This past Saturday I took the family on a stroll up the concentric circle of the Guggenheim Museum, which features a review of the 'Italian Futurism' movement. While I had seen some of the paintings in the past, I was not aware of all the implications of the entire movement that has been buried because of its political shame. Yet the theme of a glorious future propelled by man's ability for self-improvement, and the wonders of technology continues the driving forces that have positively enhanced the quality of life.
Manifesto of Futurism
1. We intend to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and fearlessness.
2. Courage, audacity, and revolt will be essential elements of our poetry.
3. Up to now literature has exalted a pensive immobility, ecstasy, and sleep. We intend to exalt aggressive action, a feverish insomnia, the racer's stride, the mortal leap, the punch and the slap.
4. We affirm that the world's magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing car whose hood is adorned with great pipes, like serpents of explosive breath-a roaring car that seems to ride on grapeshot is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.
5. We want to hymn the man at the wheel, who hurls the lance of his spirit across the Earth, along the circle of its orbit.
6. The poet must spend himself with ardor, splendor, and generosity, to swell the enthusiastic fervor of the primordial elements.
7. Except in struggle, there is no more beauty. No work without an aggressive character can be a masterpiece. Poetry must be conceived as a violent attack on unknown forces, to reduce and prostrate them before man.
8. We stand on the last promontory of the centuries!...Why should we look back, when what we want is to break down the mysterious doors of the Impossible? Time and Space died yesterday. We already live in the absolute, because we have created eternal, omnipresent speed.
9. We will glorify war-the world's only hygiene-militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman.
10. We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind, will fight moralism, feminism, every opportunistic or utilitarian cowardice.
11. We will sing of great crowds excited by work, by pleasure, and by riot; we will sing of the multicolored, polyphonic tides of revolution in the modern capitals; we will sing of the vibrant nightly fervor of arsenals and shipyards blazing with violent electric moons; greedy railway stations that devour smoke-plumed serpents; factories hung on clouds by the crooked lines of their smoke; bridges that stride the rivers like giant gymnasts, flashing in the sun with a glitter of knives; adventurous steamers that sniff the horizon; deep-chested locomotives whose wheels paw the tracks like the hooves of enormous steel horses bridled by tubing; and the sleek flight of planes whose propellers chatter in the wind like banners and seem to cheer like an enthusiastic crowd.
The 'Italian Futurism' movement helped to birth Mussolini's Fascist party rule of Italy, as the nation was seeking fresh glories, instead of living in the shadows of the past. Hence, a fast car could be as beautiful as the goddess Nike in flight, marking not just her own victory, but victories of battles at sea. In this new world, progress was welcome as it came with pride, work, and nationalism (patriotism).
(The father of the movement, Marinetti was a nationalist, which differs from patriot as the former loves his country, but scorns others while the latter loves his country and may be indifferent; certainly not hate other countries.)
The movement saw smokestacks as a giant leap forward and in fact, at the time they were. Economic liberation was a byproduct of industrial revolution.
The negative use of technology to harm and conquer have also been a byproduct, but not so that we should turn our backs on the notion of ever-improving technology and ourselves. You can argue the pitfalls of loving danger but the exact opposite dooms a nation to lethargy. Therefore, the habit of energy and fearlessness, if not in a nation, but by special people within a nation is necessary.
While Marinetti got it wrong about glorifying war and scorn for woman,(ironically, the Futurism political party fought for suffrage in its platform decades before women were given the right to vote in Italy, 1945) he understood pensive immobility, ecstasy, and how sleep could lull a nation into atrophy. Of the two parts of 'Italian Futurism' which is relevant and inescapable today, I want to focus on the idea of exalting aggressive action, a feverish insomnia, the racer's stride, the mortal leap, and the punch and the slap.
With the actions of Vladimir Putin over the weekend, the specter of wider arm conflict and renewed heightened tensions between east and west could cast a long shadow, and derail the delicate global recovery. By mobilizing troops and ignoring pleas or threats, (I am not sure what to call the official words and comments out of the administration, as they seem to straddle the two) Putin is displaying the spirit of the Manifesto of Futurism. It did not work out too well for Mussolini.
Nations at War
There is always a war between nations, which is mostly economic, and fought with rules and accountability. Actually, the word "war" is too harsh; call it competition, but engage with a fervor manner that is not unlike war. This is a good thing and generally has a positive impact on humankind.
Unlike Tullio Crali's "Parachute" painting in 1939, which speaks to ominous military invasion (Italy was first nation to drop bombs from biplanes and dirigibles attacking Tripoli in 1911) nations invaded others through superior products and services, or mergers and acquisitions.
In some places like South Korea and Germany, there is a patriotic pride about the global demand for homegrown products. In America, there is no enthusiasm and global trade has been portrayed simply as off-shoring jobs, rather than the economic benefits of American exceptionalism. This mindset, exploited by politicians ignorant of the benefits of global economy, is a reason the nation has stumbled from its perch above the entire planet to the largest, but now a vulnerable player today.
Currently, America wakes each morning to the gospel that work isn't glorious unless it's the ideal job. We hear more and more, and believe the state should coddle its citizens from cradle to grave. Against this backdrop are those that dare to be extraordinary, to live by the old promises of hard work and enrichment are scorn and face the public belittlement from the highest office.
If the singing of great crowds excited by work, and by pleasure, and by riot unnerves you; the antithesis of this should scare the hell out of you. A sleepy nation of malcontents and entitled citizens cannot excel in a modern world, where many view economic competition the same as war. The Utopian crowd that envisions a world where there are no rich and no poor have held sway over Europe for years, to the point that their destructive welfare societies will forever block their chances of having great economies in the future.
The United States is following the same path.
The next major export that shapes wealth and opportunity into the future will be human brainpower coming from education factories outside the United States. Nations, whose children routinely outscore American children in standard tests, will one day enjoy the fruits of larger economies. According to Citigroup, India will have the largest economy by 2050, and nations not associated with wealth will also make the top- ten including Indonesia and Nigeria. Interestingly, no European nation is on the list, not even Germany, as Russia clocks in sixth place.
Crazy like a Fox
I don't think Vladimir Putin will push beyond Crimea, which means Ukraine's new government, and its western allies have to be leery of just how much "pressure" they plan to exert. The truth is that pacifist economic streak that lead to atrophy also permeates military thinking. Last week, America announced it would gut its military to pre WWII levels and that further cuts are on the drawing board.
America is a nation that has no stomach for war and that's understandable, except many nations around the world would like to believe there is a sheriff that would come to their rescue. In the meantime, Russia still bristles at its history in Crimea, including the embarrassment of defeat in WWI.
Nonetheless, Russia's economy has been sizzling and it's unlikely that even Vladimir Putin would want to derail this juggernaut to piecemeal the old Soviet empire. However, Russia's naval fleet at Crimea and the vast population of Russian ex-pats and sympathizers means Putin will not back down from this particular fight.
My investment thesis begins with global peace, which enables global economic growth and widespread prosperity. Competition is great, and its glory and positive impact on humans can be considered more beautiful, than even a timeless statue espousing the virtues of military victory.
We affirm that the world's magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing car whose hood is adorned with great pipes, like serpents of explosive breath-a roaring car that seems to ride on grapeshot is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.
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