The Art Of The Nations

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have never belonged to a writers' group as such, but long ago attended a course run by an English Lit. lecturer where books were debated.

On one occasion, the subject of prevailing characteristics in various countries came up, how we use the shorthand of stereotypes to convey identity, and I remember a Welsh lady suddenly protesting: "But you can't nationalise human nature!'

This is something I have never forgotten because, although human behaviour arises from the drive for survival, it develops and is shaped by a myriad influences. Time, geography, prevailing climate, constitution of the ground, profile of the landscape, mythology, beliefs and social codes are just a few. These run deep in the psyche but are 'read' by the outsider through surface traits and dealings. Cultural values can differ widely and it is never safe to assume that we're all coming from the same place or envision the same desired outcome.

Years later, I came across Kahlil Gibran's interpretation of racial characteristics which provides much to ponder, and, perhaps, to disagree with. I thought it would be fun to add a few of my own and wondered if readers might like to suggest their impressions.

 

Kahlil Gibran

 

The art of the Egyptians is in the occult.

The art of the Chaldeans is in calculation.

The art of the Greeks is in proportion.

The art of the Romans is in echo.

The art of the Chinese is in etiquette.

The art of the Hindus is in the weighing of good and evil.

The art of the Jews is in the sense of doom.

The art of the Arabs is in reminiscence and exaggeration.

The art of the Persians is in fastidiousness.

The art of the French is in finesse.

The art of the English is in analysis and self-righteousness.

The art of the Spaniards is in fanaticism.

The art of the Italians is in beauty.

The art of the Germans is in ambition.

The art of the Russians is in sadness.

 

Rosy Cole

 

The art of the Americans is in sustaining the Dream.

The art of the Portuguese is in adventuring.

The art of the Antipodeans is in breaking new ground.

The art of the Romanians is in elusive presence.

The art of the Hungarians is in tribal aspiration.

The art of the Japanese is in landscape in miniature.

The art of the Scandinavians is in overcoming enclosure.

The art of the Dutch is in quiescence.

 

And to finish on a capricious note...

The art of the Sicilians, when life hands them lemons, is in the sublimity of Limoncello (de Sicilia)!

 

 

 

 

Copyright

© rosy cole 2016

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Letting Them Rest in Peace

      

westport battle

Battle of Westport


The last mortal casualty of the Civil War was laid to rest over 150 years ago.  Somewhere around 750,000 people died in that war. Most of the soldiers died from disease — for every three killed in combat there was another five who died from disease.  Many more were maimed for life.


There is a great deal of agitation and consternation over the future of the Confederate flag and what it actually stands for. To claim that the flag stands to memorialize and honor Confederate soldiers who died in a misguided and vain attempt to preserve slavery (yes, that’s what it was about in the south) is to, conversely, dishonor and minimize the efforts and sacrifice of Union soldiers who also died in the conflict in the struggle to preserve the Union and abolish slavery. Many soldiers’ lives were cut short even if they survived the war. My great-grandfather died from complications from a Civil War injury long after the war ended. Another relative suffered thirty years of pain with a war injury until he finally had his leg amputated in the 1890s.


The Confederate flag doesn’t stand for or serve the purpose that it was originally intended. It is now mostly a tool to symbolize obstructionism and white privilege. No matter what you think of it or its history, today it is the bigot’s flag. It was once vilified as “the traitor’s rag” and has evolved into the “bigot’s rag”.


Slavery and the Civil War were horrendous things in our history. I was born and raised in Missouri, a one-time slave state. Our version of Civil War there was particularly brutal on all sides.  Slavery in Missouri was not as widely practiced as in the deep south but had a particular ugly aspect — one not much talked about.  Slave plantations in parts of Missouri were essentially stock farms where slaves were bred and then shipped south.  Slaves could not be imported into the United States after 1807 so there was a business side to the “peculiar institution” — making baby slaves that could eventually be sold south to large agricultural plantations. I’m sure this went on all over the south but it is seldom talked about. Where do you think all those slaves came from?


The killing of the nine church members in Charleston is not directly related to the Confederate flag.  The murders are related to the mindset and bigotry that the flag represents.  The flag bolsters and fosters the hate and aggression that permeates the minds of too many people…not just in the south. That’s how the murders are connected.  You can see Confederate flag “do-rags” on bikers in California or any state. The flag decorates pick-up trucks in Michigan or Idaho or anywhere in the country. Six-year-olds wrapped in Chinese-made Confederate flag beach towels in Texas or Cape Cod don’t (yet) know what that symbol is about but others with them or seeing them do and it won’t be long before they figure it out.


It is time to grow up and put all of that behind us. This is not “political correctness” as right-wingers like to complain about. They don’t fly Nazi flags in military cemeteries in Germany. Put the flag in a museum — there is no place for the Confederate flag in public or government institutions or business…as in state flags or license plates.  It’s time we laid it all to rest.

 

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Sceptred Isle

JCPittMemorial.png

 

Merely pausing over the deep blue Atlantic on Google Earth is enough make me gulp for air. That drowning space, cleaver of continents, can inspire a dreadful awe in members of maritime families who have lost their kin to the waves in war and peace-time. Nor does it have to be in unduly dramatic circumstances. My youthful uncle lost his life in The Solent when he dived from the deck of HMS Acheron in a bid to rescue a shipmate who had fallen overboard. There is no record of his burial. The body was never recovered. It was 1940, just over a year into WWII. 

We are a nation of seafarers – it is in our plasma – an island people colonised at various stages of history by other seafarers, but never conquered by Napoleon Bonaparte who feared the 'wooden walls' of our naval barricades.

When I view a map of Britain, spread out like a spatchcock chicken, I muse on the  magical diversity of landscape and customs and its historic ethnicity, its coast circled at various times by Viking invaders from Norway and Denmark who tamed it with their agricultural know-how. Then there were the Roman legions who laid straight roads, avenued with trees to keep their troops cool on the march (spot the Mediterranean optimism!) and their mosaicked villas and cypress gardens dedicated to wholesale well-being. I think of their vocabulary foursquare as their architecture and the imperialism that preferred not to disrupt the tenor of life in the hostage nation. 

All this, before the Normans overran these islands in 1066 and taught us the art of cuisine and chivalry, assimilating with all the fine nuance of their mother tongue.

On the left flank of the map lies the mythical west, where ancient kings still roam the twilight mists and castles perch on promontories, telling of yore. Saints stir the dust of medieval churches and, if you are very still, you may catch the sprites' chorus in forest streams. The watered mountains and meadows are shamrock green and exuberant tides flay the shores with glistening spume. Rock pools silently teem with micro worlds. Like layered torte, the granite striations are imaged on the pages of Charles Kingsley stories, and sea-birds breed in the sky-scraping crevices. There are bays and sequestered coves in places along the whole length of the coast where the water is as turquoise as the Aegean and where the violet rhodora blooms well before spring. The vast blue yonder is all ocean, beguiling the curious and the fugitive to discover new worlds. 

The side to the east harbours well-glazed wool churches, big as small cathedrals, where the open light breaks over their altars with a pride in prosperity that founded the nation's wealth and gave its Lord Chancellor somewhere to rest his frame in the Upper House. Orchards and weatherboards give way to busy docks and august monuments, rolling pastures and Fens drained by Huguenots who brought their farming, weaving, silversmithing and legal skills. From the air, the earth intersected by glittering watercourses, looks a bit like cloisonné work. The coast lies open to commerce with Scandinavia and the Low Countries under clouds tagging towards the Urals and back. The North Sea is fickle and blue, an illusory transfer of clear skies on waves of industrial taupe.

And, as I stand on the Isle of Wight and face a ghostly meridian that becomes the Pennine backbone of the country, I think about those ancestors who thought it was worth defending and wonder where exactly it was that John Cornelius Pitt was engulfed by eternity.

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Copyright

© Copyright Rosy Cole 2015

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