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  • Some Thought-Provoking Posts from Italy

    Posted by David Foster on August 10th, 2014 (All posts by )

    In 2004, I discovered an Italian blog called Joy of Knitting, and linked to one of her posts, from which I excerpted the following:

    Cupio dissolvi…These words have been going through my mind for quite a long time now. It’s Latin. They mean “I (deeply) wish to be annihilated/to annihilate myself”, the passive form signifying that the action can be carried out both by an external agent or by the subject himself…Cupio dissolvi… Through all the screaming and the shouting and the wailing and the waving of the rainbow cloth by those who invoke peace but want appeasement, I hear these terrible words ringing in my ears. These people have had this precious gift, this civilization, and they have got bored with it. They take all the advantages it offers them for granted, and despise the ideals that have powered it. They wish for annihilation, the next new thing, as if it was a wonderful party. Won’t it be great, dancing on the ruins?

    The post reminded me of some words from Walter Miller’s philosophical novel A Canticle for Leibowitz:  “children of Merlin, chasing a gleam. Children, too, of Eve, forever buiding Edens–and kicking them apart in berserk fury because somehow it isn’t the same.”

    Joy of Knitting had many interesting posts, focusing on the state of Western civilization and culture as well as items on Italian politics and society.  Sadly, the blog disappeared circa 2008.  Happily, I recently realized that some of the posts might still be available at archive.org, and indeed several snapshots are there.  I’ve retrieved and posted a few of the ones I think are particularly good below and will add more in the future.

    Siding with the Aggressor 8/29/04:

    In an argument I have often observed people instinctively side with the aggressor even if personal safety was not at stake. The attacker is stronger, faster, more determined. By his nature fated to triumph over his enemy, he becomes an object of admiration. Sheer destructive violence is more fascinating to many than playing by the rules. I believe that siding with the aggressor is a primeval survival trait. Along with death wish, desiring the extermination of all rivals, being on the side of the winner ensured a longer life. These traits were superseded with the onset of civilisation, but they never disappeared. Nowadays we can see death wish fuelling peacenik rage, but it’s a death wish that turns against the very society in which they were born, bred and pampered so much that they never grew up into responsible adults. Likewise, instead of siding with boring, humdrum democracy, they support those who want to destroy it. In their boundless love for violence they identify with the aggressor so much that they glamorise terrorism, sincerely believing that in the final Armageddon the enemy will be grateful and spare them. He won’t. Once I read a sentence, maybe in Cyril M. Kornbluth’s “The Marching Morons”, that went “nobody invites the hangman to the victory banquet”. These babes in the wood will realise it only when it’s too late. As they cloak their deadly hatred of Western civilisation under a pretence of pacifism, so they justify their passionate love for the aggressor by pretending he’s the helpless victim. The intellectuals’ secret love for violence must also be taken into account. Living secure lives, hermetically insulated from reality, they long for excitement. Once they inebriated themselves contemplating Mussolini’s “masculine figure”, then they were all agog for proletarian violence, now they enthuse about the guerrilla of the month. Living mostly in their heads, they want a bit of action and revel in the total destruction they can only dream about.

     

    The Spinsterization of Western Culture 8/26/04:

    We’ve often heard about the feminization of Western culture. I would propose instead to talk about the spinsterization (or spinsterification? I do apologise to English speakers everywhere) of Western civilisation. I mean here spinsterhood as a state of the mind, and as such pertaining both to men and women. Forget about the inner child. It’s the inner spinster, the one that lies dormant inside all of us, that has surfaced with a vengeance. The ferocious do-goodery, doing good works all around whether they are required or not. The eternal preaching. There’s a homily for every occasion and an occasion for every homily. The prim, tight-lipped disapproval of about everything (actually, nowadays it’s rather a pout to show off the lips, plus the flaring nostrils). Loving animals and hating people. The moralising fury against small pleasures, like smoking, drinking, red meat, etc.. The constant “now look what you’ve done” look of reproach meant to unleash guilt trips that will last forever, taking as the official excuse concern about the third world or the environment. The tearful sympathy for the oppressed that quickly turns into loving the criminals and despising their victims. The ill concealed resentment against the rest of the world that becomes sympathy for those who want to destroy it. The hatred against men, especially white men, who are always dead and/or stupid. The revenge against Westerners who have a good life, and the attempt to make them wretched and miserable so as to smother them with condescension and good works. Preaching peace while relishing carnage. Seeing opponents as demons from hell. Using one’s own virtue as a battering ram in order to take control. Despite saintly words, absolute power is the spinster’s ultimate target and worthy causes are nothing but means to an end.

     

    Leftists as Aristocrats 9/14/04:

    Over time, lefties have filled the niche previously occupied by the aristocracy. The Italian nobility has not vanished, but since it lost its relevance it keeps itself very much to itself. Aristocrats once used to be the arbiters of taste, the supreme judges in matters of elegance and fashion, and established the rules of etiquette. They decreed what was in and what was out every season, what was done and what was definitely not done. As nobility slowly dwindled into insignificance, it left a social void. Lefties, once the proud sons (and daughters) of the people, moved in to fill that vacant space. It’s amusing to see how lefties, who used to pride themselves on their genuine, down to earth authenticity and their deliberately rough, uncouth manners, are now the essence of social refinement. They dress in cashmere and silk, they discuss wines with the smooth assurance of connoisseurs, and the places where top lefties go on holiday become instantly fashionable for a chosen elite. In their salons gathers the pick of the intellectual world, the culturati and the glitterati of the day. Lefties sneer at the right, which they call vulgar. They shiver when they think that Silvio Berlusconi, our PM, is a self made man, an entrepreneur who started from nothing and amassed an immense fortune. It’s somehow so unrefined. Lefties fawn instead on millionaires who belong to dynasties of industrialists. With their heightened sensitivity, they resemble the fine ladies of the Ancien Regime on the Eve of the French Revolution.

     

    Blame Byron for  Entertainment-Industry Leftism  11/21/04:

    Why are so many people in show business such passionate lefties? I think the answer lies in the modern image of the artist which comes down straight from Romanticism. The artist had to be poor and misunderstood, an outcast rejected by society. Its ideal was the Byronic hero, an idealized self-portrait of Byron himself. Beautiful and damned, “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”, as one of his mistresses, the unfortunate Lady Caroline Lamb, described him, Byron was the model for generations of artists after him. Rockstars might never have heard of Byron, but they follow him closely. Either they are beautiful or success adds the indispensable glamour to their looks, drugs and alcohol provide the necessary aura of damnation, and a long sequel of women takes care of the rest. There remains the poor and misunderstood part. Even if in real life Byron was not poor (he extracted enormous sums from his publishers) and, far from being misunderstood, was immensely successful, the romantic image requires it. You can’t be an outcast without it, and here comes the snag. Rockstars are absolutely showered with money, so they can’t pretend to be poor. And when you play to stadiums filled to capacity and thousands of people sing back your songs at you the “nobody understands me” line just doesn’t wash. Yet they must do something, so they take up some great cause, rail against globalization that made them famous all over the world, against the capitalist system that made them rich beyond their wildest dreams, and against a war that ensured they could sleep safely in their fabulous Hollywood-style villas. It’s a hard life to be a rebel.

     

     Separation of Church and State in Ancient Greece  9/18/04:

    We should be grateful to ancient Greeks. They not only invented democracy and laid the foundations for Western civilisation, but added another distinctive trait to it. Unlike other ancient peoples, Greek culture was not in priests’ hands. Although religion was respected, it wasn’t the centre of power. Culture developed largely outside temples and shrines, so the ever inquisitive Greeks could exercise their natural curiosity as much as they pleased. There were no boundaries established by a priestly caste, no “thou shalt go no further”. Afterwards the always practical Romans made religion a support of the state. All over the world a priestly caste, any priestly caste, if left to its own devices will tend to run the whole show. Arts, science, philosophy, and politics. Especially politics. A theocracy is a tightly built power system in which an absolute control is exercised over everyone. The doctrine is declared holy and therefore untouchable. There is no room for doubts and questioning. Doubting is in itself a crime. There are fixed rules for everything. Departure from the norm, however slight, is regarded as heresy and severely punished. This way any change is impossible. In order to keep its control over the masses a theocracy’s structure is so rigid that any alteration threatens its stability. If a theocracy tries to change it is doomed to collapse, as happened to the Soviet Union. Communism, like other totalitarian systems, is a theocracy. There is a central messianic figure, or priest-king, the dictator, a holy doctrine, Marxism, and a priestly caste, the intellectuals and the bureaucrats. Don’t expect a theocracy to relent. If it does, it’s doomed to extinction. Rather, it will tighten its control to ensure its own survival and it will resort to more and more violence and cruelty in the name of religion. There is no humane theocracy, as there is no humane dictatorship. On the contrary, Western civilisation has a high degree of flexibility. Its various components, arts, science, philosophy, politics, and religion, although interconnected, are not so tightly bound to each other as to make change impossible. They can develop autonomously without endangering the whole system. That’s why the West has been able to evolve so much, and so fast. Freedom is a basic ingredient of Western culture. Sometimes we might resent all this “doing one’s own thing”, all this running in several directions at once. It might make us feel weary and anxious. Nevertheless, without the liberty to experiment, to try out different ways of doing things, our civilisation would become sterile and die. Freedom and belief in the dignity of the individual made the West what it is.

    More later.
     

    4 Responses to “Some Thought-Provoking Posts from Italy”

    1. Mike K Says:

      Two observations: The “Spinsterization” essay resembles the recent book by Joseph Bottum about “post-Protestant America ”

      In one of the more unique arguments I’ve come across in some time, Bottum shows how the heirs of Mainline Protestants continue to embrace the tracings of that tradition while abandoning the core of it, namely traditional Christianity.

      Environmentalism has replaced Christianity.

      Two: There may have been some separation of Church and State in Ancient Greece but Socrates was put to death by the Democrats for blasphemy and corrupting the youth with new ideas.

    2. Ginny Says:

      This shrinking of the true sympathies of the “spinster” vision seems to come from a lack of optimism and an alienation from the life force. Maybe it is the lack of oxytocin from nursing – or sex. Lex’s optimism about the continuity of the American family is heartening, but I can’t help but have doubts – and the more we consider its centrality, the more weighted its continuity.

    3. dearieme Says:

      “Lefties, once the proud sons (and daughters) of the people”: golly, when was that?

    4. ErisGuy Says:

      “These traits were superseded with the onset of civilisation”

      *sigh* Assertion fail.

      Good blog. Sorry to see it’s gone.

      * * *

      Bottum in 2014. Yarvin in 2007. I wonder if there is a clear migration trail?