Tuesday, 3 September 2019

most serene

This day in 301 AD marks the traditional founding of the state sometimes referred to as the Titanic Republic due to the location of its first church at the summit of Monte Titano built by stonemason Marinus of Rab and his compatriot Leo who fled Emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians after helping to rebuild the city walls of neighbouring Rimini after a raid by pirates, and the national day of San Marino (Serenissima Repubblica di San Marino, previously here, here, here and here), the world‘s fifth smallest country and an enclave of Italy, is a good invitation to reflect on the nature of res publica and governance.
Looking at San Marino’s constitution, stability, solvency plus its longevity, one has to question whether we’re even understanding the subject. Prior to 1243, San Marino had no true head of state with only the Pope was nominal ruler and affairs of the city were governed by a oligarchy of the great families called the Argengo. Genoese Innocent IV, fearing that the families were growing too powerful, intervened to check their authority by investing democratic processes in the Grand and General Councils. From this elected body—sixty representatives, members elevate two Captains Regent to govern for a term of six-months. Like the Argengo’s roots in the patrician senate, the policy of nominating a pair of leaders (the co-rulers being from opposing political parties), short incumbency periods and frequent elections date back to the Roman Republic’s consulship, the city state being formed as the Empire began its decline. San Marino has had more female heads of state than any other country.  At the expiration of their half-a-year term, there’s a three day evaluation period during which the public can levy complaints against ex-leaders (consecutive terms are not allowed) and initiate legal proceedings if warranted. I think we owe a great debt to the Sammarinese for this civics lesson alone.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

lernu! or dum spiro spero

The World Youth Esperanto Summit will be held in Wiesbaden next week (nur auf Deutsch) in order to raise awareness for this constructed auxiliary language. Though fluent speakers are approaching some three million individuals and the principles of lingual harmonisation—not to displace established languages and dialects but to give individuals a third-way (also in the propรฆdeutic—raลญmistoj sense of learning for its own sake and not necessarily for proficiency) of shared communication into hopes of promoting peace and reconciliation, the movement, which began in 1905, faced many challenges and successive totalitarian regimes sought to marginalise its momentum and utility by deeming it subversive or even cultish.

Despite these hardships, however, historically Esperanto was an official language in the condominium of Neutral Moresnet and is presently the language of instruction of San Marino’s institutions of higher education. I wonder to what degree the adherents of the original goal of the widespread use of Esperanto as a lingua franca, incorporating elements of many branches of the Indo-European family of languages and outliers, has been displaced by the dominance of English pidgin and technically enabled dialectic and whether what we’re heir to isn’t far off from the fina venko, the final victory that a universal language could help end wars and cultural jingoism. The name of the language means “one who hopes,” like the Latin phrase dum spiro spero, “while I breath, I hope” or where there’s a will, there’s a way. Kion vi pensas? Is this language a relic for hobbyists or really an instrument for understanding? I hope I get the chance to spy some bilingual signage around town at least while the conference is being held.

Friday, 2 January 2015

pontiac rebellion or sons of liberty

Not to shatter any illusions, but one of the underlying motivations for the American Revolutionary War that cast off the yoke of British colonialism and set up a republic by and for the people in the face of monarchy—sorry San Marino, you apparently don’t count, before all that championing of the unreasonable nature of taxation without representation, was a touch less savoury.
Founding myths are important, obviously.  Proxy guerrilla warfare was staged against the British by competing powers in Europe—notably the French (spiraling debts incurred over these engagements led to France’s own revolution), the Spanish and the Netherlands who stood to gain with the UK tied up in internal conflicts—ensured that the conflict would continue, even after the concession of self-rule for the North American Colonies. Before these high-minded casus belli were discovered, however, it was the Crown’s irksome insistence to keep its word on treaties established with Native American tribes that was a sore point of agitation for settlers looking to expand their holdings. Because of growing tensions and potential exploitation of Indian lands, a series of royal proclamations decreed that there could be no private property deals between the colonists and Indians and that land corporations, like the Ohio and Illinois companies, would arbitrate the transactions—not that these companies were above suspicion themselves. Plantation owners seeing their aspirations mired in more bureaucracy rebelled for deed and title.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

la serenissima

The UK daily the Telegraph is reporting on a secessionist movement and mass rally along the canals of the city of Venice, which may gain more traction at a quicker pace than other parallel calls for independence in Scotland from Great Britain and Catalonia from Spain.

United Italy already hosts the devolved Papal States as the Vatican, the Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta and the Republic of San Marino (plus a few other aspirants) within its borders, and the maritime and mercantile empire of the doges only became annexed due to the barn-storming of Napoleon’s armies, like many other city-states and pocket-republics across the continent—with some notable allowances. The roots of this protest go back decades but economic instability and having to pay tribute to Rome may be the trigger that carries this popular movement. Reasserting lapsed boundaries, once the first province is freed, I think will cascade quite quickly and I don’t know how the map will look afterwards.