Friday, April 27, 2007

May Aquinas Be Our Guide

I'm taking a break from studying for this insufferable Canadian History exam...why can't my country have an interesting past? Anyways, I figure writing a blog entry would get my mind off of Confederation and Habitants and the British Monarchy for a few minutes before I jump right back into it.

What I wanted to talk about (again) is our ability to think critically about ideas and events. The man I use as my guide for this is St. Thomas Aquinas. In his Summa Theologica Aquinas asks and debates some seriously important questions about mankind, morality, existence, and God. The most striking aspect of this work is the way in which St. Thomas comes to his opinions and conclusions. He follows a simple 3 part formula when answering any question you can throw at him. This formula is as follows: Seldom affirm, never deny, always distinguish. Utter simplicity, and yet it provides the framework for any serious thought or debate about any subject you can come up with.

Seldom Affirm: Aquinas understood that very rarely was the answer to a question simply 'yes.' When the answer is yes, it is a 'qualified yes' rather than an unequivocal one. Usually it ends up being 'yes, but.' Thus, the answer to any serious question is only yes IF you have thoroughly examined and dissected it.

Never Deny: To Aquinas, nothing was as simple as saying no. 'No' ends a conversation. 'No' prevents rational thought about anything. Science often answers with a straight 'no', and that is precisely why I find it's value so questionable.

Always Distinguish: Every answer to every question requires a far more complex explanation than a yes or no answer. Here, Aquinas is explaining that in order to properly view our world, we need to see it in shades of grey, not in black and white. Even if the answer ends up being yes, one must qualify that yes. Furthermore, in qualifying a no, it ceases to be a no, and becomes something deeper.

Well, there you have it, Aquinas' (and my) guide to answering and thinking about all of life's important questions. Try this out with a few of the biggies and you'll see how useful it is. I find it an indispensable tool for examining my ideas and beliefs, and I hope you do too.

Ok, that's it for now...back to Canadian History...oh someone make it go away....

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Io Sono Me

I notice I've been ranting for a little about some seemingly obscure topics without any real context involved. I study Mediaeval History. NOT "Medieval", NOT "Midevel", NOT "Medivel", nor any other ridiculous spelling someone might tell you is right. This is actually one of my most pointless pet-peeves, but if you're going to dedicate your life to the study of a particular subject, it should go without saying that you expect others to treat your pursuit with respect. Though my Latin is terrible I know 'medi' means middle, and 'aeval' or 'aevalus' means years. Thus, Middle Years or Middle Ages is spelt Mediaeval. Anything else is either incorrect, or some new form of the word that has taken root amongst the illiterate Plebs Maximus and then included in dictionaries because of its common-usage status.

Hmm...I've decided to go off on a tangent here, so bear with me. Though any scholar or historian worth the name knows that the historical time periods we study have all been invented by historians themselves in order to make examining the human past easier, the Middle Ages are an interesting exception. People in the Middle Ages were well aware that they were living in the Middle Ages. Dante even referred to his time as "media tempestus" or something like that, translating roughly as "middle times." How could they know this when people in Antiquity didn't know they were living in Antiquity, and people in the Renaissance were only dimly aware of the cultural rebirth for which their time would be labelled? It's actually quite simple if you think about it. In the Middle Ages, the inhabitants of the overwhelmingly Christian Europe clearly understood that they were living in the time between Jesus' death and his future coming. Thus, they knew they were Mediaeval long before we did.

Apart from that, there are countless arguments over when the Middle Ages begin and end, and what exactly makes a society Mediaeval. I'll probably discuss this debate in a later blog, but for now I just want to stress my desire for people to spell the damn word correctly. Please, don't give in to intellectual laziness (the English Department at my university actually spells it wrong...but I won't get into all of their countless deficiencies right now) or to common usages. Spell words properly and respect their origins. that seems like I've given you some context. I'm a student, I get angry alot, and I hate idiots and people who fail to think critically and intelligently about important issues...or about any issue for that matter. That's it for now, I've got to go study for an exam. Ciao.

P.S. This stupid blog thing is trying to tell me that the proper spelling of Mediaeval is incorrect. I need to find whoever designed this thing, sit them down, and have a VERY serious discussion with them about the proper way to do things...

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Commandments of the Law

In the 530s (or so) the Emperor Caesar Flavius Justinian released one of the most important legal texts in Western history. With his Institutes, Justinian sought to train future generations of scholars and lawyers ("young enthusiasts for the law" are his exact words) the important aspects and distinctions of Law, its study, and its application. Though many people now would question the pertinence of a sixth century law code in our modern lives, there is a certain section of it I wish to explore, mainly because it forms the basis for almost all legal thought in the West even up until the present day.
In his introduction Justinian writes, "The commandments of the law are these: live honourably; harm nobody; give to everyone their due." This single line embodies the essence of Mediaeval law and much of the theory around it. Of course, there are countless interpretations as to what each of these commandments could possibly mean. Far from being a weakness, this actually makes them better. If they were explicit and precise then their applicability to a living society would quickly fade. In their vagueness these commandments beg for discussion, argument, definition, revision, and questioning; all the activities necessary to make this document a dynamic and ever-valid part of a real human society.
I point this passage out for two reasons. First, I think that we as a society have lost much of the ability people once had to look at things critically, or to question what we are told. While Justinian, Emperor of the known world and successor to Rome practically begs for his words to be discussed and debated thoroughly, our leaders command us not to question even their most meaningless whims. I don't think we can truly live up to our grand claims of living in a 'free society' until we regain the desire and the capability to ask questions and think deeply about what is presented to us. Who would have thought that men in sixth century Constantinople were more intellectually free than we are?
The second reason I wanted to discuss this passage is because, to me, Justinian provides one of the best outlines one can follow for living a good and meaningful life. Think deeply about each of his three commandments and tell me that someone who follows them would not be living in incredibly good life.
Live honourably: In this, I believe Justinian is referring not only to the greater concept of honour, but also to the simple day-to-day interactions that make up the bulk of our lives. Treat people well, don't steal, help the needy, protect the weak, and thousands of other little ideas can be included here. To truly live honourably would be a difficult task, but an extremely noble one.
Harm nobody: This one may seem obvious, but Justinian was very subtle. Apart from not physically hurting people he also means that we should not insult people, slander them, humiliate them etc. We should not cause someone emotional, psychological, or even financial or economic harm. This concept is one of the more difficult ones for our society to accept. We often feel that certain forms of harm are essential for the purposes of justice or education, or that in pursuing one's own goals, it is acceptable to hurt other people. Can you imagine a society in which we all truly strove to do no harm?
Give to everyone their due: This is the line that I personally find hardest to define. I think that there are a few important meanings attached to it. One is the idea of treating others with respect. Another is the idea of respecting legitimate authority and government. One that I am struggling with is the correlation between this commandment and justice. What really constitutes another's 'due' and how are we to determine this? There are dozens of answers, and I am not yet satisfied with them all, but there is one thing I must point out. In giving someone their 'due', we must be sure to live honourably, and to harm nobody. What if in harming someone I am preventing greater harm to someone else? Can I even accurately make a decision or prediction like that? I think an honest answer to the second question in 'no', but I have no satisfactory answer to the first yet. So the giving of one's 'due' raises far more questions and issues than it answers. That is precisely what makes it so important and so dynamic. If law is to be an organic and human idea then it must be thoroughly dissected, and its relevence to society examined and explored.
So, after writing all this, I think I have more questions than I did when I started. Good. I need to think about Justinian and his law in greater depth, as well as thinking about what his commandments mean for me, for you, and for our world. But before I go, I want to leave you with two thoughts.
First, discussion and debate are the keys to understanding who we really are, and what idea really mean. Second, what would our world be like if everyone were to follow Justinian's three simple commandments? I don't know about you, but I think it would be the best society I can imagine.
Bye for now, and try to keep the sixth century in your mind the next time you interact with another person. I know I will. Ciao.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

R.I.P. Fillipo Raciti

I'd like to warn you, this is a long one. In February I was stunned by some things that happened in Catania, a city in Sicily that is very close to where my family is from. In fact, I'm pretty sure I have relatives living in Catania right now. So I wrote this 2500 word essay about soccer violence, which I am now posting good luck, it's a long one:

The recent death of an Italian police officer in the aftermath of a soccer game has led me to ask some serious questions to which there are no sufficient answers. How could this happen? Why did it happen? Is this kind of situation preventable, and if so, at what cost? The issue of soccer related violence in Europe, and more particularly in Italy, is a complex one, and I’d like to examine it in some depth here. I hope this will lead both myself, and others to a better understanding of at least some of the implications and complications of hooliganism and violence in the western world.

First, it must be said that violence and soccer have gone hand in hand for generations, and thus, is not a new phenomenon. As the world game, soccer has come to be one of the most intense and universal mediums of cultural expression worldwide. From Ukrainian communism to Brazilian samba music, there is no limit to what soccer can represent. Unfortunately, as such a perfect mirror of humanity, soccer also represents and embodies the darker side of human nature. Racism, homophobia, exploitation, and murder accompany soccer’s more uplifting aspects wherever it is played. Fan violence and hooliganism are the most widespread of the negative aspects of the beautiful game, and it is these that have appeared most commonly in the news in recent months. What must be taken into account, however, is that the roots of soccer violence rarely lie in the game itself. More commonly, soccer becomes a relatively acceptable means to vent frustrations, partake in controlled chaos, and prosecute ancient vendettas.

Which brings us to Sicily, and the events of the Catania-Palermo game. What makes educated people in a modern western nation (not to mention a G7 nation and founding member of the European Union) throw homemade grenades with the intention of maiming their countrymen? I have my own theory, but first I’d like to examine a few of the most common explanations:

(1) SOCCER VIOLENCE IS EUROPE’S VERSION OF NORTH AMERICAN GANG VIOLENCE: Admittedly, there is some merit to this idea, and if it was the whole story then soccer violence could be looked upon as the lesser of two evils. Compare hundreds of gang related deaths in any North American city to the one or two soccer related deaths in any European city and you’ll see what I mean. The only problem with this explanation is that it ignores a few very important facts. Gangs still exist in European cities, although they are mostly replaced by soccer supporters’ clubs. Also, many of the hooligans are led by middle-aged men, thus straining the comparison with youth violence in North America. Regardless, I still think that a large percentage of soccer violence can be attributed to hooligans being a slightly more refined version of our gangsters (in that they rarely kill each other) and so in this respect, it just may be better for Europe than North American-style street gangs.

(2) SOCCER VIOLENCE IS COMMITTED BY A FEW BAD PEOPLE AND DOES NOT REFLECT POPULAR SENTIMENT: This idea, while appealing to our moral sensibilities, is not strictly true. I’m not sure when I last considered a few thousand people to be synonymous with just a few. The truth is, soccer violence and its supporters are far more widespread than many Europeans like to admit. For every hooligan throwing a rock, there are ten people cheering him on, and for every group of Ultras (as Italian fan clubs/hooligans are called) there is a cultural space in which they are accepted, and even idealized. All too often hooligans are looked upon with indulgence by others as “passionate lads” or “hard men who fight for what they believe in”. By ignoring the more brutal activities hooligans engage in, people are able to view them with a sort of nostalgia and naivety that legitimizes them and their actions. Also, hooligans are looked up to as folk heroes by thousands of young boys wanting to fit in with the “cool” kids. With such widespread support, even if it is for an imagined hooligan rather than a real one, it is impossible to assume that soccer violence is perpetuated by only the small few who actually throw the punches. On the contrary, it is deeply ingrained into many aspects of wider European culture. -As a side note, the huge success of hooligan literature and films provides quantifiable evidence for the validity of this argument.

(3) SOCCER VIOLENCE IS TRIBAL IN NATURE AND REFLECTS ANCIENT PREJUDICES, HATREDS, AND RIVALRIES: Of all the common explanations for soccer violence, this one holds true the most often. In fact, this has become the most widely accepted view concerning hooliganism worldwide. Take a quick look at some of the more intense rivalries around Europe and you’ll see why this idea is so popular. In Glasgow, the Celtic-Rangers rivalry represents hundreds of years of religious strife. Many clubs in Spain, including Barcelona, Espanyol, Real Sociedad, and Athletico Bilbao have become the spearheads of separatist movements, and teams from the Spanish capital of Madrid are met with flares and rocks whenever they travel to these regions. In Milan the Internazionale-AC Milan rivalry is political, pitting the left wing (Inter) against the right wing (AC Milan). The list goes on and on, but the conclusion is the same: Most soccer violence has its roots in something other than soccer, and the game merely provides an outlet for otherwise unrelated issues to be fought over, be they tribal, political, religious etc. This, however, can also be a positive aspect of soccer violence. How much better is it for Red Star Belgrade fans to fight Croatian supporters in the stadium than it is for them to go to war and massacre those same Croats? Pursuing tribal hatreds through soccer leads to far fewer deaths than pursuing them through state-sponsored ethnic wars. So I guess even this isn’t as bad as it could be.

Having reflected on these ideas, let us look at Sicily’s case in particular. First and foremost I would like to say that there are three people/groups of people responsible for the death of Filippo Raciti, and all must be brought to justice if his death is not to be in vain. Obviously the enraged Catania fans who rioted both during and after the game are most at fault, particularly the anonymous man who made an explosive at home and used it to murder a 38 year old father of three. This action is inexcusable, and though I myself am a huge Catania fan, I feel that serious sanctions must be taken against the club in order to get their supporters in line. Secondly, the authorities in charge of the match itself have a lot of explaining to do. Palermo and Catania’s mutual hatred goes back about 1200 years to the Arab invasion of Sicily and their creation of Palermo as the island’s capital. The last time these two teams met – in Palermo last September – around 100 Catania fans caused complete havoc, with fires, injuries, and the military police getting involved. How much more damage would 30,000 Catania fans do? Also, the last time a Sicilian team - Messina - visited Catania there was enough violence for the Italian soccer federation to sanction the club and prevent them from playing matches at home for about a month. Any intelligent person would conclude that explosive violence would accompany the Catania-Palermo match, and so the authorities are to blame for not putting in place better security measures, or even having the game played in a stadium outside of Catania. Finally, Mr. Farina, the game’s referee, must also face some sort of justice, as the riot that cost officer Raciti his life was a direct result of two disgusting calls he made during the match. Palermo won the game 2-1. Their first goal was clearly offside, and yet it was allowed. As offside calls are often misjudged, this could be forgiven. In light of the second goal however, it could not be. Palermo’s second goal was scored by Davide di Michele’s hand, and it was so obvious that one must question where exactly the referee’s paycheck was coming from. I know, blaming the referee for the fans’ response seems childish, but after having to delay the game due to tear gas wafting onto the field, and watching as dozens of people were rushed to the hospital, it should have been obvious to him that something was horribly wrong. More care could have been taken by Farina in his decisions later in the match, if only to defuse an already volatile situation. I wonder what went through his mind when he watched the replay on the news that evening, after the nation knew that a man had lost his life.

Having examined the general ideas concerning hooliganism, and the specific circumstances leading to the rioting in Catania, I would like to put forth my own theory to explain the escalating violence centred around soccer in modern European nations. Before I explain it though, I would like to describe how I came up with it. First of all, it is no secret that international soccer games tend to bring out nationalist sentiments in certain fans, who then attack the supporters of the “enemy” nation’s team. In this context, violence is often seen as legitimate because it is used in defence of one’s nation in the face of foreign opposition. Essentially, the fans get caught up in the moment and rational judgement gives way to mob violence fuelled by patriotism. In this violence, they find confirmation of their own national identity and, by extension, their personal identity as well. This is what is occurring when England fans throw chairs at non-British (and usually non-white) supporters while singing “Rule Britannia” and “God Save the Queen”. Secondly, I recently read Franklin Foer’s excellent book “How Soccer Explains the World” in which he uses soccer in all its highs and lows as a case study for globalization and regional resistance to it. This got me thinking more about regionalism, nationalism, globalization, and how the average person relates such ambiguous concepts to their daily lives. Finally, I noticed that the most intense soccer violence in recent years has occurred in very specific areas, namely those that have experienced crises over national identity within the last fifty or so years. Here is a long, but nowhere near exhaustive list of some of the more explosive rivalries: Czechs vs. Slovaks, Eastern Ukrainians vs. Western Ukrainians, Croats vs. Serbs, Macedonians vs. Greeks and Serbs, Basques and Catalans vs. Spanish, Protestants vs. Catholics throughout the UK, ethnic French teams vs. French teams supported by minorities, and Sicilians vs. Italians. It quickly becomes clear that there is something going on in these areas that goes beyond the obvious explanation of traditional ethnic hatreds and the extension of political rivalries into soccer rivalries. This new problem occurs at the level of the individual, and only turns into widespread rioting when many individuals feel the same way at the same time and decide to take some sort of action. This new and dangerous issue, I believe, is related to the curiously modern problem of identity.

Now that I’ve ranted for a while, here is my theory: The new and escalating violence centred in and around soccer stadiums in Sicily (and other European regions as well) is a form of protest against globalization, and resistance to the loss or compromise of already fragile and uncertain regional identities. The issue of identity in the modern world is rather too complex for me to get into here, but a quick summary of it should suffice. Though both national and ethnic identities are essentially constructed, they have become essential to the way people define themselves. When traditional identities are challenged, or when new ones are imposed, the situation becomes dangerous, and violence, or some other form of active resistance, is all too common. For a chilling example of what I mean, look no further than Rwanda, where a single ethnic group was splint into two by foreign invaders, resulting in the worst genocide of our time. The situation in Sicily, though less intense, has a lot to do with a regional identity crisis. Sicilians are quite different ethnically from most Italians, yet they are considered Italian by the rest of the world due to the Island being under the political rule of Italy. This would not be such a bad situation if their ethnic identity remained intact, but for close to one hundred years the Italian government actively attempted to assimilate Sicilians into the mainstream of Italian culture, even going so far as to ban teaching of the Sicilian language in schools (Can you imagine if the Canadian government banned Quebec from teaching French in school?). This government intervention created a long-standing cultural resistance within Sicily that erupted in violence numerous times in the twentieth century. Luckily, the Italian senate recently gave Sicily regional autonomy, and the crisis seemed to have been averted. Unfortunately – depending on your point of view – globalization has swept into Sicily in the form of European Union mandates. Now the challenge to Sicilian identity has re-emerged, bringing with it a renewed state of cultural resistance. The only place this resistance in not met immediately by police and other authorities is within the soccer stadium, where such resistance is usually explained away by the common ideas I discussed above. This relative freedom of expression found in the stadium thus provides a safe forum in which political resistance can be expressed without the imminent risk of jail time.

Thus when Italian – or even other Sicilian – teams travel to Sicily, the soccer stadium becomes the focal point for the defence of regional identity and a forum for both political and cultural resistance. That this resistance takes such a violent form can perhaps be explained by the above discussion on the nature of soccer violence, as well as the fact that political activism in Europe has traditionally been extremely violent (the record of European wars and revolutions speaks for itself). Obviously I’ve left a lot out of this discussion, and it’s more of a rant than an academic work, and some of my logical leaps may not follow easily from A to B, but it’s still a work in progress, so if you have any comments, criticisms or questions I would love to hear them. Thanks for your time, and please remember the family of Filippo Raciti.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Bread Into Flesh?

Ok, here is another of those Facebook notes I wrote a little while that made some people mad at me:

So a few months ago I managed to get into a discussion on religion with a Jew and a Protestant, both of whom asked me to explain the Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation. If you don't know, that's the belief that when the priest blesses the bread and wine at mass they cease to be bread and wine, and physically become flesh and blood, which we then eat. It sounds a little far-fetched, and neither of them had anything nice to say about it, or the Church that accepts it. Now, here I might add that both of them were far more religious than I am. That gave me the idea to try and convince them that they actually believe Transubstantiation is possible. Sounds like fun eh? So here's how it went...

I told them that the entire doctrine of Transubstantiation relies on two main articles of belief, and that no one who opposed either of them could conceive of its validity. These two ideas are as follows:1- You must believe that God not only exists, but takes an active role in the day-to-day workings of the world.2 - You must believe that God is omnipotent, and is not bound by the strictures man has imposed on the natural world under the guise of "science."I thought that sounded clear enough, and being religious type people, they pretty much agreed with those ideas.

Ok, step two; here's where we resort to logic. First, IF one believes that God takes an active role in the world, then one must also believe that His presence at mass and participation in it is at least possible. Second, IF one believes that God is omnipotent then one must also believe that He is capable of turning bread and wine into a sort of flesh and blood that merely LOOKS, and TASTES like bread and wine to us mortals. Failure to believe He could do that would thus be a denial of His omnipotence. Therefore, IF one agrees with the above articles of faith, then it becomes impossible to deny at least the possibility that Transubstantiation is a reasonable idea.

So, I thought my logic was pretty sound (although I admit to frequently faulty logic characterized by leaps from A-D, rather than the usual A-B-C-D stuff that ultimately makes more sense)...and I told them that I had just proved that they both believed in Transubstantiation. Let me tell you, I have never in my life seen two people so offended, flustered, confused, and angry. One of them kept repeating "but it doesn't change, it just doesn't" with no explanation forthcoming. The other called me an idiot and proceeded to leave both the discussion and the room...

Which leads me to a few questions:

1 - Was my logic messed up?

2 - Is it totally unreasonable to ask that a person responds in a manner that suits the discussion? I mean, one minute we were actually discussing theology within the framework of organized religion and its finer points, and the next I'm being called a jackass by two people who couldn't back up their arguments with any ideas contained within such a framework. If we were discussing Italian soccer, and I described the particular Italian philosophy regarding the distribution of red and yellow cards, responding in terms of NHL hockey makes no sense.

3 - Have we as a society lost the ability to discuss contentious issues in reasonable terms without resorting to name-calling and constant repetition of an "I'm right and you're wrong" nature?

4 - Am I just a dick?

So, that's my little rant for the day. I know, religion is one of those super-touchy issues, but I don't think it should be. Only in discussing society's differences can we ever come to understand and accept them...and only by PROPERLY discussing them can any sense be made...Oh, and by the way, I'm not a religious fanatic, I was only trying to convince them of Transubstantiation for the sake of argument. I like to argue.

Thanks for listening to me again, and please tell me what you think, open discussion is my favourite forum. Ciao.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Did Machiavelli Have a Time Machine?

So for the next few posts what I'm going to be doing is re-posting some of the notes I wrote on Facebook, mainly just toget them out into the open internet and see if anyone wants to comment on them further. With that in mind, here are my musings on military power as the guarantee of political sovereignty:

Many of Machiavelli's ideas have alot of significance in the modern world, making me speculate about the time machine he had hidden in his barn a few miles outside of Florence...let me show you what I mean.

"In my judgement the prince will be able to take care of himself if he has a sufficent supply of men or of money to put an adquate army in the field, capable of engaging anyone likely to attack him"

What Machiavelli has just described is the only realistic way for a modern nation state to retain its sovereignty. In fact, without sufficient military force, a state's actual claim to soveriegnty is questionable at best. Just look at current examples of Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan. None of them had a strong enough military to retain sovereign power over their domains, and are now in pretty bad shape. Conversely, observe Israel. Over the last fifty years Israel has been invaded on numerous occasions, and yet has repulsed them by sheer military power. Clearly, the army is what guarantees a nation's ability to rule itself without bending over to foreign powers. Even if it never has to fight, its mere existence is often enough to convince beligerent powers that invasion or coercion would be costly and difficult. This, I suspect, is why nobody has yet invaded North Korea.

Now, you may be wondering "what about peaceful states like Canada, or small ones like Monaco? They don't have huge militaries and they retain their sovereignty just fine." I disagree. Direct military rule is not the only measure of power over a neighbouring nation. What matters is the ability to project your military into foreign states. America is living proof that a nation has power over any other nation that it can successfully invade. With this said, any sovereignty claimed by weaker powers can thus be seen as either imagined, insubstantial, or illusory. What I mean here is this: Monaco would cease to be a soveriegn state the second France decided to take it over. Similarly, Canada would cease to be soveriegn the second America decided to invade. Therefore, though states without large armies may exercise sovereign authority within their own geographical spaces, their real power is limited by the ability of other states to conquer them, whether they decide to invade or not. The fact that their military powed CAN be projected onto weaker states makes any claims by those weaker states to TRUE sovereignty questionable at best.

You also may be wondering "What about states that protect themselves through alliances with larger powers or collective military pacts like NATO?" Well, good old Niccolo forsaw this one as well. When you make an aliiance with a stronger state -or a group of states- in order to protect your soveriegnty, you are in fact immediately losing it. By relying on another nation to defend yours, you give them the final say in matters of your own power. What if they decide not to protect you? What if they prove unable to protect you? Since both these situations would ultimately be under the control of the nation meant to defend you, they become the real holders of your state's power. How can you claim sovereignty when the death of your nation can be determined by another? What IS sovereignty if not the monopoly over violence within a clearly defined geographical area? If that monopoly belongs to another then you, in actual fact, hold no real power within your own nation. Again, you may exercise power, but if your protector decides to deprive you of it, then they are actually the ones with sovereignty over your state.

One final quote is necessary:"A prince must have no other objective, no other thought, nor take up any profession but that of war, its methods and its discipline, for that is the only art expected of a ruler." Thus, if a ruler cannot maintain sovereignty, then he is not a true ruler at all.So, as it turns out, Machiavelli's belief that a strong military is the only universally effective way to hold onto an individual state's sovereignty is actually true in the world we live in at the current time.

So ask yourself this: Did this poor Florentine clerk have a time machine? or a crystal ball? or was he just infinitely more perceptive than the political thinkers of our day? I'd choose the latter. But hey, he could have had a time machine....

Saturday, April 14, 2007

In The Beginning There Was The Word

This is my very first blog-like thing ever. That may sound like a stark disclaimer, but I wanted to get it out there just so that any mistakes I make will be explained by my inexperience rather than my idiocy. Computers just aren't my thing. I would rather be writing on freshly scraped parchment with a good quill and some blue-black ink, but that's not likely to happen any time soon. So here we are, me typing at this infernal machine, and you reading at your equally infernal machine. These devices may end up being the death of us all...oh well, something has to be.

I just want to say that the main reason I'm making a blog at all is really just to further my own education. I like to throw ideas around and see what people think of them. After that, I can more fully develop these ideas, and maybe even use them to help me think more critically about the issues that I spend my life studying. So in a very real way, your comments may end up doing some good.

With that out of the way, I don't really have anything to write tonight other than this probably pointless introduction to a blog whose direction I cannot hope to predict. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this will be a good idea. If it isn't, then it's back to the library for me. Thank you for listening (does that phrase apply to a blog?) to my intro, and goodnight.