Saturday, February 09, 2008

Worst. Italian. Ever.

Not the Borgias. Not Caligulia. Not Mussolini. Not Benneton. The worst Italian ever was Antonio Gramsci. I and another blogger on this fair site were introduced to Gramsci in high school at the feet of an AP history teacher. This AP course, taught to the youth of Greenwich High School, was particularly designed to undermine positive views of America, its founding and its continuing mission. Given the audience, it was a perfect example of Gramsician undermining of the ruling elite.

I have had many fine teachers from first grade until law school. However, it would not be too much of a stretch to say that class made me what I am today ideologically. Since my family nearly had to bug out and all women and children evacuate West from the Army base we were on in Germany when the Soviets invaded Czechloslovakia, I have had a dim view of the Communists.

Some of my family fought them in Vietnam and after that war was over scores of Vietnamese refugees camped out in my cousins houses while they integrated into American life and became ,through adoption, cousins of mine.

All of that was before I was 13 years old however. In AP History I learned that there were whole swaths of America that bought into what the Soviets were selling. In my own community was a man teaching America's elite that it was no good and its history nothing but villainy. I set up to oppose this. For the first time in my life I began 1) to mouth off to my teachers and 2) to fail history. For the first time in my life, my father had to come into school to discuss my grades behavior with the principle.

I began to experience physical symptoms, such as an inability to swallow before attending class. Once when the teacher was late, I got into trouble for saying "Was the lesson late off the wires from Moscow today?" I escaped my poor grades in History that year and got a 5 highest possible on the AP tests. But the die was cast.

Antonio Gramsci was a big reading assignment for us. Since then I have read him again and again and seen the malign influence transform higher education. This article delineates the Gramscian paradigm that has absorbed whole sectors of American life. Seeing this, as a member of NIAF (National Italian American Federation) I can only say Thank God for Sinatra!


Anonymous said...

If exposure to Gramsci shaped your current ideology, and Gramsci is the worst Italian ever, I think the logical conclusion is inescapable.

Anonymous said...

It's this kind of glimpse into your tortured psyche that has made P4500 into the blog it is today. Keep it coming!

Dave S. said...

On the other hand, I think we can all agree that Benetton's color palette is objectively pro-terrorist.

jjv said...

What gets me is JCF, self-described Marxist of Fairfield County, Ct. has not chimed in on this post.

And I will say to CRH my psyche is not tortured, it has hardly ever even been water boarded.

Dave S. said...

Indeed, JJV's psyche appears to be in its original packaging.

Also, you'd be surprised as to how hard it is to get people to post something. Or would you?

JCF said...

JJV has awakened me from my long slumber. I can not allow his revisionist history of a time in our common past to go unchallenged nor his near-red-baiting to go unanswered. First, to set the record straight I am not now a Marxist nor have I been in over 20 years. Nor am I now any great fan of Italian Communist party co-founder Antonio Gramsci. But I must rise in his defense in response to the reckless charge of the "worst Italian in history" -worse than Mussolini JJV asserts- ironic given that Gramsci was imprisoned by Mussolini. This is akin to claiming that Marx was worse than fellow German Hitler. Preposterous at its base.

I doubt that JJV understands Gramsci's theory of cultural hegemony or its continued importance as an applicable model in political analysis (e.g. one can use it to explain why time and again in recent US history, people vote against their economic interest; a lesson not lost on Lee Atwater, Karl Rove and others on the Right).Clearly the theory is highly flawed and Italian Communism was clearly on the wrong side of history (although it should be noted that the Italian Communist party was hardly a top down Stalinist structure that took its orders from Moscow) but neither are deserving of the calumny that JJV heaps upon them.

And while I can speak to neither JJV's "'tortured psyche", nor his teenage physiological maladies, nor his somewhat confessional personal history that has clearly shaped his current distorted worldview (or"Weltanschaung" as that history teacher used to say), I can tell you that while that high school history teacher was misguided in his views, he was neither "selling the Soviet line" nor teaching that US history was "villainy." It was an ultimate testament to educational freedom that in a public school in the bastion of upper class America, a Marxist was teaching the sons and daughters of American captains of industry (e.g. Citibank's CEO's daughter among them). Frankly, as wrong as he was, he was a breath of fresh air, and I would wager that JJV learned more in that high school History class than either of us learned in many a college class.

Sometimes I really do think that JJV is blinded by the furls of the flag he is constantly waving.

jjv said...

I consider JCF's post a complete vindication. Not only does he admit he was a Marxist then, but he immedietely, like any materialist, assumes failure to vote one's economic interest is "false consciousness." The imputation of ignorance to me concerning cultural hegemony is risible given the "What's the Matter With Kansas?" default answer provided when people refuse to vote the way Marxists say they should.

While JCF thinks teaching this Chomskyian vision to the children of Greenwich is a good thing he hardly disputes that is what was going on.

Mussolini put a lot of people in jail who deserved it. He negatively impacted his country for 20 years and then was lynched. Gramsci is with us yet. Worst. Italian. Ever.

Props to the last line though, its great.