“Europe’s crisis is mental”

Ulrich Beck (born 1944). German sociologist

Ulrich Beck (born 1944) professor at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich until 2009 now holds a professorship at Munich University and at the London School of Economics. Wikimedia (source)


Ulrich Beck, who coined the term risk society, is a professor of Sociology at Munich University and at the London School of Economics (read further.)

[full text of an article appeared (April 10, 2014) on the Roman daily La Repubblica. The said article is here paraphrased, translated and abridged by MoR]

Dante, Mozart
and the future of Europe

Dante & Mozart. Accordind to Beck, Europe's future restarts from them (many themes from our blog reverberate to this and other notions by Ulrich Beck (not many doubts about it)

Dante & Mozart. According to Beck, Europe’s future restarts from them (many themes from our blog reverberate to this and other notions by Ulrich Beck. Source from the Cisl Scuola web site

Europe’s crisis is not economical, it is mental. It is a lack of imagination as for the good life beyond consumerism.

Most critics of Europe are caught in nostalgic nationalism. French intellectual Alain Finkielkraut, for example, argues that Europe was created against the Nations.”

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.

Cosmopolitanism vs
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]

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

Previous installment:

“Why we still like the Germans (and will always like them).” 1

Calcagni’s Memoirs. Agnese Calcagni and the Blue Sisters (15)

Basilica of Santo Stefano Rotondo, Rome. Click for attribution and to enlarge

15th excerpt from the memoirs of Carlo Calcagni – original Italian text -, a true Roman born almost one and a half century ago. Read all excerpts posted so far in English or in Carlo’s original Italian text.

Here Agnese, my grandmother, is mentioned for the first time.


For my sisters, despite their being quite pretty, no suitor was around [one sister, Elvira, was already a nun, MoR.]

All right for Maria who was extremely young but Agnese had already passed the right age and no one showed up so it could represent a little bit of a worry.

Not being a fool Agnese was thinking about organizing her life not around a wedding far to come, but around a job that would both interest and occupy her in a worthy manner.

She became a nurse at the Blue Sisters’, in Santo Stefano Rotondo [see the Basilica above and below.]

She proved very good, attentive and intelligent. Prof. Margarucci was enthusiastic about her, and so were the patients; much less the English nuns on account of her very frank and independent behaviour.

After several small frictions here we are with a decisive, conclusive one.

A Drop of Cognac

S. Stefano Rotondo. External view

S. Stefano Rotondo. External view. Click for attribution and to enlarge

One night she was on call and had a patient seriously ill whom we knew and who at one point asked for a cordial, for something – since he felt like fainting. Custom of the house was that the stewardess shut everything during the night so that no one could take anything out of the pantry.

My sister races to the pantry and finds the stewardess, a nun, who, like every good English, is calmly sipping at her tea. She asks her for a drop of cognac for her patient but the nun, on the strength of her charge, does not even reply.

Then Agnese, with an authoritarian voice, asks her for the keys and after several refusals manages to get them, to take what she had to take and to get back to her patient.

All hell breaks loose. The nun writes up the minutes and the next morning my sister is called by the Direction for a dressing-down.

“In disregard of any regulation … she had dared to insist, better, to force the stewardess to open the cupboard …”

My sister at this point can no longer resist. She takes off her cap and veil and calmly lays them on the table in front of prof. Margarucci, saying:

“We cannot get along with these English nuns’ methods. If a patient, entrusted to me during night-time, needs some help I open all cupboards, I even smash everything, but I seek a way of helping those who are suffering and perhaps dying.”

Margarucci tried to settle things but, while thanking him very much, my sister was unshakable:

“If not this time it will certainly happen another time. It’s a question of mentality.”

Thus ended her first attempt at finding an occupation, a job.

Countess Campello & Beppe Tamanti

Beppe Tamanti was from Montalcino, Siena (Tuscany). Click for credits and to enlarge

Another opportunity soon arose in the same sphere of activity. Countess Guglielmina Campello, lady-in-waiting to Queen Elena, was looking for a young lady, good, capable and of civilised condition, who could take care of the direction of a new clinic that the Queen was creating for children predisposed to tuberculosis. The Countess turned to Agnese, who went and returned to her several times to discuss and see, before making up her mind.

During such circumstances the extraordinary fact of her engagement to Beppe Tamanti took place. Beppe Tamanti was one from the Chorus Misticus [a catholic private group of young men, MoR], but had never come to our house and knew Agnese only for having seen her a few times in passing. Agnese had never been mentioned in our talks.

One morning Beppe appears in my office on Lungotevere Raffaello Sanzio …

Original text in Italian

Related posts:

The continuation of Agnese’s episode:
Calcagni’s Memoirs. A sudden Twist in Agnese’s Life (16)

An excerpt where Elvira, the eldest sister and nun, shows a temperament similar to Agnese’s:
Elvira, the Eldest Sister, Makes Someone Behave (5)

Contemporary ‘Romans’? World’s Folks May Tread On US, We’ll Survive

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November 11, 1940. With Operation “Judgment” in WW2 half of the Italian fleet at Taranto was sunk by a raid of British torpedo planes from a carrier. The image shows the Italian Conte di Cavour, a great ship, sunk. Click for credits and further infos

This post is about the Italian peculiar case of ‘survival through cynicism’ (Italians & WWII.)

The next post will be about ‘survival through quality’ in times of economic globalization. A bit of a survival kit for any folk.


The following playful exchanges occurred at a London café where Richardus, the café owner, was present together with Chaerie (California,) Paul Costopoulos (Quebec, Canada) and others we’ll omit since their comments were outside the chosen theme.

The spirit world
(and the silly male)

Richardus (Britannia): “A breathless bolt, a high-pitched arrow of sound pierces the night and cleaves my skull.”

Man of Roma (Roma): “At times we don’t sleep well, do we. Very similar we are, Britannia.”

Britannia: “We are. But also we have to keep watch for wild animals and itinerant males.”

Roma: “Yes we have. That is why I bought a real Roman gladius. By the way, a new chapter of the ‘last Roman soldier in Britannia’ soap has just been posted.”

Paul Costopoulos (his blog): “The primal scream can be such a relief… it does disturb, fleetingly, our bed companion.”

Cheri (her blog): “Have you tried opening your window at night to let the night sounds into the room?
Those in the spirit world might come in, deep in the dark of sleepless night, and rest with you.”

Britannia: “I shall listen for the sounds of the Klamath River.”

Roma: “I am eager to read about your spirits’ world Cherie … We all are at a phase of our life where we need that … I envy your power of communication with Mother Nature. Here we live just the life of the city people (see image below) surrounded by the world of man rather than by the spirits’ world. [although …]”

Via dei Serpenti, with the Colosseum at the end. Photo by MoR. Given to the people!

[Then something happened. Cheri said she would visit me in Roma. Richard pulled out a Norman helmet. The silly male in me hence made me exclaim:]

Roma: “Richardus, what’s that helmet for? I’ve got my gladius, don’t forget!”

Roma: “And I know our apple of discord c’est Chaerie.

Elle vaut la peine de se battre. Mais soyez prudent. Les Italiens ne sont pas des lâches (cowards), ils sont indifférents, which is another thing entirely.

And Chaerie, elle vaut absolument la paine de ne pas être indifférents ;-) id est, she deserves absolute non indifference.

Hey, where’s my darn gladius?

*He falls while looking for it and breaks his left leg*

Chaerie. Apple of discord?

Cheri: “Good jokes, Roma. I get it…Remember, I have been having lunch with a lusty Italian for years. Ahhh….I miss Joe so much.

Roma: “Joe a lusty Italian? Ah ah ah ah. Now ‘I’ get it. You so intelligent, beautiful and hyperborean. He, Sicilian and all. Not surprising. Not at all surprising. Cannot blame him though. May he rest in peace, Cherie.”


Roma: Richardus, that lento played by the Quartetto Italiano: is that supposed to mean a requiem to my hopes about Cheri because you’ll kill me in battle?

Wrong move, man. I’ll explain why.

Battle of the
Mediterranean. Reloaded

The beautiful Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina) was sunk by the British Royal navy in the Mediterranean. Ok, the famous WW2 ‘battle of the Mediterranean’ – we lacked radar, proper fleet air arm (and fuel.) OK. OK.

BUT, only a few years after that defeat two Mediterranean people, my sister and my bro-in-law, got married.

Look into their eyes, Homo Britannicus. Do they look defeated?

They do not.

What the hell. Are they morally superior?

They are not.

It’s …

It’s just they don’t give a damn, Richardus. Italians don’t give a damn.

[I call Italians ‘Romans’ in the title: nothing more appropriate …]

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

Methinks a foolish chant is taking shape …
[may readers pardon me]

Like a warm-fleshed woman
lying languidly on the Mediterranean,
Here’s Italy, motionless, statue-like.
World folks may tread on her body,

(Oh yes! she utters)

from the German barbarians,
from Hitler TBBM
(The Big Big Maniac)
to the Allied Forces.

(Oh yeah yeah! she moans)

Partenope (1905) by Arnarlo de Lisio (1869-1949), a painter from Molise

Although, in her sluttish nature,
she will not disappear, Britannia.
She will stay. And survive.
And will continue to be beautiful,
rising eternally up from her ashes.

“Why this folk is like that
Mario TBM (the big moron) will exclaim.

MOR: “Oh Mario, I’m so surprised,
you should know better.

In any case they’re like that because they are:


[by now the London customers shake their heads in disapproval and turn to their drinks]

And an old post,
That Pride Which Is Actually Blindness,
explains why we are all like Joe,
why we are all Sicilians (which is good.)

While, this other post,
why we’re all like Mario too a bit
(less good :-( )

[*Mario the deceiver rejoicing in silence (though biting his nails)*]


Britannia: “That lento, requiem or not, is gentle fulfillment for all, dear Giovanni. Let us relish it.”

Roma: “Of course, dear Richard, of course. Gentle fulfillment. Thank you for these two words.

A la prochaine, really, amico mio …”


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