Viewing posts tagged renaissance

Sarcasm and Chips

Every time I read The Prince I become more convinced that it is a work of sarcasm.  Not conscious sarcasm perhaps, but sarcasm nonetheless. 

It is the product of bitter disappointment and disillusion.  This man, Machiavelli, had been a fierce Florentine patriot, a republican, a defender of the revolutionary city after the popular ousting of the plutocratic Medici psuedo-kings.  He lost the game and, having been tortured and exiled, he sat and wrote what is supposed to be a job application to the triumphant Medici... and it turns into the first open admission (in modern European letters) that ethics and politics are separate and often irreconcilable. 

It is coded, deliberately or not, to imply that the failure of Republican hopes in the face of the Medici stemmed from a failure to be sufficiently ruthless against them, to be as utterly cynical as the Medici themselves.  In the process, Machiavelli praises Cesare Borgia as the perfect Prince.  The Medici had regained their status in Florence partly owing to an alliance with the bellicose Pope Julius II, who had been one of the Borgia's most implacable enemies. 

Gramsci famously argued that the book ...

22

The Doctor, Romana and Duggan have found a painting hidden behind a panel in the basement of Count Scarlioni's house in Paris.

"It's the Mona Lisa!" says the Doctor.

"Must be a fake," replies Duggan.

The Doctor says he doesn't know what's currently hanging in the Louvre, "but this is the genuine article".

Duggan's astonishment increases when the Doctor folds back yet more panelling to reveal yet another Mona Lisa.  And another.  And another.  Eventually, six identical copies are revealed.

"They must be fakes," says Duggan again.

"The brushwork's Leonardo's," the Doctor asserts, "It's as characteristic as a signature. The pigment, too."

"What," blithers Duggan, "on all of them?"

"What I don't understand is why a man who's got six Mona Lisas wants to go to all the trouble of stealing a seventh."  (The Count has been casing the Louvre, preparing to steal their Mona Lisa.)

This is Duggan's area.  "Come on, Doctor, I've just told you. There are seven people who would buy the Mona Lisa in secret, but nobody's going to buy the Mona Lisa when it's hanging in ...

We are the Borgias. You will be Excommunicated. Renaissance is Futile.

It's good that TV dramas have become more complex and ambiguous, particularly with regards to morality.  But there is a tendency for them to lose any moral compass in their eagerness to show us the dark sides of the characters with whom they want us to empathize and to care about.

The Borgias wants us to follow Cesare's career with sympathy, but also shows him having people tortured into madness.  What is the show's position on this?  Oddly, it tries to whitewash him even as it revels in his dark side.  It makes his victims into rapists and murderers.  It depicts him as personally involved in tormenting Savonarola, but makes Savonarola a fanatic (of course) and a vicious homophobe.  Now, it's true that Savonarola instituted strictly puritanical laws in Florence, including against sodomy... but that was applicable to hetero sex as well as homo.  Of course, I wouldn't want to defend Savonarola's views in their entirety.  He was not a modern democrat.  But he and people akin to him - Munzer, Cromwell, the Levellers, the Diggers... the p/Protestant revolutionaries of the era of transition from ...

Gonzo Marx

Ruminations on alienation, commodity fetishism, myth, etc.  Don't mind me.


Battle for the Planet of the Apes

Human beings have always made stuff.  Broadly, that's what humans are: the apes that make stuff.  Even before Darwin, Benjamin Franklin called man "the tool-making animal", a description apparently vindicated by our discoveries about early humanity, which seem to show the rise of the 'big brain' driven by the needs of the hand.

The flint tools and decorative beads of the hunter-gatherers.  The pyramids and ziggurats of the great slave empires.  The water wheels and ploughs of medieval Europe.

But the rise of capitalism brought the factory system.  The division of labour.  Specialisation without expertise.  Organisation of time.  The creation of new kinds of cities that worked as battery farms for thousands of corralled workers.  Mass production.  Heavy industry.  Conveyor belts.  Fordism.  Mechanisation.  Computer-run facilities. 

The ape that makes things started to make things faster than ever before, in greater numbers than ever before. And the things started to confront the thingmaker as alien, autonomous, controlling, dominating.  When you have to watch a clock ...

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