“The Nine Principles of Italian-Americanism” [CORRECTED]

Prolific commenter Steve-O-In-NJ brought this, his inspiration, to the attention of Ethics Alarms. I collect codes of conduct and creeds, and this is a revealing one. What is interesting about  his “The Nine Principles of Italian-Americanism” is that it substantially tracks with most such codes,  like the Six Pillars of Character, except that the groupings are different, and there are some values that many wouldn’t consider exactly ethical.

For example, the first principle, which usually means that it has the highest priority, is pride. Pride isn’t right or wrong necessarily, but it is usually marked as an impediment to ethics, a seed of bigotry, and nearly the opposite of humility, which is included in the Six Pillars.

The list turns up on the Facebook page of the Angelo Roncalli Lodge Order Sons Of Italy of America, a community organization (Pop Quiz: Who was Angelo Roncalli? He’s world famous, but not by that name.)  This was Steve’s introduction:

I thought this up. My thought is that if African-Americans can have the Seven Principles of Blackness, then we Italian-Americans can have our own code of principles too. I picked nine because it should be a number divisible by three for the three colors of the Italian Flag. Six was too few, twelve would be too many. Maybe it’s just a lot of self-important rhetoric, and if so, feel free to ignore it.

With that introduction, here are the “The Nine Principles of Italian-Americanism”:

Pride (il Vanto) – To take pride in ourselves, our history, our achievements, our families, and all the things that make us who we are. To also respect those things by taking good care of them and never acting in a way that will shame them.

Honor (l’Onore) – To always behave in an honorable manner. To defer to those above us, respect our peers and equals, and not abuse those below us. To keep our vows and promises, obey the rules of society, and never break a confidence or a trust.

Remembrance (la Rimembranza) – To always remember who we are, where we came from, how we got here, what we bring with us, what we had to leave behind, the struggles and sacrifices of that journey, and the reasons for all of these.

Skill (le Abilità) – To develop what skills and talents we are blessed with the best we can and to use those skills and talents to leave the community, the nation, and the world better places than they were when we arrived.

Persistence (la Persistenza) – To work diligently at the tasks we are assigned and the goals we set until we see them through to a successful conclusion. To do whatever is necessary to get past whatever obstacles life places in our path.

Practicality (la Praticità) – To use our skills and resources wisely to accomplish what we need to, on our own if we can, with others if we must. To develop the wisdom to know when we need to ask for help or guidance, the humility to do so, and the gratitude for when it is given. To also develop the wisdom to know when an enterprise is going to fail, and to stop before we waste our resources.

Prosperity (la Prosperità) – To live life to the fullest, to enjoy the fruits of our work and our achievements, and never to be ashamed of doing so, with the understanding that we not do so to excess.

Faith (la Fede) – To believe with all our hearts, minds, and souls in ourselves and what we stand for, but also in Christ, in the Father who sent Him, in the saints who show us the way, in the Holy Father, in the Holy See, and in Holy Mother Church.

Family (la Famiglia) – Above all, to bear true faith, loyalty, allegiance, and duty to our own family, our immediate family, our extended family, our community family, our national family, and ultimately the human family.

Notice of Correction: When I first posted this, I was confused regarding the authorship of the Nine Principles, and did not realize Steve-O was the author. My apologies to him and you.

13 thoughts on ““The Nine Principles of Italian-Americanism” [CORRECTED]

  1. I see pride as the opposite of shame while humility is the opposite of hubris. I believe that these principles are worthwhile to all.

    • The faith element is elastic such that it would reflect the individual’s beliefs and not be limited to Christianity

    • The idea of hubris (hello Mrs Klein!) involves pride (arrogance) but is as much connected with notions of impiety. Hubris is therefore a *total attitude* which offends the gods and brings down their wrath. Or if you were psychologically inclined, hubristic attitudes bring about self-punishment from within one’s own self as a result of one’s own outrageous behavior.

      Hubris arises through a presumption against the gods. It is always connected with forms of cruelty. It is the cruelty and humiliation of the object of hubris that arouses the ire of the gods.

      A proper pride is not the same as arrogance, and humility is not the opposite of pride.

      In Works & Days Hesiod writes:

      “But to those who care only for evil outrageousness (hubris) and cruel deeds, far-seeing Zeus, Cronus’ son, marks out justice. Often even a whole city suffers because of an evil man who sins and devises wicked deeds. Upon them, Cronus’ son brings forth woe from the sky, famine together with pestilence, and the people die away; the women do not give birth, and the households are diminished by the plans of Olympian Zeus. And at another time Cronus’ son destroys their broad army or their wall, or he takes vengeance upon their ships on the sea.”

      Let me refer to one stark example that would fit under the rubric of classical hubris: the events carried out by young American soldiers at Abu Ghraib. An improper and unjustifiable invasion coupled with hubristic displays of the most outrageous sort. Evidences of ‘absolute impiety’ and ‘sheer arrogance’ in combination with ‘humiliating cruelty’.

      My own view — you will have picked this up strongly in what I have written over the years — is that the nation of America suffers as a result of its hubris. Yet this must be carefully explained and not in a general way. One sees the evidence of this in the effect visible on the landscape, both social landscape and the physical landscape of the cities and country. What is the source of this hubris and of the punishment it inevitably brings? Again, lack of piety combined with bold arrogance and a tendency to cruelty. As I have said numerous times, and is now being communicated and repeated (for example by Tucker Carlson) on a national level, America sold itself out. That is, specific groups and factions within the country who embody impiety, arrogance and cruelty. But this is just one example. There are dozens of others.

      To develop ‘proper pride’, in this age of lies & hypocrisy, manipulations & deceptions, not to mention self-deception and value-confusion, is not easy. For example I would suggest that America’s ‘national pride’ is in certain senses a false pride, an *arrogant pride*. In many ways Donald Trump embodies this (I am afraid to say). You cannot achieve ‘proper pride’ in your self or in your nation (group, community) unless it is properly grounded in piety.

      pi•e•ty (ˈpaɪ ɪ ti)

      n., pl. -ties.
      1. reverence for God or devout fulfillment of religious obligations.
      2. the quality or state of being pious.
      3. dutiful respect or regard for parents, homeland, etc.: filial piety.
      4. a pious act, remark, belief, or the like.
      [1275–1325; Middle English piete < Middle French < Latin pietās=pi(us) + -etās, variant (after i) of -itās; see pious, -ity]

      [Middle English piete, mercy, pity, from Old French, from Latin pietās, dutiful conduct, from pius, dutiful.]

  2. Actually, Jack, I didn’t just FIND these principles, I wrote them myself, and shared them out on a few Italian-American pages. My thought was that, in this time when a lot of people want to wipe us off the calendar and stuff us into the shadows, that we Italian-Americans might want to reassert our identity. Actually family is most important, which is why I put it at the end. Alla famiglia!

    • Usually. However, we also produced both the man to establish lasting ties between Europe and America as well as the first European man to set foot on North America proper, invented the concept of realpolitik, produced a huge number of artists and composers, built cathedrals that are still admired, pioneered the concept of the republic, were the first country to deploy military frogmen, and defeated Austria twice in fair war. Oh yes, we also produced our share of American heroes like John Basilone and science advocates like Galileo. We persevered when we got here, despite being treated like garbage and suffering the biggest lynching in the US, until we were finally fully accepted in 1942.

      But some jerks want to lump us in with forty-some-odd other nations and say ” you’re white, so you matter less. Your story doesn’t count,” and consign us to Oblivion or cast us as villains so they can promote a myth that North America was a peaceful paradise inhabited by perfect people until greedy white men came and messed it up. I say giammai!

    • And arguably the most important cooks in the world, just to top things off. God only knows what France would be eating if Catherine de Medici hadn’t been sent kicking and screaming into an arranged marriage in Paris.

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