1. Statue of Dante Alighieri in Florence. It reminds me of these:
“Behold the Argonath, the Pillars of the Kings!” cried Aragorn. “We shall pass them soon. Keep the boats in line, and as far apart as you can! Hold the middle of the stream!”
As Frodo was borne towards them the great pillars rose like towers to meet him. Giants they seemed to him, vast grey figures silent but threatening.
Then he saw that they were indeed shaped and fashioned: the craft and power of old had wrought upon them, and they still preserved through the suns and rains of forgotten years the mighty likenesses in which they had been hewn.
Upon great pedestals founded in the deep waters stood two great kings of stone: still with blurred eyes and crannied brows they frowned upon the North. The left hand of each was raised palm outwards in gesture of warning; in each right hand there was an axe; upon each head there was a crumbling helm and crown.
Great power and majesty they still wore, the silent wardens of a long-vanished kingdom. Awe and fear fell upon Frodo, and he cowered down, shutting his eyes and not daring to look up as the boat drew near. Even Boromir bowed his head as the boats whirled by, frail and fleeting as little leaves, under the enduring shadow of the sentinels of Númenor. So they passed into the dark chasm of the Gates. […]
“Fear not!” said a strange voice behind him. Frodo turned and saw Strider, and yet not Strider; for the weather-worn Ranger was no longer there. In the stern sat Aragorn son of Arathorn, proud and erect, guiding the boat with skilful strokes; his hood was cast back, and his dark hair was blowing in the wind, a light was in his eyes: a king returning from exile to his own land.
“Fear not!” he said. “Long have I desired to look upon the likenesses of Isildur and Anárion, my sires of old.”
2. A culture cannot survive if it has no sense of a deep inner essence, against which it protects itself from destructive, non-assimilable influence. Influence is not the problem; the problem is influence which consumes the host culture. The Germans and Italians have both weathered the storm of modernity (Yeats’ “roof-levelling wind, bred on the Atlantic”) to some degree, because they retain a strong sense of what it is to be Italian or German.
The English seem to have lost any anchoring sense of Englishness, perhaps because we share a language with the Americans (who are necessarily multicultural, having exterminated the original inhabitants). i’m unsure why Germany should be still fairly safe, with largely stable families and some kind of work ethic, while England has become a nest of apple polishers and base chavscum. There seems no clear, worldly explanation.
3. Cultures develop in a specific time and place; influenced by the terrain and weather. Likewise, i am a product of England – specifically the North – in the last quarter of the 20th Century. Contrary to the Communists’s supposition (that i hate the English because some of them are racist, and that i now want to avenge myself on them all, but i am myself too racist to join hands with the Muslims so just infuriatingly read the Daily Mail and inexplicable fail to go on strike and protest), i don’t hate England; i hate chavs and apple polishers and shouty socialists, and i discriminate between chavs, apple polishers, shouty socialists, and decent folk. Chavs and apple polishers are rife in cities like Leeds, though in shitholes like Huddersfield or Bradford the chav:polisher ratio is higher as polishers naturally gravitate towards money and the possibility of personal advancement (as do shouty socialists).
In Germany i feel strangely more English, though i suppose it makes sense – since the Bosche all stare at me in amazement, my foreignness is daily reinforced; which may be why British Muslims seem more prone to fundamentalism than in the Middle East. And just as Muslims may become more Muslim under such conditions, i become more English, thus:
In my case, my imaginative capacity allows me to subtly adjust to living for 3.5 years in a foreign culture. So i’m actually becoming more Germanic at the same time: blunter, more orderly, fatter, with more expensive shoes, more brutal & insane. But it’s not actually good for people to be permanently transplanted to a foreign culture, if they lack the imaginative resources to make sense of it. At least Germany is not wholly dissimilar to England; in many ways, what i’ve seen of Germany – in Kiel, Kassel, and Munich – is what i liked in England.
4. i) A parallel between individuals and cultures – just as individuals require boundaries, their own space, so do cultures. i’ve now had four quasi-friends who i eventually had to cut, or who cut me after i stood up for myself. Two approached me out of the blue: one thought he was Jesus, the other was merely a socialist. Of the other two, one was a repulsive music journalist and the other my original Tai Chi tutor (another self-righteous bully). In all four cases it followed the same pattern: i was initially open and friendly, found them interesting; then after a period they became increasingly intrusive. The Jesus person at least never tried to bully me, he just had no sense for my private boundaries and seemed to think i was writing my blog for him personally and no one else (because he was Jesus). The other three all hectored me for deviating from their divine blueprint (the journalist hectored me for liking any music he didn’t like; the Tai Chi guru hectored me for absolutely everything he could think of; the Communist hectored me for not sharing his UN functionary worldview); they all became progressively more unbearable until i stopped trying to mollify and humour them, whereupon they all responded with wounded rage.
Most interesting people are crazy, of course, and everyone has the occasional tantrum. i don’t want to just cut people as soon as they seem nuts or bolshy; if i did, i wouldn’t have any friends. While i personally won’t leave aggressive comments on other people’s blogs or Facebook walls, i accept that most people do from time to time, and that one should tolerate it to a degree. i disabled blog comments because i attract nutters but at least on Facebook i can create a private blog and only invite those i trust; and if they violate that trust i can unfriend them (so far i’ve only done this once).
ii) Likewise with cultures – a closed culture would be peculiar and in the 21st Century would only be possible with a totalitarian state such as we see in the great Workers’ Paradises of the USSR, North Korea, etc; but as in one’s private life open doors will result in burglary, graffiti, dead dogs under the bed, and hippies smoking crack and telling you, “hey man, this is our place now, what are you, some kind of racist? Property is theft, man. Get out and don’t buzz our high. Go and buy us some beer and crisps.”
i can’t formulate a rule, at which point i don’t want someone in my house. It varies from person to person and at different points in my life i have different tolerances. For a nation it is harder. One could draw up some basic rules: that if you don’t learn the language to a certain level in 6 months you have to leave; that if you don’t have any useful skills or education you have to quickly acquire them or get out; and so on. The real cultural issue is harder to define. Probably most British citizens would fail the citizenship test as they come out of school knowing nothing about their own history or culture and will continue in that vein (and most Germans, to judge from the brainless apprentices i taught in Kassel).
5. The great achievements of a culture should be preserved and venerated and studied; they have an influence: subtle, extensive, nearly invisible but, in the end, decisive. Perhaps it is that, growing up in a cultureless house (i was the only reader) my father nonetheless had Shakespeare’s plays still in their cellophane wrapping, and never-played vinyls of Handel’s Messiah, and while i naturally had no interest in such things i nonetheless felt this in the background, as the then-inaccessible frame within which English culture had its life; and i wouldn’t have thought our racist apple polisher neighbours were the intended product of that culture – merely a corrupt emission. In England, the left dismisses all that is great in our culture as imperialism, fascism, dead white male racism; hence, perhaps, the sense that there is no longer a frame, no longer something great against which life may be lived and understood; because for socialists the past must be destroyed so they may create a new world, a world in which they can take their places as philosopher-kings bearing total rule over the masses.
i take heart that even the most vociferous and bullying socialist cannot destroy the works of Shakespeare, the music of Wagner or Handel. They can ban them, they can vilify and bowlderise them, as is in fact done, but they cannot totally exterminate them from human history. They can browbeat and hector but the original texts remain, like Dante’s statue.
Most Italians have no interest in Dante, but the statue remains and they see it and know it is there, in the background of their daily life; a symbol of the highest reaches of that culture; and the day to day life finds its place within that arch. It is there; you know that your culture reached so high, that your ordinary life is a part of this, that this greatness frames and orders the present. Without this extraordinary frame the ordinary lacks volition and coherence and purpose; it is then simply a Darwinian struggle for more material goods. The extraordinary guarantees the sanity of the ordinary.
From Man of Steel: “You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble, they will fall, but in time, they will join you in the sun.”