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lundi, 24 février 2020

A Renaissance Human in the Digital Age

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A Renaissance Human in the Digital Age

Ex: https://medium.com


I want to start with the question: “Is it possible to become Renaissance Man in the Digital Age?»

The problem of modern human living in the era of Big Data is that he is drowning in the flow of information. The human of Antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, had a particular amount of knowledge. Today, we can’t even determine what we need to know. Most often, this is determined by our profession and the direction of our activity. Given the fact that the modern world is still dominated by the tendency to narrow specialization, we can come to disappointing conclusions. A modern human needs to be able to find in a massive flow of unstructured information, the one that will serve for its comprehensive and harmonious development.

Nowadays, only a few people know how to work with information. It is not chaotic to absorb, not to be satisfied with an incomplete acquaintance, but to be selective, to show the art of separating important from secondary, necessary from casual. There are two opposite approaches to knowledge: simple accumulation of information and transformation by knowledge. These two approaches are based on two principles — forma formanta and forma informanta. The first is inherent in a person initially. The forma formanta action is directed from the center to the periphery. We can say that this is the inner Logos or axis of the soul. This principle conditions all internal transformations that we experience. Forma formanta is related to “vertical knowledge”. Forma informanta is an external force that acts from the periphery to the center. It determines all other people’s influences (especially the importance of society). This is “horizontal knowledge”. I realized very early on that our entire educational system is based on forma informanta. In educational institutions, we are informed at best, but we are not formed in any way. In the twenty-first century, we have to synthesize these two principles.

There are other problems faced by the modern human, who can no longer imagine his life without digital assistants. According to research conducted by cognitive neurobiologists, people barely read texts. They don’t read anymore; they just scan them. Scattered attention, fragmentary perception of information, search for keywords, “surfing” rather than reading — this is the result. Of course, many people have decided to abandon paper books altogether and wholly switched to electronic ones. The skill of reading is increasingly lost. It is no secret that many people are no longer able to read Hesse’s “The Glass Bead Game “, much less Schelling’s” Philosophy of mythology”. How can we counter the trend outlined here? One of the ways today is called slow read. For this purpose, reading groups are created all over the world. They allow you to experience time differently and reopen text that is not scanned but is slowly read, parsed, discussed, and commented on.

41tNS4DFN8L._SX335_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgAnother problem with a modern human is poor memory. Why remember something if you can find all the information on the Internet? Xenophon reports that Athenian politician and general Nicias forced his son Niceratus to memorize by heart the works of Homer. Now no one even tries to set such a task for themselves. It has reached the point that today not everyone is also able to finish reading the epic of Homer to the end. Alberto Manguel writes in “Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey: A Biography” that memory training in the Byzantine educational system was given considerable attention: after several years of practice, students had to know the Iliad by heart.


Creation a worldview is a complex and lengthy process. We often meet people who do not have any worldview. At best, they have a particular set of opinions (in most cases, not their own) and incomplete knowledge, based on which they draw conclusions and make decisions. If there is no worldview, then there is no internal axis, center, or reference point around which a separate world is formed. A person “just lives”, unaware of the values, views, and desires imposed on him. The inability to cope with the massive flow of information that today threatens to wash away any truth from the face of the earth leads it to a chaotic capture, senseless accumulation. He does not know how to choose the most important thing from this inexhaustible stream. If he had a worldview, a particular coordinate system, then approaching the bookshelves or looking at a series of links and headlines in his news feed, a person would instantly make the right decision: “take” or “put aside”. To build your worldview, you need to be a good architect.

In the process of forming ourselves, we always lose sight of the fact that human is a process, as the act of creation. It is in constant development and transformation. There is an ontological gap between the human of Antiquity and the human of the Middle ages. And those who naively believe that humans are always the same, that we are the same today as we were hundreds of years ago, make an unforgivable mistake. When we talk about the “ancient Greek,” “medieval European,” “Renaissance human,” “Modern human,” “postmodern individual,” we are talking about entirely different and, I would venture to say more radically, diametrically different human types. Changing paradigms always means a fundamental change that can be correlated with a “re-creation of the world.” Everything changes the ontological status of a human, his view of life, death and the afterlife, time and space, the divine; his ideals, his values, etc. change. The understanding of these changes dictates the division into historical periods.

41k4XMEZqKL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgJoel Barker, in his book “Paradigms: Business of Discovering the Future”, emphasizes that he does not agree with Thomas Kuhn, who believed that paradigms exist only in science. I always emphasize that I use the word “paradigm” without any reference to Kuhn’s paradigm theory, and take its original meaning (from Greek. παράδειγμα, “example, model, sample”). So, Barker is convinced that the new paradigm comes sooner than there is a need for it. The paradigm is always ahead of demand. And, of course, the apparent reaction to this is rejection. Who is changing the paradigm, according to Barker? It’s always an outsider. The one who breaks the rules turns them — at the same time improving the world. “What is defined as impossible today is impossible only in the context of present paradigms,” says Barker. Let’s put the question again: “is it Possible to become Renaissance human in the digital age? This is not possible only in the context of the old paradigm. But that paradigm could disappear by tomorrow.


The type of personality that appeared in the pre-Socratic period delighted Friedrich Nietzsche, who wrote about the Republic of Geniuses, where the philosopher was a magician, a king, and a priest. This type of personality will still manifest itself in the Middle ages — in the person of the philosopher, scientist, and theologian Albert the Great (Doctor Universalis), the Arab scientist Ḥasan Ibn al-Haytham and the philosopher and naturalist Roger Bacon. And in the Renaissance — as homo univeralis, the most striking embodiment of which will be Leonardo da Vinci: painter, sculptor, architect, inventor, musician, writer, and scientist, ahead of his time. Then it will be replaced by another type-a a scientist of narrow specialization. It’s no longer a microcosm that reflects the entire universe (macrocosm). The world becomes too vast for him, so the specialist decides to confine himself to a small island, where he spends the rest of his days in the eternal scientific studies, to come to results that can easily be refuted by a new generation of such scientists. E. R. Dodds wrote:

The sort of specialisation we have today was quite unknown to Greek science at any period, and some of the greatest names at all periods are those of nonspecialists, as may be seen if you be seen if you look at a list of the works of Theophrastus or Eratosthenes, Posidonius, Galen, or Ptolemy.

In the age of Antiquity, the idea of a perfect human necessarily included the concept of “kalokagathos” (Ancient Greek: καλὸς κἀγαθός). It was a symbol of the harmonious union of external and internal virtues. Another idea that will become the basis of the system of classical education — “Paideia” (παιδεία), that is, the formation of a holistic personality, it was closely related to “kalokagathos.” The harmonious system of ancient (classical) education laid the foundation for the future educational system of Europe.

For the ancient Greeks, the human was not just an individual but an idea. And this idea included all stages of the spiritual and intellectual development of society.

In the Middle Ages, the concept of the ideal human changes significantly, and in place of harmony between external and internal comes the realization of the original sinfulness of the human being; between God and human, an abyss appears, forcing the latter to take the path of redemption to restore the lost harmony. The flesh begins to be thought of as sinful and despicable, the earthly world as a place that must to reject and devote all your thoughts to the service of God. Knowledge gives way to faith. An ascetic monk takes the place of the ancient Greek. The fundamental idea of” imitating God” remains unchanged, only God and the nature of the imitation itself change. If the ancient Greeks imitated the Olympian gods and heroes, the medieval human imitated Christ. The changes in human perception of the world during the transition from Antiquity to the Middle Ages are so radical that at the time we are talking not just about two different ideas about the “perfect human”, but also about two different ontological levels: “the level of the Mystery” and “the level of baptized”. In both cases, the person experienced profound changes, after which his life was strictly divided into “before” and “after”. It is no coincidence that Hans Sedlmayr begins the periodization of Western culture from the Middle ages (skipping Antiquity) — it was another world, another human, another ideal, another look at the choice of life, a different view of death. And another way of looking at philosophy. For a medieval human, philosophy was “the handmaiden of theology.”

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Philosophia et septem artes liberales, the seven liberal arts

It was in the middle ages that the first universities began to appear, which immediately acquired the status of centers of philosophy and culture, science, and education. As a rule, the medieval University consisted of three higher faculties: theology, medicine, and law. Before entering one of these faculties, the student was trained at the artistic (preparatory) faculty, where he studied seven Liberal arts. And only after receiving the title of bachelor or master, he had the right to enter one of the three faculties, were at the end of the training, he won the title of doctor of law, medicine or theology. The seven Liberal arts were divided into two cycles: trivium (grammar, dialectics (logic), rhetoric) and quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music, or harmonica). Despite the fact that the origins of the seven Liberal arts go back to the Hellenistic era (the Sophist Hippias), in the Middle ages this system was in the service of religion: grammar was intended for the interpretation of Church books, dialectics was used for polemics with heretics, rhetoric was necessary as a tool for creating religious sermons, etc.

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Only in the Renaissance age (which was primarily the Renaissance of Antiquity) does the medieval idea of a sinful being give way to the idea of homo universalis, a harmonious and holistic personality; inevitably this means a return to the fundamental principles of the Ancient idea of the perfect human — “kalokagathos”, “paideia”, “arete”. After Thomas Aquinas and Saint Augustine of Hippo come to Georgius Gemistus, Marsilio Ficino and Pico Della Mirandola. Classical education, based on the study of ancient languages as a way to comprehend the cultural heritage of Antiquity, was founded in this era. As the Russian poet and playwright Vyacheslav Ivanovich Ivanov rightly remarked: “European thought constantly and naturally returns for new stimuli to the genius of Greece.”

In the Renaissance, a paradigm shift occurs again: appear is a gap between the medieval worldview and the worldview of the Renaissance human. The same gap to separate the person of the Renaissance from the individual of the New time when there was a break with the classical model of education. One of the embodiments of the anti-classical approach to education was the French sociologist Jean Fourastie (1909–1990), who insisted that we should discard the classical humanitarian culture and focus on the new ideal of an educated person — a specialist of a narrow profile who has the ability to quickly adapt to the constantly changing realities of the modern world. This specialist was not required to have a high level of culture since the range of his tasks was reduced to the effective service of the world, the values of which were now determined not by homo universalis, but by homo economicus.


Today it is common to talk about the collapse of humanism, but we still use the word “humanitarian” out of habit. What is humanitas, and does the range of modern Humanities correspond to its original purpose? Why do we observe how the very “idea of human” is lost? “The Fatigue from human”, “the overthrow of the human”, “the destruction of the human”, “the disappearance of the human” arise in all spheres of our existence.

The latest trends in modern thought reduce a person to the level of an object, depriving him of his prior ontological status. A toothpick and a Buddhist monk, a Hummer and a Heidegger, a nail file, and a talented painter are placed on the same line. One is equal to the other. Object-oriented thinking that puts a THING at the center of being. Metaphysics of things. Being is no longer hierarchical. The same tendency can be found in modern theater and in contemporary painting, which is looking for an opportunity to free themselves from a human finally. Objects and things are increasingly taking the place of the human. The human himself, sometimes installed in work, turns into an object. The human image “disintegrates”, is dismembered, disassembled into parts, like a mechanism. In painting, there has long been a fragmentation of the human image (from distortion of proportions and emphasis on bodily ugliness to the dismemberment of the body). At Norwegian artist Odd Nerdrum, the focus on painful and damaged bodies becomes constant. American artist and sculptor Sarah Sitkin is engaged in splitting the human image, deliberately distorting it. We can see the same thing in the works of other artists: Marcello Nitti, Radu Belchin, Christian Zucconi, Berlinde de Bruyckere, Emil Alzamora, João Figueiredo.

The human is almost banished. But in his place did not come, neither a Superman nor a Godman. Rare attempts to put a different anthropological formation in the position of the disappearing human can be noticed even among European symbolists: Jean Delville, Simeon Solomon, Fernand Khnopff, Emile Fabry, and others. But this was instead a warning of the” new human,” his barely perceptible breath, a secret call. Science fiction writers (for example, Herbert Wells) managed to anticipate the phenomenon of its complete opposite — Digital Human. Who is he, this child of the network century, communicating through tags and tweets — a harbinger of the end of humanity or the Creator of a new “Digital God” — Artificial Intelligence? All attempts by inhumanists, speculative realists, “space pessimists”, etc. to solve the problem of “Lost Centre” and learn to think beyond the limits of human are initially doomed to failure. They do not create breakthroughs in the field of thought; all they do is reveal the symptoms of a dangerous disease called “death of the idea of human”.

I am convinced that the crisis of the Humanities is connected with the plight of the “idea of the human.” And only a return to the “idea of human”, to the spiritual dimension of human existence, but at a new stage, can lead to the revival of the Humanities. In this and only in this case will humanitas regain its original meaning. However, it is not enough just to go back to the old definition of human, today we have to “reinvention of human”. Redefine its meaning, redefine its purpose and place in the world, and understand its advantages over Artificial Intelligence.

9780520288133.jpgTobias Rees is the founding Director of the Institute’s Transformations of the Human Program. He suggests that fields such as Artificial Intelligence and synthetic biology should be seen as philosophical and artistic laboratories where new concepts of human, politics, understanding of nature, and technology are formed. What was traditionally associated with the main tasks of the Humanities, which were centered on human, has now moved to the fields of natural and technical sciences. The Humanities have stopped answering the question: “What is a human?” But this is the fundamental and critical issue today. Specialists who are closed within the boundaries of their disciplines are not able to answer it. Tobias Rees sends philosophers and artists to the world’s largest corporations to work with engineers and technologists to form a new idea of the human.

At the same time, we must clearly understand that rethinking the idea of the human will undoubtedly entail a rethinking of the entire corpus of Humanities. What is it like to be a human being in the age of intelligent machines? What is the fundamental advantage of a human? What will never, under any circumstances, be impossible to automate, calculate, and turn into Algorithms? Futurologist Gerd Leonhard, contrary to Yuval Harari, who is obsessed with Algorithms, puts forward the idea of androrithms, that is, specific non-enumerable attributes that make us humans. These attributes are exclusively human and can never be assigned by a machine. To androrithms, Leonhard includes empathy, intuition, compassion, emotional intelligence, imagination, and Dasein (Heidegger). Leonhard writes:

«Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man’ depicted the ideal proportions of the human body — maybe now we need a ‘neoluvian man’ describing the future relationship of humans and technology?».

In the article “2020 Will Bring A New Renaissance: Humanity Over Technology”, Gerd Leonhard argues that we will soon witness a resurgence of humanism and the Humanities. Undoubtedly, this trend is gradually gaining influence in the Western world. It is enough to read the book “Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm” by Christian Madsbjerg to see how modern world leaders and corporate heads are rediscovering the Humanities and applying its methods to solve critical problems in their industry. Madsbjerg himself is a well-known business consulting specialist and founder of ReD Associates. He founded a consulting company when he was only 22 years old and developed an innovative approach to business thinking (his company specializes in strategic consulting based on the foundation of the Humanities). He is a genuine Polymath that has a dominant intellectual (theoretical and practical) foundation in the field of philosophy, Ethnography, anthropology, sociology, literary studies, history, discursive analysis, business management, etc.

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The ‘Neoluvian’ Man

You might be surprised to find that more than a third of Fortune 500 CEOs have degrees in the Humanities. The illusory idea that only a narrow specialization in STEM will give us a guarantee of building a successful career is a thing of the past. Even the Israeli historian Yuval Harari was forced to admit that the development of AI can displace many people from the labor market. Still, at the same time, there will be new jobs for philosophers. It is their skills and knowledge that will suddenly be in high demand. And American billionaire Mark Cuban believes that “In 10 years, a liberal arts degree in philosophy will be worth more than a traditional programming degree.”

We live in the age of Big Data, but we need to remember that Big Data will never replace Big Ideas. It is the absence of Big Ideas that can be considered the main characteristic of the modern era. Big Ideas always carry transformational potential, imply radical transformations, and those who dare to express them, as a rule, are tested by distrust on the part of a society that is not ready for changes. But only these people have had and will continue to have an impact on the course of human history — Renaissance human, polymath — the Big Idea that underlies the new paradigm of thinking. If you need to define this type of thinking, the most appropriate epithet for it is “integrative”. Roger Martin limits it’s as “the ability to face constructively the tension of opposing ideas and, instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, generate a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a new idea that contains elements of the opposing ideas but is superior to each.” Most people are used to thinking in the “or-or” mode; it is difficult for them to keep two mutually exclusive ideas in their heads at the same time and, without throwing either of them away, to generate a new one (and this process involves intelligence, intuition and every time a unique human experience).

They also find it challenging to create a synthesis of knowledge and skills from different disciplines, and the implementation of integration of various industries seems almost fantastic to them.

I want to emphasize that this is not just about one type of thinking. It is a critical meta-skill that is a human advantage and will never be mastered by a machine, despite the development that Artificial Intelligence will soon achieve.

Strictly speaking, today, we can distinguish three main types of thinking: algorithmic (machine), traditional and integrative (holistic). In the age of Algorithms, only integrative thinking can withstand the battle with AI. The struggle is not just for resources, power, or influence, but for a human.


Russian philosopher, cultural scientist, a specialist in Antiquity, curator of Janus Academy.

jeudi, 12 mai 2016

Nuccio Ordine: Nourrir le corps, nourrir l’esprit

Nuccio Ordine: Nourrir le corps, nourrir l’esprit

Conférence exceptionnelle de Nuccio Ordine

La littérature et la philosophie de la Renaissance proposent une vision unitaire de l’être humain : nourrir le corps sans nourrir l’esprit est principe de stérilité. Les humanistes ont fait du banquet le lieu où conjuguer avec sagesse les mets et les mots, les saveurs et les savoirs. La nourriture est pour eux métaphore de fécondité dans le domaine spirituel comme dans celui de la culture et de la vie civile. Nous visiterons plusieurs banquets (chez Montaigne et Bruno, Rabelais ou L’Arétin) qui expriment différentes visions de la poétique, de la philosophie et de l’existence, et enseignent une convivialité où la pensée et les sens, s’enrichissant mutuellement, nous aident à goûter la vie.

Nuccio Ordine, professeur à l’Università della Calabria, a consacré trois ouvrages à l’œuvre de Giordano Bruno, dont il supervise l’édition et la traduction dans plusieurs pays du monde (en commençant par la France) : La Cabale de l’âne, Le Seuil de l’ombre, Contro il Vangelo armato. Il a exploré d’autres aspects de la culture de la Renaissance, comme le rire et le comique, notamment dans les nouvelles italiennes, le monde de la diplomatie, ou la signification des symboles de la monarchie française sous Henri III. Son dernier ouvrage, L’Utilité de l’inutile, est déjà traduit, ou en cours de traduction en 17 langues.

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dimanche, 10 avril 2011

Machiavelli the European

Machiavelli the European

Dominique Venner

Translated by Greg Johnson

Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com/

Machiavelli.jpgEven his own name has been turned against him. Indeed it is hardly flattering to be described as “Machiavellian.” One immediately envisions a hint of cunning and treacherous violence. And yet what led Machiavelli to write his most famous and scandalous works, The Prince, was concern for his fatherland, Italy.In his time, in the first years of the 16th century, he was, moreover, the only one who cared about this geographical entity. Then, one thought about Naples, Genoa, Rome, Florence, Milan, or Venice, but nobody thought of Italy. For that, it was necessary to wait three more centuries. Which proves that one should never despair. The prophets always preach in spiritual wastelands before their dreams rouse the unpredictable interest of the people.

Born in Florence in 1469, dying in 1527, Niccolò Machiavelli was a senior civil servant and diplomat. He participated in the great politics of his time. What he learned offended his patriotism, inciting him to reflect on the art of leading public affairs. Life enrolled him in the school of great upheavals. He was 23 years old when Lorenzo the Magnificent died in 1492. That same year, Alexander VI Borgia became pope. He temporarily made his son Cesare (in this time, the popes were not always celibate) a very young cardinal. Then he became Duke of Valentinois thanks to the king of France. This Cesare, who was tormented by a terrible ambition, never troubled himself about means.  In spite of his failures, his ardor fascinated Machiavelli.

But I anticipate. In 1494, an immense event occurred that upset Italy for a long time. Charles VIII, the young and ambitious king of France, carried out his famous “descent,” i.e., an attempt at conquest that upset the balance of the peninsula. After being received in Florence, Rome, and Naples, Charles VIII met with resistance and had to withdraw, leaving Italy in chaos. But it was not over. His cousin and successor, Louis XII, returned in 1500, staying longer this time, until the rise of Francis I. In the meantime, Florence had sunk into civil war and Italy had been devastated by condottieri avid for plunder.

Dismayed, Machiavelli observed the damage. He was indignant at the impotence of the Italians. From his reflections was born The Prince, the famous political treatise written thanks to a disgrace. The argument, with irrefutable logic, aims at the conversion of the reader. The method is historical. It rests on the comparison between the past and the present. Machiavelli states his conviction that men and things do not change. He continues to speak to the Europeans who we are.

In the manner of the Ancients – his models – he believes that Fortune (chance), illustrated as a woman balancing on an unstable wheel, determines one half of human actions. But, he says, that leaves the other half governed by virtue (the virile quality of audacity and energy). To the men of action whom he calls to do his wishes, Machiavelli teaches the means of governing well. Symbolized by the lion, force is the first of these means to conquer or maintain a state. But it is necessary to join it with the slyness of the fox. In reality, it is necessary to be lion and fox at the same time: “It is necessary to be a fox to avoid the traps and a lion to frighten the wolves” (The Prince, ch. 18). Hence his praise, stripped of all moral prejudice, of pope Alexander VI Borgia who “never did anything, never thought of anything, but deceiving people and always found ways of doing it” (The Prince, ch. 18). However, it is the son of this curious pope, Cesare Borgia, whom Machiavelli saw as the incarnation of the Prince according to his wishes, able “to conquer either by force or by ruse” (The Prince, ch. 7).

Put on the Index, accused of impiety and atheism, Machiavelli actually had a complex attitude with respect to religion. Certainly not devout, he nevertheless bowed to its practices. In his Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livy, drawing on the lessons of ancient history, he wonders about the religion that would be best suited for the health of the State: “Our religion placed the supreme good in humility and contempt for human things. The other [the Roman religion] placed it in the nobility of soul, the strength of the body, and all other things apt to make men strong. If our religion requires that one have strength, it is to be more suited for suffering than for strong deeds. This way of life thus seems to have weakened the world and to have made it prey for scoundrels” (Discourses, Book II, ch. 2). Machiavelli never hazarded religious reflections, but only political reflections on religion, concluding, however: “I prefer my fatherland to my own soul.”

Source: http://www.dominiquevenner.fr/#/edito-nrh-53-machiavel/3813836

mardi, 24 août 2010

Cola di Rienzi & the Politics of Proto-Fascism

Cola di Rienzi & the Politics of Proto-Fascism

Roma-coladirienzo01.jpgA young Italian nationalist leads his followers on a march through Rome, seizing power from corrupt elites to establish a palingenetic regime. Declaring himself Tribune, his ultimate aim is to recreate the power and glory of Ancient Rome. However, a conspiracy of his enemies topples him from power, and he is imprisoned.  Eventually, the most powerful man in the West frees him and restores him to power — albeit as leader of a puppet regime. His second attempt at Italian rebirth is cut short; he is captured, killed, and his body desecrated by the howling mob. A man who had attempted to drive his degenerate countrymen to fulfill a higher destiny is cut down by the unthinking masses — a cowardly herd who lacked the ability to comprehend, much less work towards, this leader’s dreams of glory.

Is this the life of Benito Mussolini, Duce of Fascist Italy? Well, perhaps — but even more accurately it is a description of Il Duce’s predecessor, the Roman notary Cola di Rienzi. In the mid-fourteenth century, 900 years after the Fall of Rome, di Rienzi engaged in a romantic and ill-fated attempt to restore the Roman Republic and, perhaps, the Empire itself.  Musto’s book tells us what happened. To those familiar with the life of Mussolini, di Rienzi’s tale is shocking in its similarities — shocking and depressing.

The life of Cola di Rienzi — referred to by Musto as Cola di Rienzo — is well known to historians of the Middle Ages, and was, at one time, well known to Italians in general. But in the twentieth century he was eclipsed by Mussolini, who still symbolizes Roman and Italian renewal in many minds. The self-hating Italian Luigi Barzini did di Rienzi no favors in his book The Italians. Thus, Musto’s sympathetic and well-written biography of di Rienzi is long overdo, and is an excellent addition to the library of any individual interested in European history. Of interest for this essay is the relationship of di Rienzi to fascism and the role played by the church and selfish elites in the downfall of di Rienzi and in the humiliating history of modern Italy.

Roger Griffin (Fascism, Oxford University Press, 1995) famously described fascism as “palingenetic populist ultra-nationalism” — making the elements of renewal, rebirth, and regeneration central to all permutations of this ideology. That Cola di Rienzi was a proto-fascist is quite clear. He was a populist leader, appealing to the middle class against established elites, intent on the regeneration and rebirth of Rome, Italy, and, by example, the world.

That he couched this agenda in highly religious Christian terms is to be expected for the time and place — in fourteenth century Italy he could not do otherwise — and in no way detracts from the fascistic palingenetic tone of his rhetoric and actions. After all, perhaps the “most fascist” of all the twentieth-century fascisms — Romania’s Legionary movement — was devoutly Christian and made spiritual/moral regeneration the palingenetic focus of their ideology. Thus, there is no obvious reason not to see “Rienzism” as a sort of fourteenth century fascism.

Indeed, as Musto describes di Rienzi’s march through Rome (sound familiar?) to establish his buono stato (good state), we read the following : “. . . the people of Rome restored to their proper place, mingling among friends, neighbors, and strangers, all sharing the same sense of rebirth and renewal” (emphasis added). That sounds reasonably palingenetic to me; Cola di Rienzi as Tribune of Rome or Benito Mussolini as Duce of Italy — the similarities outweigh the differences.

That Cola di Rienzi is viewed by many as a generally positive figure who — for all his flaws — sincerely wanted the best for the people suggests that perhaps proto-fascism (or fascism, for that matter) is not the unalloyed evil that some make it out to be.

Musto states that di Rienzi was more of an artist than a politician in his actions and propaganda, which is completely consistent with the aesthetic nature of fascist movements (uniforms, ceremonies, rituals, art, etc.) of the twentieth century. Cola di Rienzi’s friend and admirer was the famed Petrarch, who recognized in the young Tribune the hope of Italy and the possibility of a new age, an age of rebirth and promise. Thus, a primary icon of fourteenth century Western culture was attracted to the sociopolitical and aesthetic characteristics of the Rienzian phenomenon.

Musto notes that di Rienzi spoke not only for the people of Rome but for all the people of “sacred Italy” to whom he wished to extend Roman citizenship. Musto describes in detail how, after spending time with Pope Clement VI — his eventual bitter enemy — di Rienzi returned to Rome to overthrow the feudal rule of the baronial families. These barons had turned the eternal city into a depopulated, anarchical, bloody, and violent mess, with the Roman people groaning under the self-interested misrule of the baronial elite.

Cola spent many months laying the groundwork for his revolution, engaging in various form of propaganda, including art as well as speech, until the day came when he and followers marched to seize power. Cola declared himself Tribune, ousted the barons, and began the formation of the so-called buono stato — a name which implies as much moral/spiritual renewal as much as it does plain good governance.

And di Rienzi did bring good governance; to use twentieth-century language he made the “trains run on time.”  Establishing ties with other Italian cities, reaching out to the West as a whole, and supported by Petrarch, di Rienzi captured the attention not only of Europe but also instilled fear into the Islamic world, which saw the possibility of a resurgent Rome as the center of Western resistance to Asiatic expansion.

However, the Pope was not at all pleased with the rise of a secular power base in Rome to challenge the Church. As long as he perceived that di Rienzi would act as an effective mouthpiece to enforce Papal prerogatives against the barons, Clement supported the Tribune. But as soon as it became apparent that di Rienzi was his own man, with his own agenda, and that this agenda included a destiny for Rome and Italy that went beyond slavish subservience to the church, Clement decided that di Rienzi had to go.

Therefore, after months of intriguing against di Rienzi — even to the point of attempting to orchestrate food shortages to turn the Roman people against the Tribune — the Pope (the papacy at this time being self-exiled in France to protect themselves from their secular enemies) dropped the bombshell: on Dec. 3, 1347, Cola di Rienzi was condemned and excommunicated, and all who would support the Tribune were threatened with the same fate.

Indeed, if Rome still rallied behind di Rienzi, the entire city would have been under the Papal interdict; the entire city would have become a pariah in the Western, Christian world. In the fourteenth century, particularly fourteenth century Italy, excommunication was the worst sociopolitical fate for any leader, far worse than merely being labeled a “traitor” (which they called di Rienzi as well).

A whole list of crimes were put forth against the Tribune (including, absurdly, necromancy), and the Pope began to actively collaborate with the barons for the “final act” against the Rienzian regime. By this time, di Rienzi and the Roman people had decisively defeated the barons in the battle of Porta San Lorenzo. But it did not matter. In the year 1347, the Church, and the spiritual power of the Pope, was far more powerful than any army, any military victory. So, with the aid of the Pope, the barons rebelled and deposed di Rienzi, who was forced into exile.

Even then the Pope was not satisfied, remaining “fixated” on di Rienzi, scheming to have him captured and “annihilated.” Such was the hatred of this “Christian man of God” for the Tribune who wished to create regeneration for Romans and Italians. Could di Rienzi, in the fourteenth century, have said “Basta!” and defied the Church? Consider that Mussolini in the twentieth century could not do so, to his detriment. The secular power and ambitions of the Church was and remains a shackle on the aspirations of the Italian people.

Cola di Rienzi attempted to find sanctuary in Prague with the emperor Charles IV who eventually bowed to the overwhelming power of the papacy and turned di Rienzi over to the Inquisition for trial for “heresy.” Part of di Rienzi’s defense was his assertion — somewhat “outrageous” for the fourteenth century — that the church should have no secular power, since the founding basis for Christianity was “poverty and humility.” One can only imagine Pope Clements’s reaction to that.

Eventually brought before Pope Clement, di Rienzi was a shell of his former self, and the symbolism of this meeting cannot be dismissed. The populist and secular (yet devoutly religious) hope of Italy was brought as a humiliated prisoner before the man representing the memetic virus that has infected the West and enslaved the Italian people for centuries.

The worm turned after the death of Clement VI and the ascension of Pope Innocent VI, a less “worldly and extravagant” man than his predecessor. Innocent had, not surprisingly, secular aspirations in Rome and was therefore distressed by the violence and anarchy prevailing after the fall of di Rienzi and the rise, once again, of the baronial families. Therefore, Cola was “rehabilitated” and sent to Rome as a Papal puppet to restore his “good state” — but this time, as Innocent writes, without the “fantastic innovations” of the first Rienzian regime.

Of course, those “fantastic innovations” were merely the assertion of the Roman peoples’ right to rule themselves in a secular state independent of papal micromanagement, and that Rome and Italy were in dire need of regeneration and renewal. This was not exactly what the church wanted, or wants today. And so, a chastened Cola di Rienzi was put forward as Pope Innocent’s tool with the hope that the repeat of the Rienzian regime would not degenerate into farce. Rome not being what she once was, that hope was misplaced.

The ex-tribune (now “senator” and Papal rector) was painfully aware that the real leader of Rome was the Pope, not the Emperor, not any self-proclaimed Tribune. This is something that he had dedicated years to opposing. From the beginning of his second tenure of power — power only at the sufferance of the Pope — the established elites, particularly the barons, opposed and plotted against di Rienzi. The plots became complicated and di Rienzi, after years of imprisonment and hardship, and possibly suffering from epilepsy, was not the same man. Errors of judgment, executions of venerable Roman citizens, and the imposition of required taxes began to fray the support of the fickle Roman masses.

When the end came, at the instigation of the barons and their supporters, it came fast. The howling mob stormed di Rienzi’s residence and drowned out his attempts to reason with them. Cola di Rienzi was caught trying to flee the mob in disguise (like Mussolini); he was stabbed to death (like Caesar); his body was desecrated (like Mussolini again) then burnt to ashes (like Hitler). The ashes were thrown into the Tiber; all physical traces of the Tribune were gone.

The eerily similar lives and political careers of di Rienzi and Mussolini should give one pause. Both men were Italians living in a time of crisis for their people. Both men rose up to lead populist revolts against the established order. Both men established regimes which were initially successful and lauded by many, but then these regimes went sour and were overthrown by the forces of reaction. Both men were imprisoned thereafter. Both men then returned to power through the help of another, more powerful person — in the case of di Rienzi it was the Pope, in the case of Mussolini, Hitler. Both men then attempted to reestablish their regime, eventually failed, were killed by their enemies, and their bodies were desecrated by the mob. Both men attempted to lift the Italian people to greatness, but the special interests were too powerful and the lure of insipid, hedonistic stagnation too great.

The similarities are too many to be a coincidence. This then seems to be a distinctly Italian phenomenon. Who was at fault? Was it the fault of the two leaders themselves? Were they fatally flawed men? No doubt both men, particularly di Rienzi, had their flaws, and these flaws contributed to their failure and demise. But all great men have flaws. This easy explanation does not suffice.

No, the Italian people also have to share the blame, and I say this as a pan-European racial nationalist who is very supportive of the Italian people. Nevertheless, twice in Italy’s modern history dynamic leaders came to the fore to lead Italians to greatness, and twice did the Italian people turn on them. (In defense of the Italians, one has to ask if any other European societies have done better. One might say that it is better to have tried and failed a Rienzi or a Mussolini than never to have tried at all, which is the case of most European societies.)

I cannot forget reading Leon DeGrelle’s book on his experiences on the eastern front (translated as Campaign in Russia), fighting for Europe as part of the Wallonian division of the Waffen SS. The Italian soldiers he met were uninterested in fighting. They had no sense of the seriousness of the crusade against Bolshevism and for Europe. Instead, they cared only about “wine, women, and fun in the sun.” Nietzsche’s “last men” to be sure! (The rest of Europe has surely caught up with the Italians since then.) No wonder Italian military performance in WW II was a farce. No wonder that Italians have so long been the anvil of history, not the hammer, a fact lamented by great Italians from the middle ages to Machiavelli to Julius Evola to the present day.

But we cannot solely blame the Italians or focus on the personal flaws of di Rienzi and Mussolini. No, the 800 pound gorilla in the room is the Vatican.

An analysis of the career of di Rienzi clearly shows the pernicious influence of Pope Clement VI. Musto’s book makes it clear that Clement VI was little more than a self-interested feudal lord, more concerned with maintaining petty Papal power and privilege than in the national regeneration promised by di Rienzi. For example, on page 190 we read of the Pope’s real attitude toward di Rienzi’s new regime: “. . . the pope began carefully, delicately plotting Cola’s downfall and seeking his personal humiliation, as well as his public infamita as a traitor and a heretic.” In short, the church plotted to crush the political aspirations of the Italian people to keep them in secular servitude to the Vatican.

There is a long history of such behavior. Cola di Rienzi was not the first man to attempt Italian/Roman regeneration only to fall victim to the Vatican. As Musto tells us, in 1143, the people of Rome rose up against Pope Innocent II, drove the papacy into exile, re-established the Roman Senate, and even started minting coins in the name of “SPQR” — “The Senate and the People of Rome.” Arnold of Brescia, a monk and political philosopher, rose to lead the new republic and offered an intellectual rationale for the church’s renunciation of secular power. But in 1155, at the instigation of the papacy, the German Emperor Frederick I led an army against Rome to crush the republic and reinstall the pope. Arnold of Brescia was burned at the stake as a heretic and his ashes dumped into the Tiber. Yes, to preserve its power, the church turned to foreigners to suppress the political aspirations of the Romans.

The secular power of the church caused a “dual loyalty” problem that remains to this day. Is an Italian’s highest loyalty to Italy or to the Vatican? To di Rienzi and Mussolini or to the Pope? (Or, in Il Duce’s Italy, to the Pope as well as the secular figurehead, the King?) It is interested to contemplate how history might have been changed if the papacy had remained in Avignon, if the church had been disestablished and the papacy denied sovereign status once and for all after the reunification of Italy, or if Mussolini had not signed the Lateran Treaty of 1929, rescuing papal sovereignty from the legal limbo in which it had languished since 1861.

The other major party opposed to Cola di Rienzi were the barons of medieval Rome. As a self-interested elite, enriching themselves at the cost of the people’s well being, they are perfectly analogous to the white globalist elites of today, who routinely betray their race’s interests in their hedonistic pursuit of money, power, and pleasure.

The barons of di Rienzi’s time are also analogous to the established elites (King, nobility, military, and business) of Mussolini’s Italy. These elites opposed a full and radical fascistization of the Italian people and instead valued the well-being of their own caste over that of society as a whole. European-derived peoples, with their greater individualism, tend to produce elites willing to betray their race (and their own ethnic genetic interests) for selfish class/caste/individual interests.

What are the lessons of the story of Cola di Rienzi?

Culturally and politically, the Italians are one of the healthiest people in Europe today. Their tradition of palingenetic populist nationalism has deep roots, nourished and hallowed by the blood of martyrs like Arnold of Brescia, Cola di Rienzi, and Benito Mussolini. They failed because they could not overcome the resistance of the “barons” and the church — those whose petty secular interests are threatened by genuine national renewal. The next time — if there is a next time — things need to be done right.

For the West as a whole, the story of di Rienzi demonstrates that self-interested established elites always oppose palingenesis. It is time for a new elite, one that understands that their own interests and those of their people are one and the same, and who will work first towards  survival, and second towards fulfilling a higher destiny, the Destiny of the West.

Will “the people” be up to the challenge? We shall see. One thing is for sure — we cannot afford to waste the likes of a di Rienzi or a Mussolini. Such leaders need to be treasured, not to have their torn bodies hanged upside down for the amusement of the small-brained, milling mob.

It is time for a clean sweep. Reform is the enemy. Only complete rebirth can save us now.

vendredi, 27 mars 2009

Machiavelli's Stellingen over Staat en Politiek



Machiavelli's Stellingen over Staat en Politiek

mercredi, 18 mars 2009

Machiavelli: gewetenloze opportunist of realist?



Machiavelli: gewetenloze opportunist of realist?