mercoledì 24 novembre 2010

Research reading

Yes, we are organised, all proceeding to plan. The time for planning has allowed me time to do a lot of reading (Helen is jealous: fiendishly preoccupied with office work, lobbying for things, in advance of ten weeks long service leave. But much focused on learning Italian.)

For this entry, not in Italian, breaking my principle announced with last entry...   But this is reflective and full of ideas, which you need real skill to translate.

My favourite bookstore,, as usual delivers the goods. (No profit for me in saying so, no clink of money on using that link, c.f. Amazon links.) It has been great this year for sending modest-priced second hand text books to friends in Uganda, now has sent me a variety of books on Sicilian and Neapolitan history. Turning my perspective around in several directions.

At light level, to discover that Archimedes came from Siracusa. Archimedes killed by the Romans after they broke into Siracusa on a dirty ruse, after months of siege in the wars with Carthage. Archimedes had been the director-general of defence science, his devices punishingly keeping the Romans out.

Two hundred years before, they had kept out the Athenians out (I have to read Thucydides next) when the Athenians were jealous of Siracusa, a Greek city, having the reputation of largest and most impressive city of the (European) world 4-500BC.  Sadly, Dennis (Dionysius) of Siracusa became the exemplar of tyranny, breaking away from Greek manners of democracy. He asked for body guards, they gave him 500, he doubled that, game end.

I have read again of the Normans in Sicily, briefly possessing, from Palermo, the most fabled multicultural state in much of European history in the 1200s, swiftly undone, a little more swiftly perhaps, than the United States in the 1900s and 2000s... but largely by the same process, overextension and preoccupation with guns.

And then there is the history of Naples, fabulous among European capitals for several hundred years, then berefted with the unification of Italy and thus loss of taxes and service industry employment - which had supported an indolent court-based, not industry-based, capital to which those of manners flocked.

...Perhaps good for comparative reading in Australian educational programs pondering the (no, no, impossible, impossible, farfetched, as Naples advisors also found) end of the flood of money to government from the resource sector. We are somewhat more progressive to be sure, but there are lessons to be seen. In other current language, Naples was steamrollered by a level playing field.

Noting also that the present scourge of the Camorra arose from the 1300s on, with unemployment and dispossession in a society where divisions between rich and poor. And that pattern also, of course, relates to the rise of so-called terrorism, dependent on dispossession as it is. The ordinariness of violence in these earlier historical periods contributes also long term attitudes. Liddell Hart attributed the violence of the Spanish Civil War to the violence of the Peninsular War against Napoleon (wherein the term guerrilla began), as he also attributed the rise of middle east terrorism (B L H died in 1970) to the good work of Lawrence of Arabia... which latter in particular points to the core principle in modern warfare, seldom seen by statesmen, that it is not your motives and objectives but your manners that impact on the host country (and I add, flood back into your own)... We still struggle with domestic violence (the arrogation of righteousness and application of it by rough means) when we cannot see that this is what our self-righteous goverments do routinely in the use of violence. Sigh...

I much prefer travel with wider insight to travel with gawk, but enough for now...

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