Saturday, June 18, 2011
Day 2 in Rome: About Soft Power
My day two in Rome was, predictably, spent in Vatican. In sharp contrast to the squalor and graffiti of the backstreets of Rome, Vatican is a neat, fabulously wealthy, glittering affair. It is expensive too - a total of 22 Euros just for the museums - but it is all worth it being able to spend a few minutes inside The Sistine Chapel (above, the photo I took before being told not to use my camera).
But, while I, like many others, went to Vatican to see Sistine Chapel in person, the real show is in the St Peters Square. Being accustomed the Hindu holy places, which are bare and serene, the St Peters Square was very different from what I was expecting: This was, in my perception, more about power than piety. This looked every bit as imperial as the Roman ruins I saw yesterday. I was almost thinking of the idea of one unending empire, that of Cesare and Augustus, carried on by Constantine when he took over Christianity in what would be world's foremost exercise of soft power (though the term was invented only very recently by Joseph Nye): It is possible to see St Peters Square as the springboard of all of Western civilization as it stands today, but also the whole existence of it in direct line of descent from the Colosseum.
What plays in my mind now whether Christianity won over the Roman Empire or it was the other way around: Whether common men's beliefs always get institutionalized into grand religions like this. I see religion as a private affair, an individual's very own choices of behaviour and faith, and any public religion (including Hinduism where it is institutional and oppressive) is, I would believe, constructed for the convenience of the ruling class. This isn't my pet conspiracy theory, but something that I learned through reading history and looking at places like St Peters.
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the...
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are ...
Earlier, I claimed Ed-Tech is over-rated: It promises too much and delivers too little. Worse, the noise of EdTech obscures Education Inno...
Don't be perplexed. I know you may be wondering how on earth can someone love bureaucracy, which stands for all the bad things - slown...
It is easy to overestimate the potential impact of urban development initiatives, public or private. Because as high level concepts, we de...
I hope some people will agree with me if I say EdTech is over-rated. It's a nifty term, much broader than the older, nerdy, E-Learning...
Kolkata needs a fresh start. One of the first mega-cities in Asia, and $150 Billion economy, has fallen from grace, somewhat. It is n...
It may seem a strange question, but this is one of the key debates in Education: Should Education be about acquiring knowledge or developi...
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today –...
The idea came to me from various conversations in China and India: That teacher training in Higher Education is an urgent need and a signi...
How To Live
"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
- Theodore Roosevelt
- Theodore Roosevelt
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
- T S Eliot
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.