Every month, a talk with Steve on various topics will be posted. Steve comes from Adelaide, Australia. He’s been in Japan for more than 10 years.
A topic of discussion for April 12, 2023: we would like to talk about the unification of Germany and Italy that took place in 1871 and 1861 respectively. Do you see any similarities of their unification?
Steve’s first comment was that Germany never existed as Germany itself.
There were Germanic states but they were never unified. This draws an analogy to Italy; there were Italian speaking states but never a united Italy. So, what were the factors for their unifications? For both Germany and Italy, we see that there were core states and key figures that took initiatives for the unifications.
For Germany, it was the Kingdom of Prussia. Under the strong leadership of Otto von Bismarck, as prime minister of Prussia or more famously known as the master of real politic, Prussia became the most populous and mighty Germanic state. By wining wars against Austria (1866) and France (1871), Prussia managed to create a unified Germany as the Empire of Germany in 1871.
For Italy, it was the Kingdom of Sardinia. Like Bismarck, Camillo di Cavour was the Kingdom’s prime minister and he helped modernize the kingdom both economically and militarily, culminating in unifying northern Italy as a result of the Treaty of Turin in 1860. Other noted Italian figures were Giuseppe Garibaldi and Giuseppe Mazzini. Garibaldi played an important role as a revolutionary hero who led his own army of “Redshirts” to control poorer southern Italy. He helped southern Italy be annexed by the Kingdom. In this way, Italy was unified in 1861 as the Kingdom of Italy. The king of Sardinia became the King of Italy.
A topic of discussion for March 7, 2023: Now COVID restrictions will be lifted almost completely shortly, what is your travel plan for this year?
Steve mentioned that he went to Yamanaka Lake (Yamanakako), Yamanashi prefecture, recently and he enjoyed it very much. There, he noticed a Nordic glamping site, which he would like to visit next. Yamanaka Lake is one of the five lakes facing the north eastern side of Mount Fuji. These lakes were created by the volcanic eruptions of Mount Fuji and are popular tourist destinations.
For me, I would like to visit Nagasaki, where I had once made all necessary reservations to go but cancelled them because of COVID.
A topic of discussion for February 8, 2023:
Can philosophy be used as a guideline for living today?
First of all, Steve mentioned, “how do we define philosophy?” Because natural philosophy covers everything. So, from this, independent fields of science are derived. The ancient Greek definition of philosophy is “love of wisdom”. From this perspective, we can utilize some philosophical methods, such as questioning, critical discussion, rational argument and systematic presentation when encountered with actual problems.
Also, it gives guidelines to what is right and wrong, giving guidance to moral issues. Philosophy in this context is “useful” for living today. Don’t you think so?
A topic of discussion for January 11, 2023:
Could you mention some books that you found particularly interesting last year?
Steve introduced “Power and Thrones – A New History of the Middle Ages” written by Dan Jones. The book covers the emergence of new kingdoms, inclusive of Islamic West, after the fall of the Roman Empire. There were major forces at play that draw parallel to today: such as climate change (e.g., causing severe drought), pandemic diseases, mass migration (including the Hans migration), technological innovation and so on. The book also covers the first European voyage to the Americas. Law and governance were codified, based on the Roman legacy. As to religion, Christian churches became powerful institutions that influenced secular systems. The evolution of architecture was observed, like Gothic cathedrals.
Then, Steve mentioned another book entitled “Imperial Twilight – The Opium War and the End of China’s Last Golden Age”, written by Stephen R. Platt.