Tag Archives: italy

Books July 2018

Ur Fascism – Umberto Eco

Read Umberto Eco’s

Ur Fascism

essay. The New York Review of Books.

See wikipedia entry

nationalism and his cult of heroism

celebrated speed, violence, and risk

fascist cult of youth

optimism and heroism

Fascism became an all-purpose term because one can eliminate from a fascist regime one or more features, and it will still be recognizable as fascist. Take away imperialism from fascism and you still have Franco and Salazar. Take away colonialism and you still have the Balkan fascism of the Ustashes. Add to the Italian fascism a radical anti-capitalism (which never much fascinated Mussolini) and you have Ezra Pound. Add a cult of Celtic mythology and the Grail mysticism (completely alien to official fascism) and you have one of the most respected fascist gurus, Julius Evola.

The first feature of Ur-Fascism is the cult of tradition.

If you browse in the shelves that, in American bookstores, are labeled as New Age, you can find there even Saint Augustine who, as far as I know, was not a fascist. But combining Saint Augustine and Stonehenge – that is a symptom of Ur-Fascism.

Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation.

fear of difference

obsession with a plot,

Thus, by a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.

Fascist governments are condemned to lose wars because they are constitutionally incapable of objectively evaluating the force of the enemy.

In every mythology the hero is an exceptional being, but in Ur-Fascist ideology, heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death. It is not by chance that a motto of the Falangists was Viva la Muerte (in English it should be translated as “Long Live Death!”).

the Ur-Fascist hero craves heroic death, advertised as the best reward for a heroic life. The Ur-Fascist hero is impatient to die. In his impatience, he more frequently sends other people to death.

All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning.

UrFascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. It would be so much easier, for us, if there appeared on the world scene somebody saying, “I want to reopen Auschwitz, I want the Black Shirts to parade again in the Italian squares.” Life is not that simple. UrFascism can come back under the most innocent of disguises.

Machiavelli’s The Prince

Podcast: Machiavelli: Nigel Warburton and Prof. Quentin Skinner

Machiavelli’s The Prince

The Prince as a centaur:

“He says that the ancients understood state craft better, when they figured The Prince as a centaur. The centaur is half man and half beast, and that’s what it is to understand state craft. Manly virtue will never be enough, you’ve got to be ready for beastliness, and the centaur is half beast. Now, that is presented directly as a satire of Cicero.”- Prof. Skinner

Cicero: the fox and the lion

“Cicero had said, ‘Force is beastly and is to be avoided, that is simply the lion. Fraud is beastly and that is to be avoided, that is simply the fox’. And Machiavelli says, ‘Since you need to know how to be beastly, you had better know which particular beasts to imitate, and then in the most famous phrase in the book he says, ‘Those who have done best as princes in our time have known how to imitate the lion and the fox’.” – Prof. Skinner

‘You’re going to have to cheat, you must do your best to appear not to be cheating’, and that again is satirical in respect of Cicero’s De Officiis, because one of the things which Cicero keeps telling us is, ‘Fraud will always be found out. So you cannot gain true glory by pretence’, I’m now quoting Cicero, ‘because your pretences will always find you out’ And that becomes a biblical thought too. ‘Be sure your sins will find you out’. Now, one of the most important things that Machiavelli wants to tell The Prince is not to worry about that, because it’s not true. And he’s very keen on the fact that The Prince is not performing his politics in republican conditions. In republican conditions, you’re out in the piazza, everyone has a vote, it’s all public. People are watching you. You’ve only been elected, their turn will come, it’s a communal activity, everything is in the bright light of day. It’s not so for The Prince.” – Prof. Skinner

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From Chapters 15-24 “‘Be courageously evil where it’s necessary to be evil, but otherwise follow what people regard as the virtues as much as possible. Because if you don’t, they’ll hate you, and if they hate you, you’re in trouble’. -Prof. Skinner

Illustration of Othello and Iago. Charles and Mary Lamb, Tales from Shakespeare (Philadelphia: Henry Altemus Company, 1901). Via Wikimedia.

See Shakespeare’s Iago

The Prince as a critique of Seneca‘s ‘De Clementia’, ‘De Beneficiis’ ‘concerning benefits’, and Cicero’s De Officiis, Concerning One’s Offices.

La muerte de Séneca. 1871. Manuel Domínguez Sánchez. Museo de Prado, Madrid. El título completo dado por el pintor fue: Séneca, después de abrirse las venas, se mete en un baño y sus amigos, poseídos de dolor, juran odio a Nerón que decretó la muerte de su maestro. Via Wikimedia.

La fortuna

Essarai non buono

“Machiavelli does himself say at one point in Chapter 15 – this pivotal and notorious chapter where he introduces the virtuoso prince who is not always virtuous. He says ‘I’m teaching you that sometimes you must learn, how not to be good’, and it’s interesting he doesn’t say there, virtuoso, he says buono, a good person. ‘Essarai non buono’ – how not to be a good person.”” – Prof. Skinner

Salus populi suprema lex esto (The health of the people should be the supreme law) from Cicero’s De Legibus.

Machiavellian morality vs. Christian morality and classical morality.

“If you’re a prince, you need to go against conventional Christian or classical morality, if you’re an ordinary person, perhaps, you may want to carry on according to Christian or classical morality.” -Prof. Skinner

Read:

Isaiah Berlin’s essay The Originality of Machiavelli

Save

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A Death in Tuscany

Giuttari, Michele, and Howard Curtis. A Death in Tuscany. London: Abacus, 2009. Print.

“Friendship is preferable to honors. It is better to be loved than honored.” Aristotle.

See Nicomechaen Ethics Book VIII Chapter 8 by Aristotle

River Arno flood of 1966

North Africans and Albanians in Florence p. 21-22

“The personal effects of the dead are always disturbing. It is as if they have suddenly lost their value along with their owner. They appear as they are, piles of objects more or less worn down by a use to which they wil no longer be put… But that wasn’t what disturbed Ferrara as he bent to pick up the wretched market-stall ring. It was the image of the girl reaching out her little hand to choose it from among others, the childish illusions she may have had in her mind as she slipped it on her finger.” p. 34

Police reports 119-121.

Piazza della Republica to the Via degli Strozzi… Giambologna’s grim little devil at the corner of Via dei Vecchietti.” p. 125

see IL DIAVOLINO DEI VECCHIETTI

ilex evergreen oak

finding Claudia Pizzi’s leather shoulder bag containing her mobile and wallet with ID. p. 172

Hunting in the Pontine Marshes, oil on canvas by Horace Vernet, 1833. Via Wikimedia.

“He was the son of poor peasants from the Agro Pontino who had only ever known three coats of arms, the arms of Savoy, the Fascist emblem, and the shield of the Italian republic.” p. 197
“two columns of the Temple. The one in the north is Boaz, and the one in the south is Jachin.” p. 202

“The three columns symbolise Wisdom, Strength and Beauty.” p. 203

Masonic ritual and symbolism

Pigpen cipher

בֵּית־הַמִּקְדָּשׁ Solomon’s Temple

Italian August bank holiday

Marble quarries in Carrara

To read:

Purloined Letter short story by Edgar Alan Poe

Save

Save

Eat Pray Love

Gilbert, Elizabeth. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia. New York, N.Y.; Penguin, 2007. Print. (First ed. 2006)

“When the Crusaders drove East for the holy wars, they witnessed worshipers praying with these japa malas, admired the technique, and brought the idea home to Europe as rosary.” p. 1

“the number 108 is held to be most auspicious, a perfect three-digit multiple of three, its components adding up to nine, which is three threes.” p. 1-2

“This division means that there are 36 tales in each section, which appeals to me on a personal level because I am writing all this during my thirty-sixth year.” p. 2

Om Namah Shivaya

“It wasn’t so much that I wanted to thoroughly explore the countries themselves; this has been done. It was more that I wanted to thoroughly explore one aspect of myself set against the backdrop of each country,” p. 37

“Therefore, what we today call French is really a version of medieval Parisian. Portuguese is really Lisboan. Spanish is essentially Madrileño. These were capitalist victories; the strongest city ultimately determined the language of the whole country.” p. 57

“What this congress decided would henceforth be considered proper Italian was the personal language of the great Florentine poet Dante Alighieri. When Dante published his Divine Comedy back in 1321, detailing a visionary progression through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven, he’d shocked the literate world by not writing in Latin.” p. 58-59

“He wrote his masterpiece in what he called il dolce stil nuovo, the “sweet new style” of the vernacular, and he shaped that vernacular even as he was writing it, affecting it as personally as Shakespeare would someday affect Elizabethan English.” p. 59

terza rima

“Dante writes that God is not merely a blinding vision of glorious light, but that He is, most of all, l’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle… ” p, 60

il bel far niente “the beauty of doing nothing” p. 80

“For me, though, a major obstacle in my pursuit of pleasure was my ingrained sense of Puritan guilt. Do I really deserve this pleasure? This is very American, too–the insecurity about whether we have earned our happiness.”p. 81

“Dai, dai, dai, Albertini, dai … va bene, va bene, ragazzo mio, perfetto, bravo, bravo… Dai! Dai! Via! Via! Nella porta! Eccola, eccola, eccola, mio bravo ragazzo, caro mio, eccola, eccola, ecco–AAAHHHHHHHHH!!!  VAFFANCULO!! FIGLIO DI MIGNOTTA!! STRONZO! CAFONE! TRADITORE! Madonna… Ah, Dio mio, perché, perché, perché, questo e stupido, e una vergogna, la vergogna… Che casino, che bordello… NON HAI UN CUORE, ALBERTINI! FAI FINTA! Guarda, non e successo niente.. Dai, dai, ah… Molto migliore, si si si, eccola, bello, bravo, anima mia, ah ottimo, eccola adesso … nella porta, nella porta, nell–VAFFANCULO!!!!!!!” p. 90-91

Plan Roms im Altertum. Via Wikimedia.

Augusteum

“The Augusteum warns me not to get attached to any obsolete ideas about who I am, what I represent, whom I belong to, or what function I may once have intended to serve… Even in the Eternal City, says the silent Augusteum, one must always be prepared for riotous and endless waves of transformation.” p. 100

magari (maybe, if only, I wish)

History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon

“Parla come magni.” p. 115

“Virginia Woolf wrote, “Across the broad continent of a woman’s life falls the shadow of a sword.” On one side of that sword, she said, there lies convention and tradition and order, where “all is correct.” But on the other side of that sword, if you’re crazy enough to cross it and choose a life that does not follow convention, “all is confusion. Nothing follows a regular course.”” p. 126

The Bhagavad Gita–that ancient Indian Yogic text–says that it is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.” p. 127

“I drop out of my Italian-language school, having come to feel that it was interfering with my efforts to learn Italian, since it was keeping me stuck in the classroom instead of wandering around Italy, where I could practice with people in person.” p. 128

codega “a fellow you hired to walk in front of you at night with a lit lantern, showing you the way, scaring off thieves and demons, bringing you confidence and protection through the dark streets.” p. 135

“Or maybe I only want to go to Sicily because of what Goethe said: “Without seeing Sicily one cannot get a clear idea of what Italy is.”” p. 148

 

“Historians say that rhetoric was invented in Syracuse, and also (and this is just a minor thing) plot.” p. 150

The Italians (1964) by Luigi Barzini

“In a world of disorder and disaster and fraud, sometimes only beauty can be trusted. Only artistic excellence is incorruptible.” p. 152

“You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight.” p. 154

arati prayer

“Greek stoic philosopher Epictetus: “You bear God within you, poor wretched, and you know it not.”” p. 161

To Read: Epictetus

“”Our whole business therefore in this life,” wrote Saint Augustine, rather Yogically, “is to restore to health the eye of the heart whereby God may be seen.”” p. 162

To Read: Saint Augustine

“the monk quoted to me from the Bhagavad Gita, the most sacred ancient text of Yoga: “Oh Khrisna, the mind is restless, turbulent, strong and unyielding. I consider it as difficult to subdue as the wind.”” p. 174

Ham-sa mantra

Saint Teresa of Ávila by Peter Paul Rubens. Via Wikimedia.

Saint Teresa of Avila

“The most difficult challenge, the saint wrote in her memoirs, was to not stir up the intellect during meditation, for any thoughts of the mind–even the most fervent prayers–will extinguish the fire of God.” p. 190

kundalini shakti  

“You gotta stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone oughtta be.” p. 199

guru gita

“Zen masters always say that you cannot see your reflection in running water, only in still water.” p. 226

Vipassana meditation

“”The world is afflicted with death and decay, therefore the wise do not grieve, knowing the terms of the world,” says an old Buddhist teaching.” p. 229

“Half the benefit of prayer is in the asking itself, in the offering of a clearly posed and well-considered intention.” p. 235

“Because if you can’t learn to master your thinking, you’re in deep trouble forever.” p. 236

“”Guilt’s just your ego’s way of tricking you into thinking that you’re making moral progress.”” p. 244

(Instructions for Freedom) “3. The day is ending. It’s time for something that was beautiful to turn into something else that is beautiful. Now, let go.” p. 245

“7. Let your intentions be freedom from useless suffering. Then, let go.” p. 246

“the rules of transcendence insist that you will not advance even one inch closer to divinity as long as you cling to even one last seductive thread of blame.” p. 247

“To know God, you need only to renounce one thing–your sense of division from God.” p. 255

Sextus “̶