Archive for November 26th, 2012


From “Castle in the Sky”

No doubt it is not news to many of you, but the animated films of Hayao Miyazaki are very fine.

I had been told this for years; among others Ben Hatke had spoken highly of Miyazaki’s art, but I was always put off by those big-eyed Japanese cartoon characters. I had even picked up one film, Kiki’s Delivery Service, a couple of years ago, and while I liked the background art a lot, it really didn’t grab me.

Then a few weeks ago my bride picked up several Miyazaki films at the library for the children: Howl’s Moving Castle, Nausicaa, and Castle in the Sky. And I got it: his films are whimsical and imaginative, tender and magical. The artwork is superb, often stunning. We have been grabbing everything we can find by him…

If you are unfamiliar with his work, here is the trailer to his Castle in the Sky :

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A November Song

This November has been unusually sunny and warm, up until a few days ago. Now we are in more familiar November territory, grey and grim and cold. Which brings to mind this song by Vashti Bunyan, the quintessential hippie girl, who wandered the British countryside with horse and wagon in the late 60s, before settling on a farm on the Isle of Skye in the Scottish Hebrides:

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Thanks to Owen White for passing this on. The “Democratic Party” mentioned in the translation above is Partito Democratico or PD.  Read about them here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_Party_(Italy) The translation is by Samn! of the Notes on Arab Orthodoxy blog.

The Anthropological Emergency: For a New Alliance

by Pietro Barcellona, Paolo Sorbi, Mario Tronti, and Giuseppe Vaca

The manipulation of life, originating in technological development and the violence inherent in globalization in the absence of a new international order, puts us before an unprecedented emergency. This appears to us to be the most serious manifestation and at the same time the deepest root of the crisis of democracy. It sprouts challenges that require a new alliance between men and women, believers and nonbelievers, religions and politics. Therefore we believe that the changes that have occured in our country in the civic and religious fields are worthy of attention and call for hope.

It seems to us that in recent years– a historic period beginning with the financial crisis of 2007 and in Italy with the twilight of the “second republic”– as the Italian church increasingly dedicated itself to resrutcturing its national role, an interlocutor like the Democratic Party came to define its original appearance as “a party of believers and nonbelievers.” These are significant changes which widen the range of forces which, if they cooperate responsibly, can contribute to putting forward effective solutions to the current crisis.

The common ground is the definition of the new laity, which in the words of the secretary of the Democratic Party is motivated by the recognition of the public relevance of religious beliefs and, on the part of Church authority, by a positive vision of modernity, founded upon the alliance of faith and reason. In his interview-book, “With Good Reason,” Pier Luigi Bersani affirms that the “engagement with the Church’s social teaching” is a distinctive characteristic of the reformist inspiration for the Democratic Party and that the presence within Italy of “the highest Catholic spiritual authority” can help overcome the ethical bipolarism that has negatively affected democratic politics at crucial stages in the life of the country. Finally, stressing the “autonomous responsibility of politics,” Bersani expression a strong preference for his vision thaat “not wanting to renounce deep and challenging ethical and religious convictions entrusts to the responsibility of the laity the practical choice of policy decisions.”

As regards the Catholic Church, there are two points from the report of Cardinal Bagnasco to the meeting of the Permanent Council of Bishops on September 26-29 that merit particular attention.

The first concerns criticism of “radical culture”: it targets those positions that “motivated by an individualistic understanding,” imprison “the person in sad isolation from his own absolute freedom disconnected from the truth of the good and from any social relationship.”

The second is to propose new means for a shared commitment by Catholics to combat what he had defined on a previous occasion as “the anthropological crisis”: “the possiblity of a social and cultural entity for dialogue with politics.” No less significant is his historic reasoning: “What gives Catholics awareness today is not primarily belonging to the outside, but rather the values of humanization [that] are increasingly also drawing the attention of those who do not explicitly feel themselves to be Catholic.” In other words, the “possiblity” of this new entity that originates in the laity’s social and cultural commitment in which Catholics are “more united than one might believe” thanks to the compass that guides them: the construction of a shared humanism.

The definition of the new laity and the assumption of a more strongly felt responsibility on the part of the Church for the fate of Italy require the development of political and cultural initiative, aimed not only at dialogue with the Catholic world, but also at searching for new forms of cooperation with the Church, in the national interest. In this regard, two fundamental themes from the teaching of Benedict XVI which in the prevailing interpretation have caused confusion and distortion that are still prevalent in public discourse seem to be resolved: the refutation of “moral relativism” and the concept of “non-negotiable values.”

For those who have given due attention to the thought of Benedict XVI, there should in principle be no ambiguity. The condemnation of “moral relativism” does not do away with cultural pluralism, but only looks at nihilist visions of modernity which, even if they are practiced by significant intellectual minorities, are not found at the basis of democratic action in any type of community: local, national, and supra-national. “Moral relativism,” however, profoundly permeates processes of secularization insofar as they are dominated by commercialization. There is no one who does not see how the struggle against this tendency of modernity constitutes the fundamental worry of democratic politics, in whatever way the principles are broken down, by believers or non-believers.

On the other hand, there should not be any doubts, even about the concept of “non-negotiable values” if they are examined in their exact formulation. A concept that does not distinguish believers and non-believers, and which points out the responsiblity for consistency between behaviors and the principles that inspire them. A concept that relates precisely to values– to the criteria that should inspire personal and collective action, but does not deny the autonomy of political mediation. Thus it cannot be traced back to that concept of responsibility for decisions in which, because of the failures of lay mediation or for ignoble reasons of opportunism, the freedom and dignity of the human person from the moment of conception are offended.

However, if misunderstandings and mistakes of this type have occurred in the approach to bioethics ,not only in the opportunistic choices of the center-right but also in the biological determinism of the center-left, the reaffirmation of the value of lay mediation seems to inspire “the possibility of a social and cultural entity for dialogue with politics” clears the field of confrontation between believers and non-believers. Thus whether this “possibility” takes on a more or less progressive stamp in the Italian story will depend on cultural and political initiative of the forces in the field.

To this end, we hold that the Democratic Party should promote a public engagement with the Catholic Church as well as with the other religious confessions active in Italy, regarding those issues that are considered “ethically sensitive” as well as to those that relate more closely to the current threats to the Italian nation: maintaining its unity, the “ethical nature” of the democratic regime.

As much as for one as for the other, the story of united Italy demonstrates that the presence or absence of political Catholicism has been determinative and will remain so in the future.

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