Giorgio Bocca, Italian essayist and journalist

“Will Fascism come back? Easy, a little of it is already there, the ongoing formation of the new regime is perceived by the rancour, the desire for defamation, the irrepressible desire to silence those who oppose the new order. In the renewed but eternal fascism there is also 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 in which supporters of the sultan are placed in the front row and on instructions from the master yell as rabid curs, preventing others from speaking.”

[Giorgio Bocca, Annus horribilis, Feltrinelli Milano, 2010]

97 thoughts on ““Will Fascism Come Back? Easy, a Bit is There Already.”

  1. Fascism is love of state over individual. It is always bubbling just beneath the surface and is the tool of most dictators and tyrants. Conventional wisdom places it on the Right in political ideology but I suspect it more flexible than that.

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  2. Fascism is the kissing cousin of communism, the similarities are clear enough. The Red terror may have already spent itself, at least for the foreseeable future, but fascism especially if it carefully, wisely imitates what we call humanistic and secular systems that we do approve of, can rupture forth like a puss filled boil. It is the dangerously close-by predator that can strike while presenting itself as a form of strong centralized republican government.

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  3. Fascism is something that is always going to be with us as long as authority and submission are considered vital components of human culture — not just practical in certain circumstances (such as obeying the local rules of the road, or children minding sensible parental rules like not playing in the street) but morally vindicating. Everyone knows the personality types I mean: the man or woman who regards it as ennobling to give up your will to a leader, and the person whose entire identity lies in clinging to power and control. Naturally these often manifest in the same person, at different times and in different circumstances. Whole cultures encourage the adoption of these roles; it’s my primary complaint about religious institutions, and the family structures that most organized religions prescribe.

    When people have been conditioned from birth onward, ideology is almost superfluous; they will gravitate toward anyone who offers “strong leadership” and social cohesion. We’ve all seen people bounce from Catholicism to Communism or whatever.

    The exhausting implication is that you cannot extirpate the tendency wholesale. Unless people become individually persuaded that they are safest in possession of their own free will, Fascistic structures will always have a sneaking attraction.

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  4. Interesting that your quote, which was presumably describing an Italian situation, could equally well capture American public discourse today.

    That said, nobody actually fears fascism will win in America. But the rancor, the shrillness, the animosity obscuring reason and thought: that is everywhere.

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    1. Yes, on both sides, like a new ‘zeitgeist’ emerging everywhere in the world. But there are countertrends. In Italy too, where the situation is surely worse than in the US for ex.

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  5. @Paul, Douglas, Zeus, Sledpress, Andreas

    Yes, it is interesting that a quote describing Italy has intercepted American discourse.

    Unfortunately there’s no reason for believing that democracy will survive longer than any previous form of government (feudalism, monarchy by divine right, aristocracy etc.).

    In Anglo-Saxon countries democracy has deeper roots because of Great Britain. But the world is changing fast. States such as China or Russia can set examples. And we have theocracies (who is more rancorous than a fanatic?) And Berlusconism, though at a much smaller scale, can also be influential because of its novelty and origins in the most advanced part of a country that, at least historically, is important for the West.

    History not allowing predictions but analogies, it shows us anything can happen (but I am optimist.)

    Take the end of WW1. Monarchies such as Austria Germany and Russia had sunk and the US GB and France seemed to prepare a safer democratic future, but then the Russian revolution erupted, together with Italian Fascism, as a reaction to it.

    So, exactly like a) the French (Napoleonic) model had appealed to many countries 1 century earlier (see the long series of caudillos in Latin America after great Bolivar showed up etc) now it was the turn of b) the Italian model: after Mussolini’s fascism we had similar dictatorships in Turkey (1923), Chile (1927), Greece (1928), Brazil (1930), Portugal (1932), Germany (1933), Austria (1933), Spain (1939) and France (1940) – and I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few.

    In other words, at a moment when democracy appeared to be winning, a long series of ‘left’ and ‘right’ totalitarianisms ensued.

    Linking now modern with ancient, I wonder if it is by chance that Caesarism did appeal to folks who had known the civilization of Caesar more directly (Bavaria, Austria, Latin and Mediterranean countries: even today North Africa is more or less totalitarian.)

    Although, the majority of historians today consider Julius Caesar’s (and Augustus’) Caesarism – idest the Roman empire – a necessary move at the end of a ‘no longer up to the task’ Roman Republic.

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    1. Unfortunately there’s no reason for believing that democracy will survive longer than any previous form of government (feudalism, monarchy by divine right, aristocracy etc.).

      I cannot think of any true democracies. Republics, yes, but democracies, no. In a true democracy, all matters would be settled by plebiscite. What we see are mostly representative democracies wherein people are elected to represent the interests of various factions (regions, political blocs, etc).

      However, the concept of democratic rule has survived for quite some time. I expect it to continue to survive (and be used and abused by those seeking power or seeking to maintain power).

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      1. I cannot think of any true democracies. Republics, yes, but democracies, no.

        I totally agree. Often democracies (rule of the people) are in truth new forms of aristo-cracies, ie the rule of the happy few. There is in fact a big flaw or prerequisite for a democracy to work correctly in my view (no matter the direct or indirect thing pls allow me, which technology imo will easily fix sooner or later):

        a solidly educated people.

        Without this prerequisite a demo-cracy degenerates into a dem-agogy ie into manipulation of the people via their emotions, fears, bias etc.

        The public debate in America regarding the health care system is an example of that I suppose. But here in Italy our democracy is in much worse shape. We have a prime minister owning a media empire (!) that has lowered the educational level the people (!) – with 15 years of totally idiotic stuff – AND at the same time (!) has taken advantage of that same people ‘s misguiding it has carried out [update: I forgot no funds were given to education – I believe in a mix of (solid) state and private education, it not being socialism, it being humanity imo]

        We have a big problem in this country. It would be a tragedy, if Italians weren’t Italians. But maybe it’s just I perceive the power of this lion (Berlusca is a lion) is at its end whatever one can read in the papers.

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        1. Do you really believe that any country will produce a solidly educated people?

          I may be a bit too cynical but I think that as long as education is in the hands of the government (or the educational system supports the governing powers) that there will only be people educated to support that government.

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          1. @Douglas

            I understand America is suspicious of any state intervention in society. It’s your history – a great one – and I respect it. But 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

            Parts 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 have been a state school teacher in the slums of Rome trying to do something for those whose parents were not educated enough to help their children.

            And in Russia, a great but nightmarish place where I worked in 2000, while ALL was crumbling, the masses were nonetheless amazingly educated in S&T and were reading Tosltoy, 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 in 10 years they have copied the worst from us and are now reading crap in trains, exactly like we do in moronic Berlusconian Italy.

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          2. And in Russia, a great but nightmarish place where I worked in 2000 … the masses were nonetheless amazingly educated in S&T and were reading Tosltoy, Pushkin in second class trains. Education didn’t save them from many forms of tyranny… but I’m sure in 10 years they have copied the worst from us and are now reading crap in trains, exactly like we do in moronic Berlusconian Italy.

            Interesting comment. First, 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.

            Why is, or was this? It’s nice to see the “elite” reading good stuff, but it’s not so wonderful when you reflect on the rigid education and class – yes class – assumptions that brought it about. That’s why I often feel uncomfortable with educated literate people. The way they talk and think about the material is not mine -it’s almost like a status badge.

            No solution!

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        2. @Roma

          I understand America is suspicious of any state intervention in society.

          I would disagree with that. A large portion of the US population is suspicious of big government but not all and not even a majority hold that suspicion. Otherwise, we would not have welfare, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and so on. A large enough proportion of the population sees government as the answer to problems. They also hold a reverence for aristocracy, possibly as a vestige of our roots in European culture (but I happen to think it is a common human trait). We build/manufacture our own aristocracies. One obvious example would be the Kennedys. But there are many others. Sons and daughters of political leaders have an advantage over unknowns (or lesser knowns) in elections.

          But Europe’s traditions are strongly aristocratic and that is a hard cultural habit to break. What too many (IMO) people seek is abdication of personal liberty in favor of a strong but benevolent leader… the Good King. Self-rule is a little scary, after all. America has a stronger belief in personal liberty and individualism because of its fairly unique (and relatively recent) history. We grew out of those dissatisfied with the status quo of their own cultures and countries and who sought individual freedom. That does not make us indifferent to the suffering of others but it does mean we believe in the ability of people to rise above the circumstances of their birth or place in society. At least, we pretend to. We see helping the less fortunate to be, in most cases, temporary.

          But that is changing. There is a strong movement to make the US more European. I don’t think that is a good thing.

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          1. I totally agree. People who left Europe etc. most of the time were escaping from the burden of a ‘heavy social structure’ with less opportunities for those outside certain circles. I know very well because my family, from both parents, has some aristocratic blood in the old sense (such things happen in old Europe,) but (I say fortunately) at a certain time, basically when Monarchy here was erased with a referendum in 1946 because compromised with Fascism – while before that time things were easier for my ancestors – they were ‘out’ of any post of relevance. Which obliged / allowed me to fight hard for my daily bread, which has enriched me.

            But, despite what you are saying, when you people talk of individualism vs collectivism, I find things not that easy to understand. But I am eager to understand!

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  6. A choice to be totally dependent upon a state that is no longer accountable to anyone or anything is at the heart of much American discourse. The size or scope of government is an ongoing sometimes related debate, but the real worry is what happens when a free people simply permit themselves not to be free anymore?

    Certainly the long, brutal death of the Roman Republic is a reference point for many. I’m not sure it is totally applicable to many large nation states today, but another series of questions that a look at the Roman Republic might raise for modern people is the definition of freedom. No very many people were very free in the days of the Roman Republic, at least not as we understand the term today. But we might ask ourselves what we really mean by freedom and are we loosing that freedom.

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  7. Orwell’s book Homage to Catalonia is a fine read to galvanize the heart against fascism. We were in the country around Barcelona on Catalonia Independence Day about 3 years ago.

    The images of the flag and the fierce independence of the people (who lost so much) made Judge Blah and I feel fired up.

    We went and had a mojito to celebrate.

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    1. That is my favorite book by Orwell, and yes this book did indeed influence my views about things at a pretty early age. I loved his description and comments about being saved by Spanish marksmanship.

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      1. Oh yes…me too! The descriptions of the soldiers on the hill, huddling in the rain and that final assault. Magnificently written. I was changed after reading that book.

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    2. @Cheri, Zeus

      I read only ‘1984’ and ‘Animal Farm’.

      I learn from the wiki Orwell narrates there his experiences in Catalogna during the Spanish civil war, where he joined the POUM (ie the non loyal to Stalin’s) communist party. The tremendous success of non Stalinist communism in Spain is further evidence of the profound difference between the more backward Russia and Western Europe (one of Gramsci’s main points of reflection btw.)

      My mother’s brother Carlo was sent to Spain by Benito Mussolini as a young lieutenant to fight against Communism. He was part of the army Orwell fought against. My uncle saw such horrors committed by both sides – he told me – that he got back home disgusted by everything (more by communists I’d say- no idea whether POUM or Stalin – because of what he had seen being done to the nuns) and although remaining profoundly anti-communist and still a fascist he started cracking jokes against Mussolini due to the eccentric nature running in my mother’s side veins. Being overheard at the sea-side by a woman he was arrested and remained in jail for some time until he was released thanks to his father’s influence.

      Orwell is an inspiring guide against any form of totalitarianism. I admire this “revulsion for authority of all kinds” the Anglo-Saxons from any ocean seem to possess (to quote Richard’s *last post*.)

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      1. The tremendous success of non Stalinist communism in Spain is further evidence of the profound difference between the more backward Russia and Western Europe…

        Why is this evidence of what you say? What do you mean by “backward” anyway? Do you really imagine that Trotskyites in power would have been so much different from Stalinists? Not to mention the fact that Stalin was a remarkable individual – I don’t mean in a good way, of course – with his own peculiar ideology that could be described as something other than communist, i.e., perhaps Tsarist.

        Regarding one commenter’s point that communism and fascism are very close under the skin, Vasily Grossman (Life and Fate) advanced the view in his last book that Hitler and Mussoline actively studied and imitated the Bolsheviks.

        It’s been a long time since I read Orwell’s book, but I would hesitate to make any generalizations based on it regarding the Spanish Civil War. The politics of it was so horrifically tangled, which is why Franco was able to win, after all. That and the help from his fellow Fascists.

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        1. There seems to be a difference in those who still believe in communism that the Stalinist form was inferior to the enlightened elitists’ form. That is, the Euro-communist would be much more capable of properly administering it. In other words, the aristocratic form of communism where the peasants are treated with kindness and the “nobles (the intellectual elite) will rule with velvet glove.

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          1. Agreed. And my reply is that in no place where Communism has really taken power has this really happened.

            Violence in the form of purges, forced labor, forced expulsions, executions and man-made famines end up being the only methods ultimately employed. The methods are employed to keep an absolute grip on power.

            If Hitler and Mussolini didn’t actually study St*lin’s techniques (I believe they did from Hitler’s praise of St*lin’s military purges), they still drew from the same “ancestral well” from which violence for social change, and continued violence for continued social change(call it revolution if that helps)is an always acceptable tool.

            It pains me to read Sartre, Beauvoir, and Ponty’s contorted logic and apologetics by which they tried to justify their willingness to collaborate and condone the horrors of St*lin, while opposing Hitler’s brand of socialism. Once in power, armchair communists and sympathizers generally didn’t live too long.

            Nevertheless, the totalitarian form of socialism we call fascism seems the greater potential threat in our near future. This is why I am interested in learning more about the motivation for the essayists’ comments.

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  8. MOR, this is an interesting post. What was the motivation? Please, tell us more about the author of the quote and what you think about his work.

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    1. @Zeuss: It pains me to read Sartre, Beauvoir, and Ponty’s contorted logic and apologetics by which they tried to justify their willingness to collaborate and condone the horrors of Stalin…

      Alas, the pain is neverending. In my recent post on anit-Jacobins, I mention a contemporary ‘radical’ who wrote an intro to a collection of speeches by Robespierre. He’s trying to do for him what you mention they tried for Stalin…and Mao later. Intellectuals are valuable, but dangerous. They don’t understand their own ideas.

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    2. @Zeuss, Lichanos, Douglas

      Zeuss writes:

      “It pains me to read Sartre, Beauvoir, and Ponty’s contorted logic and apologetics [in favour of Stalin’s horrors]

      There are intellectuals and intellectuals. And there is faith and there is reason ( ie common sense, science etc.) Generally, radicals are Talibans ready to do no matter what for an abstract idea(l).

      Marxism was a political religion. Period. It suffice to read the The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels to perceive its tremendous Messianism, like a truth revealed about to change the world by necessity.

      I don’t know if you American people can really understand the immense influence exerted on the European Left (but also Right, as you have pointed out: Mussolini was an important socialist before inventing Fascism!) by Marxism first and by this Bolshevik revolution that made this religion (Utopia! Utopia!) incarnated on such a large scale for the first time in history.

      For you out there it was simpler, since soon after ww2 you clearly saw Russia and all it implied as your enemy. But here – due to geographical proximity, a different geopolitical placement plus other cultural causes (more rationalism, and less empiricism) – the majority of the European intellectuals couldn’t but be infected by Marxism at various degrees – I know there were / are US Marxists etc. but they were / are negligible.

      Sartre and his friends, when considering Stalin, basically couldn’t go beyond such revelation.

      PS
      As for Robespierre, I guess it was similar, only 1 century earlier.

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      1. As long as the Americas offered ample space for expansion, I suspect that people who wanted to live in a political or religious Utopia got to go off and establish it for themselves with a minimum of interference (the Mormons, for example, were universally loathed wherever they went but just kept going till they arrived in Utah, where they were no more molested than any other pioneers). The experience may have inoculated us, at least for a while — history offered plenty of live lessons on how well it worked out when someone replaced an existing system with a new one.

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  9. @Douglas, Zeus, Lichanos, Cheri, Paul, Sledpress

    I am about to answer and comment (something is *here* already.) Thank you for your participation. Allow me to drink a beer first.

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        1. @Sledpress, Ana, ALL

          Always thought it’d be nice to fix a date and time – convenient for, say, both North America & Europe time zones – and place (here or another blog) where people would gather and discuss and the wine and the beer (while sipping it) and the food (while tasting it) and all sort of anecdotes and ideas and emotions, anything. When MoR says anything, he’s sure there’s no misunderstanding.

          Well, well, listen, 2-3 of us have a bizarre minds but we’ll try to behave ok? Nicks could be allowed of course, provided they are funny and we kinda know who they are (but not non participants).

          Wow! It’d be such great fun! And possibly an useful exploration of the realms of Dionysus.

          How’s that?

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          1. Bonjour.
            You are an enthusiast, aren’t you? Delighted to join you if a coming trip allows me. Which media?
            Un abrazo,

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          2. Buona sera, sì sono un entusiasta. Life is short.

            Media? Could be here, my blog, if I got what you mean. Not new here to weird – tho innocent – experiences. Glad you’d be part of the bunch! I’ll announce it in a post one day, or people won’t notice.

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  10. @Douglas, Zeus, Lichanos, Cheri, Paul, Sledpress

    See also my reply *here.*

    @Zeus
    MOR …what was the motivation [of this post]? ..tell us more about the author of the quote and what you think about his work.

    *Giorgio Bocca* is the only surviving doyen of Italian journalists such as *Enzo Biagi* and *Indro Montanelli* that have opposed Silvio Berlusconi with all their influence. They saw in Berlusconi a danger for our democracy. Bocca is left-wing but anti-communist, Montanelli is right-wing and Enzo Biagi at the centre. *Marco Travaglio* is their heir (especially Montanelli’s) and fierce opponent of Berlusconi in a country that has more or less yielded to him (also the opposition.)

    The post motivation? Berlusconi is not Mussolini, but our democracy is ‘sick’ because of him. We have to move on, also because he’s not facing the problems of our economy.

    @Lichanos

    What do you mean by “backward” [Russia] anyway? Do you really imagine that Trotskyites in power would have been so much different from Stalinists?” See my reply to Douglas on euro-communism.

    By backward I mean anti-democratic. Since centuries the Russian people counted zero and all was around the difficult balance between a caste of *boyars* and a Tzar. I have lived almost one year in Russia and I know what I mean. Russians don’t care about Putin’s lack of transparency etc. as long as he checks the boyars who own all the riches of immense Russia. Trotskyites in power would have been a disaster too. But, as you say, the opposition to Franco was much more complex. Zapatero’s Spain is the heir of the republic defeated by Franco. This type of Spain has for example allowed gay marriage and financed a film like *Agora* on Hypatia from Alexandria – a great Pagan female scientist murdered by the Christian fanatics in 4th century CE – that the Catholic church has (stupidly) tried to block both in Italy and in the US.

    @Douglas

    Euro-communism was democratic compared to Stalinism, but communism nonetheless, which is flawed in any case and a dangerous utopia. The foundation of it was Antonio Gramsci’s reflections in prison (Prison Notebooks). Gramsci’s thought is wide-ranging and goes well beyond Marxism. For example I find him immensely more interesting than any Sartre & similar.

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    1. Euro-communism was democratic compared to Stalinism, but communism nonetheless, which is flawed in any case and a dangerous utopia.

      Here, I am reminded of the quote, ” A rose by any other name…” Freely elected communists fail to hold power so long as they rely on the ballot box. People are fickle and no system pleases all of the time. Marxism, in all its forms, believes that people will be happy with their assigned lot in life. The leaders see themselves, perhaps, as the Philosopher-Kings of Plato’s Republic. Ruling not by right of birth (though that later gets mixed in) but by right of intellect. The proletariat born to serve the state, the intellectual “betters” born to rule it. No different than any other aristocracy.

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      1. It is exactly my thought. Marxism is a flawed historicism. As I told Lichanos, “it makes me think of beautiful Asimov’s Trilogy where A. imagines a super advanced historical science capable of predicting, even in a future 3000 years far from now, a peanut falling from a little girl’s hand in a Tel-Aviv kindergarten!”

        The best Marxists like Gramsci (I owe a lot to him) are not like that, but nonetheless they are defective.

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      2. “Marxism, in all its forms, believes that people will be happy with their assigned lot in life.”

        I’d say that most political/social systems mandate that you will be happy with your assigned lot in life. Or else. This is probably the reason I am suspicious of nearly all study of politics as such; most people with a zest for “political science” seem certain that if just the right formula for government is found, everyone will be transcendently happy, except of course for those that aren’t, who just need to be “re-educated.”

        I often revert to Robert Anton Wilson, a delightful gadfly and philosopher on the fringes of American thought:

        The most thoroughly and relentlessly Damned, banned, excluded, condemned, forbidden, ostracized, ignored, suppressed, repressed, robbed, brutalized and defamed of all Damned Things is the individual human being. The social engineers, statisticians, psychologists, sociologists, market researchers, landlords, bureaucrats, captains of industry, bankers, governors, commissars, kings and presidents are perpetually forcing this Damned Thing into carefully prepared blueprints and perpetually irritated that the Damned Thing will not fit into the slot assigned it. The theologians call it a sinner and try to reform it. The governor calls it a criminal and tries to punish it. the psychologist calls it a neurotic and tries to cure it. Still, the Damned Thing will not fit into their slots.

        For me the question is how some humans become so alienated from their own human nature as to expect any system to result in Utopia.

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        1. am suspicious of nearly all study of politics as such

          [ lemme play the devil’s advocate, it suites me, it is fun].

          Frankly, it seems exaggerated to me, and certainly, the right formula, nobody has it. One can have ideas in head – after all there are 6000 + years of reflection and solid common sense on government – but then the right procedure is case by case, by trials and errors, and often ending up with solutions totally diverging from the initial idea. I don’t see why we accept the wisdom (and common) sense transmitted to us in so many fields (wine, beer, law, kamasutra, food, oils for massage) but we exclude any political legacy. WTH is that? An America phobia?

          Your quote is interesting, written in a fantastic way plus it sheds light on parts of the American mind (so I thank you for that), but, to me, the golden mean is to be preferred. The American constitution was not invented from scratch, it came from the ‘experiences’ of the millennia. This anarchy of the individual – I fxxxing shoot the hell out of you if you enter my property – seems to me as foolish as communism.

          PS
          Pls try to understand that this side of the American mind is hard to grasp for non Americans. And, Sledpress, you said in my blog there was no ‘American mind’ but just a salad!! [in the sense of my post on the *museum mind*]. I’d definitely need an ‘America for dummies’! [no irony intended, just plain truth.]

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        2. I’d say that most political/social systems mandate that you will be happy with your assigned lot in life. Or else.

          I would have to disagree. They may want you to be “happy” (in reality, “docile” would be a better word) but they do not, and cannot, mandate it.

          But you are correct in that Utopia is unattainable and yet the desire to attain it seems universal.

          I understand the desire for personal security and, thus, the desire for a Utopian society but I am amazed that people do not realize it is a personal thing. That is, we each have our own view of what Utopia is. We may share some of the facets of that dream but not all. Therefore, IMO, all attempts to achieve Utopia must fail.

          Or, as I liked to tweak my more Leftist friends with, “Communism would work perfectly… except for human nature.”
          ___________

          MoR:

          I am amazed that people do not realize [Utopia] is a personal thing. That is, we each have our own view of what Utopia is.

          I agree, but, allow me, it seems like you guys out there think of a society in terms of individuals only. It is abstract, exactly like any utopia is abstract, ie not corresponding to real every day life. You cannot abolish ‘the rulers & the ruled, the governors (with ideas of how to govern) & governed’ thing, or it’d be stone age, no, not even that, since even hunter-gatherer tribes had their leaders.

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          1. I was being a bit ironic in my use of the word mandate. It is just because the human being is such a Damned Thing that no mandate is possible, yet people keep insisting on one explicitly or implicitly.

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          2. @sledpress

            It is just because the human being is such a Damned Thing that no mandate is possible, yet people keep insisting on one explicitly or implicitly.

            That reminded me of my first wife… who thought I was there to “make her happy” even if it made me miserable. She had me believing that… for awhile.

            The US may be unique in how we view individual citizens. We have not always been consistent in this and are currently undergoing a re-examination of that basic premise of American culture. What we are seeing in the US is a major cultural clash between the individualists and the collectivists.

            _________

            MoR: Ok, this cultural clash, but, seen from outside, I see so many fears that are non justified. Possibly – it may be a stupidity, my world is really different – the epoch of the pioneer is definitely over, you are becoming a society like the others. A society, being collective, cannot escape bits of collectivism, or it is not a society, it is anarchy. Or maybe I got it all wrong.

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          3. @Douglas * Since you say “first wife” and not merely “ex-wife” I’m hoping things got better for you. 🙂

            America does have this schizoid nature, starting with the Puritans sailing over here to declare their right to impose a rigid morality on anyone within spitting distance. The real conflict isn’t between conservative (fundamentalist, nationalist, etc.) and liberal (feminist, multiculturalist, make-a-list). Rigid and clannish liberals I have met aplenty, and they will tell you quickly when your ideas need correcting. We have the doctrinaire of all stripes, and we have the people who just want to arrive at a good-enough social contract and otherwise go about their own business without having to prove anything. The doctrinaire dominate the airwaves because they are all about proving something, alas.

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          4. The individualist v. collectivist way of framing this has a certain utility, but it is not comprehensive enough.

            Indeed, collectivist tendencies in society are an easy enough gateway to authoritarian regimes. The back door is through individualism being reduced to hedonism — I don’t use this word in the sense the Epicureans used this, or the way it is used in the context of a college ethics class. I speak of the type of hedonism in which the acquisition of pleasures, stuff, things, lack of disturbance of one’s ease and sense of self-satisfaction, even when purchased the expense of others. I speak here of property rights run amok, taken to extremes to justify insane debt, out of control spending, flaunting the law. I speak of Wall Street and Big business enterprises who screw their shareholders and bondholders (and customers and employees) and then willingly submit to government intervention for monies, legal protections and privileges. This opens the door to authoritarian rule via a plutocracy that has even lost any reason to exisit, having failed at the raison d’etre of being plutocrats.

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          5. @Zeus * Pretty good description of the American drift at the moment, in many quarters. But note how adeptly the self-serving cash-amassers manipulate the yearning so many people have for an ideological Utopia. After thirty years for the evidence to accumulate that lack of oversight only aggravates injustice and financial recklessness, deregulation is still being preached with missionary fervor in some quarters and tied to what seems contempt for *any* sort of social contract. And yet the people with a dog in the fight are quite happy to woo conservatives by suggesting that a government with any power will inevitably force them to betray their own “value systems,” however farcical.

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          6. @zeusiswatching

            The individualist v. collectivist way of framing this has a certain utility, but it is not comprehensive enough.

            Yes, it is merely one facet of a very complex puzzle. I have a lot of thoughts on the “human condition” (which I see as encompassing how we form communities and political systems, links between our family structures and the community and political structures, and how/why we love and hate them) that are just too involved to get into here. Not to mention that I haven’t the educational foundation or training to properly explain the concepts clearly.

            I would only differ with you on the link between your “hedonism” and individualism. I think the amassing of “stuff” is more symptomatic of a collectivist mindset. The individualist is not interested in impressing his neighbor(s).

            I think you expressed quite well the dichotomy of humans not wanting others to tell them how to live their lives while, simultaneously, wanting to tell others how to live theirs.

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  11. Reading Andrea lead me to your blog and scrolling up and down I suddenly realized I sort of felt… among friends? Could I say that?, I ask myself. Argerich, flamenco, Marina’s laughter, ancient Greece, Cheri’s comments—which I cheri-sh—and above all a phrase, just a tiny phrase that stroke me right in the middle: “…passion, isn’t it often better than refinement?”

    Thank you all.

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    1. Dear Ana, of course you are among friends! I am a Latin, and you too, and some of my readers too tho from different areas of the earth.

      But it is not only this. Here, and a lot elsewhere, there’s people who don’t care the culture they are from. I’d add, the more different the culture the better is. And yes, passion is so important (and big big hugs even more), and, if I had to choose between Passion and Refinement, I’d definitely choose the former.

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      1. Couldn’t agree more mor. Specially nowadays. Friends, their hugs, are unexpected gifts, treasures that stay with us forever. My father use to say: Valen más los amigos que el dinero. I would add: much much mor

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        1. mor like MoR? [was too busy to get that in case u meant that lol]

          And yes Ana. Il denaro come fine unico, el dinero como un fin es sólo la ruina, money as the only goal brings to destruction, loneliness.

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  12. I must admit, there is something fascinating about a bunch of people sitting in their homes, and coffee houses, and offices around the world, blogging back and forth for days about the looming threat of resurgent fascism. I’ve actually contributed to this conversation from two sides of a mountain and at least four different locations.

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    1. Yes, very fascinating this cosmopolitan exchange of views. It makes my days, day by day. And your contribution, like that of everybody, so much appreciated. Only, I’m often stuck in my study-room lol, where I have my books and music. I seldom use my Blackberry-like E63.

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  13. Indeed blogging has a little mystique side. That togetherness although no one is physically near the others. It is to be said that MoR and his debating qualities do draw a bunch of interesting people.
    As for fascism it has never been crushed and is very present in it’s larval form all over the world. Our own Canadian Prime Minister with his cult for secrecy and info control by his Office has a strong streak of it.

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    1. Thank you Paul. The debates here have been enriched by your presence quite a lot. A Greek, a French and a Canadian, all at the same time. Your tale about religions is arriving. I am slow-paced. Amazing how everybody is complaining about such ‘streaks’. Is democracy at a turning point?

      Like

  14. @All

    I was discussing with Fulvia half an hour ago, – we are preparing a small party -, and she, being a lurker of my blog, sort of SPOUTED this (in a crescendo):

    “You all more or less seem to agree that in Europe, North America and elsewhere there is like a desire to silence those who are diverse or think differently, and that peaceful argumentation is blinkered bla bla bla democracy is at a turning point bla bla. You also seem to bring as evidence the ultra sectarian newspapers and the TV debates with people yelling at one another.”

    “BUT, don’t you think this is only a reflection of the traditional media? Aren’t they I mean losing ground to the extent of getting hysterical, theatrical, in a desperate effort not to lose ALL their audience? While the new media – blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc. – aren’t they, al contrario, more fraternization & friendliness & cosmopolitanism oriented?”

    “YOUR BLOG – her voice was kinda shrieking now – IS NOT the only one that preaches ‘hugs hugs hugs!!” eh??? There’s millions out there!!!”.

    Fulvia, you must know, has always been my problem [Fulvi, can you heeear me? (Read *here* of her playing the Siren in Cambridge.)]

    Taken aback I didn’t know what to say but I objected I had seen groups in Facebook with labels such as “Burn this …Kill that”. In any case – Fulvia, ‘impudentissima foemina’ but also creative gal – I think her point is worthy of some reflection.

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    1. [Fulvia said]
      “You all more or less seem to agree that in Europe, North America and elsewhere there is like a desire to silence those who are diverse or think differently, and that peaceful argumentation is blinkered bla bla bla democracy is at a turning point bla bla. You also seem to bring as evidence the ultra sectarian newspapers and the TV debates with people yelling at one another.”

      I must have missed this since I saw little to nothing about the media. I do not know about Europe’s media but the US media used to have a very adversarial image. Throughout our history, our media have waffled between fawning support and cantankerous opposition for the various administrations. Currently, we are the midst of a blatant fawning period. That is not to say that all of the media is pro-administration but my guess would be somewhere above 75%. They persist in this in spite of a falling off of viewers and readers. I think (only my opinion) that they persist because (a) they believe what they say and write and (b) they assume the “people” will eventually “come around”.

      She is correct about the “new media”; much more diverse, much broader spectrum of ideological bent. Traditional media (and the administration and supporters) are engaged in painting the New Media as muckrakers and agitators.

      The majority of the general public here in the US seem apathetic and indifferent. Maybe 30% of the populace are emotionally engaged in debate and taking sides.

      As I stated elsewhere, I think the US has entered into a cultural clash centered around the ideologies of collectivism and individualism.

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      1. @Douglas

        I must have missed this since I saw little to nothing about the media.

        Well, in my quote post, this sentence:

        “the hubbub that rages every evening in the televised debates in which supporters of the sultan are placed in the front row and on instructions from the master yell as rabid curs, preventing others from speaking.”

        Fulvia referred to this.

        all of the media is pro-administration but my guess would be somewhere above 75%.
        It seems a high percentage. Aren’t the media private in the US? Here the state tv is all for the administration. And considering that the other half, the private media, is owned by the actual PM ….

        the US has entered into a cultural clash centered around the ideologies of collectivism and individualism.

        I have heard. Well, this is national debate. Wasn’t it worse when there was only one opinion, ie individualism? Dialectics … 🙂

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        1. “the hubbub that rages every evening in the televised debates in which supporters of the sultan are placed in the front row and on instructions from the master yell as rabid curs, preventing others from speaking.”

          Ah, I see. Well, that is the commentary, the opinion, shows which feature that. The actual news is much more subtle. More nuanced. It is in what events are reported and how they are treated that reveals biases.

          Yes, all of our media (exception is PBS) are independent, private corporations or companies. Yet, that does not stop them from taking a side in any issue. In fact, there is a strong and colorful history of that. For the most part, they are expected to be the “watchdogs” of government for the public. But they have become strongly supportive of one political party and a liberal or progressive ideology. Not all, we have a few who are in opposition.

          To be honest, it could be my opinion is tainted by my own biases. I like to think I am enough of a cynic to avoid that, however.

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          1. Everybody is tainted by some bias, we are human.

            My knowledge of America’s media is scarce. In the 90s I only received CNN. I watched it and loved it. Today I have hundreds of channels (Murdoch’s Sky TV) from all countries of the world: I watch them all, China, Russia, Romania, all kinds of Arabian ones, Persian, Chile, Australia etc.. I still love CNN, but unfortunately it is the European CNN, so not the window on America I remembered. I much less like Fox News, – not caring a xxxx about their right-wing leaning, I have dearest bloggers here that are pro Bush and Reagn – while I like Obama better – and I respect them quite a lot, more, I often prefer debating with people of different ideas, it is more interesting and I always had wonderful conversations with them. But Fox to me is the non correct, non decent type of TV that corresponds to my quote a bit, I don’t like their way of making TV, although the quote was mainly referred to Berlusconi-owned media or to media influenced by him.

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          2. @MoR

            Everybody is tainted by some bias, we are human.

            Yes, but we all don’t readily recognize that and filter the bias out when making judgments.

            I, too, watched CNN in the early 90’s It had the most comprehensive coverage of the Gulf War. It seemed more complete, reporting more since it was not as constrained for time as the broadcast network news was. CNN could devote a full hour to a story, bring numerous points of view in, and so on. But it changed. One of the changes was to introduce the panels, the commentary, the pundits.

            And that is one of the problems with Foxnews; the commentary shows become the focus and the image. But it is the same with CNN and the broadcast networks. The commentary, the bias, becomes the allure.

            One of the reasons I think Foxnews has done so well in the US is because it took the more conservative approach at a time when the rest seemed to be leaning more to the left.

            There are reasons for this, which I tried to point out in another comment. I believe Bernard Goldberg has as good an understanding of this as anyone.

            http://www.bernardgoldberg.com/

            He worked for CBS for 20 years or so. He believes there is an unrecognized (to them) liberal bias at the major networks and in journalism.

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    2. Our “traditional” media are a dying breed and it shows in the quality of the reporting and editing. For us bloggers to make egregious editorial errors is one thing (how many of us can employ copy editors), but the products of our newspapers and other media outlets is in decline.

      I think that this is part of the reason for the mass-media suck up to the current administration.
      Yes, many of these journalists share a similar ideology, but I also think they need and want as many chances to produce something consumers will look at as possible and that makes informal collaboration easier. This lays the groundwork for a potentially ominous situation in the future.

      I regard the media groups taking a vocal, and loud contrary position as not very independent. They are, however, taping into a different segment of the viewing public by being contrarian. I don’t trust them either.

      Like

      1. @zeusiswatching

        I have a slightly different take. We tend to associate more with those who agree with us than with those who do not. We follow in the footsteps of those we admire rather than in the path of those who irritate us. The adage “birds of a feather flock together” comes to mind. Let’s say you are a freshman in college, you are trending toward conservatism, and you have an interest in journalism. Will you find like-minded students in journalism classes? Or will you find yourself more isolated, more “outside”? If you find yourself uncomfortable with your immediate peers, are you likely to continue along that educational/career path? Or will you seek like-minded individuals elsewhere?

        But I do have to agree with you, I am distrustful of all journalism and find I must always read around the bias and double-check “facts”.

        But I was raised by a cynical father to be cynical.

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        1. Double checking and corroborating facts is a must that you learn fast when you have to investigate something. Most journalist are just «reporters» not investigators, a specialty in the trade now.
          However when investigating one has to be careful not to gather only what suits her/his initial hypothesis.

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  15. @Zeus, Sled, Douglas, Paul etc

    I have tried to reply here and there. Pls check, but could not at each post. Time for me to hit the sack. Ciao ragazzi!

    Like

    1. @MoR

      I noticed that you somehow managed to insert a comment within my own comment.

      Your comment:

      MoR: Ok, this cultural clash, but, seen from outside, I see so many fears that are non justified. Possibly – it may be a stupidity, my world is really different – the epoch of the pioneer is definitely over, you are becoming a society like the others. A society, being collective, cannot escape bits of collectivism, or it is not a society, it is anarchy. Or maybe I got it all wrong.

      US culture is anarchy. One of the brilliant facets of what the Founding Fathers did was to create a kind of “managed anarchy” as a fundamental part of the governmental system. We could not only swap out our representatives (as any nation with a parliament might do) but we could swap out “kings” (presidents) on a regular basis. We also installed the means to legally overthrow leaders (we call it “impeachment” and, in some cases, “recall elections”) when they go too far over the line.

      This has allowed us to retain our tradition of individualism (embodied in our founding documents and papers) while accepting some collectivism (“majority rule”). You see, we also fear the “tyranny of the majority” that is lurking in every democratic based system.

      What some of us fear, also, is the loss of that uniqueness of being an individualistic culture and becoming just like all other cultures. We feel that our individualism is at the heart of our success as a culture.

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  16. coming back from a very late dinner, a bit drunk, yes, still managed to listen to Brilliant’s video (Andrea’s blog) and what really strikes me is a line of his (brilliant’s): public will is a powerful weapon. Why in the hell don’t we use it MoR?

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    1. I’ll check that video, Ana, I was busy yesterday. A bit drunk? You naughty gal. Dear Ana, what kind of books are you writing pls? Your mind interests me a lot. The first Mexican ever in my blog!

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      1. At the airport, about to catch a flight to NY. Pure leisure… and a bit of heart mending.
        My novel: a comission based on a true story, sort of a Shelly`s Frankestein except this is a woman XXsiècle, a very beautiful one. A former student of mine. A long story I’ll tell you about some other day. I also write a monthly column for the most elitistic magazine in the country called: perdonen las molestias… that should give you an idea of its ironic critical tone. And.. I work as well on a book about rebozos, do you know what they are?

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        1. Ana, I’d love to hear about your novel story so much, when you’ll have time you pls tell me about it.

          A Shelley’s Frankestein?

          Rebozos I know very well, women’s garments in Mexico, evidence of the mixture of cultures in your fabulous country.

          I was in San Francisco 2 years ago and at a Mexican handicraft shop in the Mission district (the city I’m sure you know started from this Spanish mission one can visit) this Mexican lady, clearly Indian (indios?), not at all Spanish looking, said to me: “Like we use English here for mutual understanding, we use Spanish in Mexico but many of the old languages still survive.”

          I told her: “I feel sorry the Spaniards have wiped out your civilizations”.

          She looked proudly at me: “They have just cut the tree – she said – but not the roots. Look at us! We are still there. We still speak our language. See the colours and patterns of these carpets, the amulets etc. Our culture is well alive.”

          Glad to be the first? YES! You definitely are the first!

          So please don’t go
          don’t go, don’t go away
          please don’t go
          don’t go, I’m begging you to stay
          babeeeee

          I’m crazy, I know :mrgreen:

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          1. i won’t. crazy people are a tight bunch. but must enjoy ny, it’s bloody warm though. nontheless. will keep in touch, no worries.

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          2. what were you in SFO if I may ask? Mine is sort of a crusade to stop rebozo extinction… peasants, who used to wear them, can’t afford them nomore, they rather buy a polyester shawl made in taiwan… I own a nice collection, wear them everyday, even here.
            bisou

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          3. I was in SF since my eldest daughter, having finished her marketing master at Berkeley, was working at Comcast (a cable TV company) in SF. So my wife, youngest daughter and I went there visiting her.

            Bisouuuuu 😆

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          4. @Douglas

            I agree, I too was reffering to the can do spirit, which, for me, is from where everything is born from. Saludos.

            Like

          5. The novel: can’t talk about it publicly, signed a contract promising secrecy until published.
            It is a good story that will probably be taken to the big screen. Will send you a copy if you read spanish or could tell you about it through a private media.

            As for our culture: the indígena you met in SFO is right. I tend to shock people when I tell I’m a ‘yaqui’ (a tribe from northern Mexico) which of course is a lie I enjoy. Don’t look at all like one, except for my height. Those indians are tall. But. Most of us are mestizos and there’s pride in that as well. Octavio Paz praises our sincretism in the figure of Sor Juana, our greatest poet ever. Do you like poetry?
            Un abrazo from the big apple

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          6. @Ana

            Enjoy your Grande Mela (Apple). Your novel, I understand. I love poetry greatly. Music and poetry to me come first, then all the rest (prose literature, history, science etc.) Poetry in the Spanish language is among the best. I know some of Neruda, the pair Borges and Garcia Lorca, sublime to me etc.

            I can read a bit of Spanish. You have my mail on the right column of my blog. I’d like you to mix Spanish and English here, but do as you prefer, I am not Benito.

            In your honour I might open the *Mexico topic* in my blog. That would kinda complete North America, since there’s a lot of Canada and the US here at the MoR’s. My nephew, 40, totally crazy about your country, has a lot of precious materials (he’s been out there quite a lot). You might suggest topics too. The only Latin American stuff I wrote in my blog is on Peru, *here* and *here*.

            That most of you out there are a bit or a lot mestizos makes it all more intriguing. Also Mariza Rivas, my first girlfriend was half mestizo. Spanish people are next-door and we see them every day (I live 400 yards from the Colosseum). This – and other blogs – are a kinda hymn to cultural diversity, a richness for our planet, like diversity of species is. Of course its main topic is all that is Rome in the broad sense, and yet inter-culture has been a big theme here, since, while searching our Roman roots one paradoxically gets more ready to exchange and learn from other roots.

            The New World – the Americas – is one of my myths. I love reason but there are other things, like myths, that provide meanings to life.

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          7. for your Mexico topic.

            Hermandad/ Octavio Paz

            Soy hombre: duro poco
            y es enorme la noche.
            Pero miro hacia arriba:
            las estrellas escriben.
            Sin entender comprendo:
            también soy escritura
            y en este mismo instante
            alguien me deletrea.

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          8. Sono un uomo: duro poco
            e enorme è la notte.
            Però guardo in alto:
            le stelle scrivono.
            Senza intendere comprendo:
            scrittura anche sono
            e in questo medesmo istante
            qualcuno mi scandisce.

            I am a man: little I last
            and the night is immense.
            But I look up:
            the stars they write.
            Unknowing I understand:
            I too am written,
            and at this very moment
            someone spells me out.

            Grazie Ana

            Like

    2. @Ana and MoR

      After watching that video, I had several thoughts… way too many to address in a single comment. But one thought that I think is important is that science should not be solely optimistic. It must, at its heart, be skeptical. Indeed, the scientific method has that at its basis. Question all results, all accomplishments, all theories. Dr. Brilliant seems to have forgotten that.

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      1. I agree on science, but, as for the person – as I just said at Andreas’ – Mr Brilliant to me is the quintessence of a side of the New World I like a lot: good nature, good will, optimism, faith that ‘things can be done’ (while in Europe we often get a ‘it can’t be done’ response), a trait I much prefer to ALL our mummy-land history. Throbbing life rules, always.

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        1. @M0R

          One of the things I take issue with is that he accepts certain things (go back to our comments on “bias”) possibly because they fit within his mindset. Just because a majority says something is so does not always make it so. Science should question, test, try to refute. It should not simply “climb on board” because there appears to be a “consensus.”

          The other major problem I have is that he has gone from a great single accomplishment to attempting to accomplish multiple goals. The reason that Smallpox was eradicated was because there was single-minded effort to do so. How far do you think they would have gotten if they had gone after Smallpox and three or four other major diseases at the same time? It leads to dilution of effort and a sort of political squabbling over funds and focus. Which, in turn, diminishes effort. I think he missed the primary reason why the Smallpox eradication effort was successful.

          My job was as a troubleshooter; a person who analyzed and corrected malfunctioning equipment and/or processes. I learned early on to not waste effort in trying to fix all problems at the same time but to isolate and correct them separately. While it seems inefficient at first, it is the most productive route to take. In fact, sometimes one resolution leads another seemingly unrelated.

          But, as for the optimism and “can do” spirit, I admire that. Who could not?

          Like

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