Saturday, 17 November 2007

Brot + Spiele

During last summer's Salzburg Festival, a number of stickers were found around the city, on traffic signs, bus stops and doors. They mocked the official logo of the Festival with the words Salzburger Brot+Spiele (bread and circuses) instead of the original Salzburger Festspiele. At first I did not understand what it was about, but Mar explained to me that "bread and circuses" was used in the Late Roman Empire, referring to the fact that, providing your people with enough food and distractions is a very successful way to avoid them from questioning the fairness of their governors. The stickers claimed that politics in Salzburg seem to be all about one single event (the Festival), from which the population does not really take a significant benefit, which diverts a lot of resources from other more important topics, like housing, or social issues.

When I hear people saying that Humanities are not useful, that they are of no practical use for our daily life, it always makes me very sad. Because I think that Culture, having some knowledge about our world, about our History, allows us having a little more idea about who we are, why we are here, where we are going to. We live in a world that appraises technical knowledge above all, as if it were the only valid knowledge. Technical knowledge is good, everyone should know about s = 2πr and F = ma, but everyone should know as well who Plato, Cervantes, Leonardo, Descartes were, and why are they important. Because that kind of knowledge makes us more robust against smoke merchants, against unfairness, against random will. Because Culture is like a torch, that brings light into the never ending darkness, that lets us make a fire to keep us warm while it is so cold out there...

And I think one must be curious about things, and one has to keep oneself always eager to learn. It's something like not loosing the natural curiosity of children, always wanting to learn a little more, always wanting to know why. Sometimes my Austrian friends are surprised because I know facts about Austria, about Salzburg, that they didn't know. I do not think that there is something so special, it's just that I am still curious about the world around me.

I have to thank my parents for the seed to this curiosity, although they might not be fully aware of it. I always loved reading, and I use to read in bed before I sleep (almost always I fall asleep on top of the book! :)). When I was 12 we used to live in a quite small flat, and there wasn't really much place to keep stuff. My parents bought an encyclopedia, and the only free spot by then was in my room, directly above the head of my bed. When I went to sleep and I had no book to read (which happened quite often) I would just randomly pick a volume from the encyclopedia, open it and read whatever catched my eye first. Some topics were boring, but others were quite interesting, and I leaped back and forth searching for a related topic, and another, and yet another. It was like entering a huge Library before sleeping, learning something new every night. Sometimes my “research” would last for more than an hour and I would be sleepy the day after, but it was definitely worth it. I think with that encyclopedia my parents made me, quite inadvertently, one of the best gifts I've ever had.

I am happy I never lost that curiosity. And now, with the exponential possibilities that the Net puts in our hand, my “research” acquired a new dimension: Google and Wikipedia are two of my best friends. Because you are just one click away from the next discovery, one single click away from you entering a new room of the Library.

A whole new world of knowledge is just one click away from us. Are we going to let this chance go?

PS: Our internet connection is not fixed yet. It seems it got a cold, and you know, they are quite bad this time of year. Not being able to answer random questions that keep coming to my mind is driving me crazy!

1 comment:

Di said...

I am dead without Google or Wikipedia!! Long live researchers!! Hahaha :))