Sunday, May 25, 2008

The German Romantics

von Herder, Fichte and even Hegel have been called German Romantics.  Although Romanticism itself elevated the importance of emotion, specifically here we are dealing with the question of "what makes a nation," or, Romantic Nationalism.

Fichte, writing while Napoleon's Confederation of the Rhine still existed, wrote that language(!), race, culture, custom and religion were the cornerstones of a state.

Funny that a German living in the lands of a Corsican leading French armies, or someone with a grasp of history, would stress race. Three of Gibbon's series of five great Roman Emperors in "The Decline and Fall..." were not Italian but Spanish and Gaulish. The greatest Muslim dynasties often had Persian or Turkic leaders. For over 700 (was it 1000) years the Egyptians were ruled by Greek speakers. How about the Manchu or Mongol dynasties in China. Oooh, not to mention the whole racism thing implicit in the idea.

But what about religion?  Aren't you all free to change your religion tomorrow? I suspect, with very little preparation, one could pretend to be a whole host of religions that one is not, and even fool members of that denomination.  One can easily pretend to have customs that one does not.  As for culture, get back to me when you can define it. But could you pretend to speak a foreign language?

But on language, on the language question, I guess I fully agree with the German Romantics.  I do believe that emotion (our definitions undoubtedly are at variance here) have a lot to do with how things pan out, however much I wish people (including myself) were more reasonable.  For that, and other reasons including self-identification, I can be called a Romantic, but German? Heck, what does any (real or perceived) Romantic nature have to do with Linguistic Nationalism?

So, with at least one person in agreement with my principles (an Associate Professor, Serbian by birth, living in Lithuania), I hereby usher in my new age of Linguistic Nationalism.  I've only three principles. Linguistic borders, bilingualism for most, and translation (of great works). 

This is, essentially, a model of order, I even say the model of order for a multi-lingual world, and for those of my readers who may have read The Illuminatus! Trilogy in college, this makes me firmly either a shill of the Illuminatus, or one of them, but not a Discordian, those who worship Eris, the Goddess of Love, so why did I start by talking about Romantics?

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