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    Summary and commentary. Historian Niall Ferguson’s series ‘Civilisation’, part I – Competition

    “You might say it was a case of divide and rule – except that, paradoxically, it was by being divided themselves that Europeans were able to rule the world. In Europe small was beautiful because it meant competition – and competition not just between states, but also within states.”
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    Hannah Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism; Preparing men who believe everything is possible and nothing true, to be both executioner and victim

    “The truth is that the masses grew out of the fragments of a highly atomized society whose competitive structure and concomitant loneliness of the individual had been held in check only through membership in a class. The chief characteristic of the mass man is not brutality and backwardness, but his isolation and lack of normal social relationships.”
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    Heritage and embezzlement: EU spends millions on cheap plastic renovation of Bulgarian castle

    “Unfortunately, the builders used “alternative” materials for some of the restoration giving the restored fortress wall and gate a ‘plastic’ look. Thus, the restoration of the Krakra Fortress has become notorious among Bulgaria’s archaeological restorations, with critics claiming that the EU money was likely embezzled by local politicians and/or construction entrepreneurs who used cheap plastic instead of proper materials.”
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    Summary: Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation’s final episode – The age of Industry to the age of the Atom

    Although he sees much that is threatening, Clark seems to still be positive about this, our era. Almost fifty years later, it is hard to share some of his positive ideas, whereas some of the negatives aren’t as heavy on our mind as they were before the end of the Cold War. But Clark’s idea, that “it is lack of confidence, more than anything else, that kills a civilisation,” is stronger than ever.
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    Summary: Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation Part 12 – After Christianity died, what became the prime civilising force in Europe?

    If Christianity is dead, and the Romantic Movement killed it, what, if anything, has replaced it as the prime civilising force in Europe? What has civilisation gained or lost in the process? Clark touches on this question in passing, when he criticises the 19th-century bourgeoisie, but then asks what the mocking Romantics could put in place of middle-class morality when “they themselves were still in search of a soul.” This is the hole left in Clark’s narrative, the hole in the French Revolution that it sought, in vain, to fill with a religion that never took root.
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    Summary: Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation Part 11 – The Worship of Nature

    Clark, rather cleverly, sums up Rousseau’s philosophy in the sentence “I feel therefore I am,” calling it a “curious discovery to have been made in the middle of the Age of Reason.” He connects it to David Hume’s work, before noting how Rousseau’s beliefs were extended from nature to man. Rousseau believed that natural man was virtuous, a belief that soon came to be widely accepted. Clark mentions and quotes three detractors of the idea, but it is fair to say that the belief that nature is somehow virtuous, while man is not, is still popular.
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    Summary: Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation Part 10 – The Smile of Reason

    Clark mentions a “sudden consciousness of feminine qualities,” of which he says

    “I think it absolutely essential to civilisation that the male and female principle be kept in balance. In eighteenth-century France, the influence of women was, on the whole, benevolent; and they were the creators of that curious institution of the eighteenth century, the salon.”

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    Mythology: Who is Loki, and why was he such a bloody nuisance?

    According to Norse mythology, the wickedness and evil in the world is created by Loki and his offspring. Who are his children? Well, there is Hel, Goddess of the underworld. Yes, the term ‘hell’ is indeed a pagan term absorbed into Christianity. Then there’s Fenrir, a massive wolf that will fight and kill Odin. And the great serpent Jǫrmungandr that is wrapped around the world – it would appear the Vikings knew very well the world was a globe. There is also Sleipnir, a mythical eight-legged horse that Odin rode on. This horse is perhaps Loki’s only child that is not some sort of representation of evil.
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    Marcus Tullius Cicero – A Roman patriot Stoic rooted in a Universalist Greek philosophy

    Cicero, his Roman contemporary Cato the Younger, and his Roman philosophical successors, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, went some way to developing Latin Stoicism, which stood some distance from its Greek predecessor, tempered as it was with Roman values and martial culture, which in an imperial, militaristic power such as Rome, was quite different to that of the intellectual, comfortable lives of many Athenian Greek philosophers.
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    Summary: Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation Part 9 – Art under 17th century French authoritarianism and the German pursuit of happiness 

    The logic of state authoritarianism imposed on all aspects, including and above all the arts, a “certain inhumanity.”

    “It was the work not of craftsmen, but of wonderfully gifted civil servants. As long as it reflects this grand comprehensive system, it is done with superb conviction. (…) [However,] French Classicism was eminently not exportable.”

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    Tired of the left and right-wing tribal reporting on Viktor Orbán? Read this essay by a centrist Hungarian student

    In my honest opinion, Hungary is not ready for capitalism and civil society. Every attempt beforehand to establish these was more or less amateurish and resulting in more of a feudal outcome where we copied a Western nation without harmonizing any differences between the two states. Those who voted for Orbán did not vote because of hate and fear, although the campaign to demonize immigrants worked like a charm, they voted for FIDESZ because they wanted to receive a familiar sense of safety that they did not get from Gyurcsány or the previous cabinets since 1989.
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    Summary: Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation Part 8 – The Light of Experience in The Netherlands

    Clark explains that he is in Holland because he thinks the Dutch Republic is the first country to profit from a civilisational shift: “the revolution that replaced Divine Authority by experience, experiment and observation.” His characterisation of this revolution as the changing of the question ‘is it God’s will?’ into ‘does it work?’ or even ‘does it pay?’, is at least easy to remember.
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