Monday, March 08, 2004

English Hegemony? It's Clear in the Decline of San Remo (Alberoni)

MILAN (#35)

Published originally in Italian in the Corriere della Sera By Francis Alberoni and translated here by Stephen Quatrano

It is hard for us to admit that there is an Anglo civilization with its own language, institutions, mentality, and specific modes of thought and feeling.  It is repugnant to think that England, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the USA by now constitute a distinct and diverse cultural entity that dominates the global economy, science, communications, literature, film, art and music.Between the wars this Anglo-Saxon force was hidden by the huge number of European intellectuals and artists who fled the Nazis.  After the war under the same banner, one lived with the illusion that there was a universal culture and that language did not make a difference.  In fact, for a moment, French culture even seemed to predominate.  We thought of the extraordinary weight of Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Camus, Levi Strauss, Aron, Lacan, and Foucault.  And Italian Film was second in the world at the time of directors like Fellini, De Sica, Visconti, Antonioni, Monicelli, Risi, Leone and actors such as Mastroanni, Lollobrigida and Sophia Loren.

But then everything changed with the rise of the next generation and Elvis, the Beatles, the student revolts, hippies, the sexual revolution, the mini, jeans, drugs, women's lib and gay rights.  From that moment all of the waves of music (rap, dark, punk, etc.) have come from the Anglo-Saxon world together with their format for TV, MTV, PC and Internet:  new languages.  A wave of new American films and the cinema of Australia and New Zealand have produced a collapse in Italian, French and German film.  Globalization is Anglo-Saxon:  and it assimilates artists from all over the world.  It is not necessary to translate or dub any more.  If you want to promote a film, you run it in English.  The decline of the San Remo music festival embodies the loss of competitiveness of the Italian music industry.

The most important Anglo-Saxon science journals decide what is -- and what is not -- science.  To be considered, Chinese, Russian, German, and Italian scientists must all have their articles accepted by them.  English has become the language that makes the world go around, from Africa to Asia, even the trans-national Islamic world.  And despite official statements, English is the lingua franca of the European Community.

We must not forget that a language is a way of thinking of a civilization.  Who use it must adopt its categories, concepts, and emotions.  For us Latins, the extra effort required to speak English is a consequence of English ways of thinking and feeling, which are profoundly different than our own.  It is the same for Japanese and Chinese.  The German Philosopher Jonas has demonstrated how the Greek language repressed Oriental religious thought for centuries until the explosive reaction of the great monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  The Anlgo-Saxon civilization is doing the same thing.  Weakening their language reduces a people's capacity for expressing what they have to offer.

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