Tag Archives: business

“The Prospects for Europe” by Umberto Eco

Europe

This is an essay that Eco was asked to write some years back concerning how he viewed the current state of the European Union. Not surprising, it seemed kind of dated and irrelevant to me, for the most part. That said, there are still some interesting points that are worth considering.

Eco asserts that there is a noticeable movement toward a European identity as opposed to being identified by a particular nationality.

In the meantime, a European identity is growing more and more noticeable. Perhaps this identity is not evident when we Europeans visit another European country, because the visit triggers rather a perception of the differences—but differences are also perceived by a Milanese who goes to Palermo or by a Calabrian who visits Turin. The sense of identity prevails, however, when we come into contact with a non-European culture, American culture included: there are moments, during a conference, in an evening spent with friends from different countries, or even in the course of a tourist outing, in which we sense a common sentiment. The points of view, behavior, and tastes of a Frenchman, a Spaniard, or a German are more familiar to us than those of non-Europeans.

(Turning Back the Clock: pp. 38 – 39)

While I have not traveled extensively in Europe (so far I have visited England, Scotland, France, Italy, and Germany), I am inclined to agree with Eco. While I recognize the difference in cultures, the people all share a definite European-ness, for lack of a better word. In fact, I notice more differences between regional cultures in the United States. The differences between people in New York and Mississippi are stark, as are those between Mid-Westerners and residents of the Pacific Northwest. But that said, there is still a shared American identity, and this is similar to the shared European identity that Eco points out.

The other assertion that Eco makes which is interesting is his projection that American attention will shift from the Atlantic region to the Pacific as a result of the economic connection with Asian countries.

America’s attention will shift from the Atlantic to the Pacific, just as for years now the great centers of production and research have been moved to, or have arisen on, the Californian coast. Eventually New York will become an American Florence, still a center of fashion and culture but less and less a place where decisions are made.

(ibid: p. 41)

As much as I don’t want to accept this, I have to concede there is a bit of truth here. It certainly seems like there are currently more business and employment opportunities on the West Coast of the US. And if Eco’s prophesy is fulfilled, then this shift may have an economic impact on Europe.

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“Sonnet 4: Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend” by William Shakespeare

"Death and the Miser" by Hieronymus Bosch

“Death and the Miser” by Hieronymus Bosch

Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend
Upon thy self thy beauty’s legacy?
Nature’s bequest gives nothing, but doth lend,
And being frank she lends to those are free:
Then, beauteous niggard, why dost thou abuse
The bounteous largess given thee to give?
Profitless usurer, why dost thou use
So great a sum of sums, yet canst not live?
For having traffic with thy self alone,
Thou of thy self thy sweet self dost deceive:
Then how when nature calls thee to be gone,
What acceptable audit canst thou leave?
Thy unused beauty must be tombed with thee,
Which, used, lives th’ executor to be.

Similar to Shakespeare’s first three sonnets, this one also deals with the theme of procreation, but the tone is different. I know there is a lot of debate about whether these sonnets were written for a young man or a young woman. While I feel that the first three sonnets are speaking to a woman, based upon the use of metaphors regarding flowers, mothers, and childbirth, for this one I will adhere to the consensus and say that he composed this for a male youth.

The metaphors used here are primarily associated with business, particularly accounting and money-lending. This would certainly be more within the realm of men during Shakespeare’s time. The entire poem is strewn with words associated with business: unthrifty, spend, lend, profitless, usurer, sums, audit, executor.

The person to whom the speaker is addressing is clearly obsessed with business affairs and is directing all his energy into the pursuit of financial success. The speaker is letting him know that he is wasting his youth in the quest for material gains and that he should shift his focus towards finding a wife and starting a family. If he fails to do so, he will die a lonely, solitary miser, and after his death, the only legacy he will have left will be some money which a lawyer will dispense with.

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