Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Slovenian Euro Coin Designs

This is going to be an incoherent rant about the designs for Slovenian euro coins, which have recently been approved and published by the Bank of Slovenia (see this PDF file on their website), and which we will presumably have to put up with once we adopt the euro in 2007.

My main complaint is about the overall selection of motives, which reflects a horribly stolid, conservative, dull spirit of 19th-century patriotism without the slightest ounce of creativity, originality, modernity, or indeed anything that would suggest that the people who selected the motives are in any way reconciled with the modern world. But then, I guess I shouldn't be surprised by the choice of motives — according to the designer Miljenko Licul (see his interview in the Sobotna priloga, 15. 10. 2005, p. 24), the motives were selected by the government. And surely motives like these are the only thing one can reasonably expect from the assembly of conservative 19th-century Neanderthals that is our current government.

Sure, our present coin designs may have their faults, but you have to admit that they are decent, humane, modest, you could even say that they have a certain progressive and environmentalist undertone. By emphasizing our wildlife, these designs concede that the state is fundamentally just a geographical entity, not some blut-und-boden wetdream from the heady days of the 19th century. They concede, as it were, that this is a territory inhabited just as much by the other species as it is by people, and indeed that insofar as these other species by and large inhabited it much before us, it belongs much more to them than it does to us. The proposed Euro coin designs, however, have no patience with these calm modern virtues. They are all about the rowdy, flag-waving sort of patriotism that saw people march with glee less than a hundred years ago to be slaughtered by their millions in the trenches of the first world war. It seems that some people will just never learn.

I'm particularly annoyed by the use of Plečnik's proposed design for a Slovenian parliament. Thank goodness that this abomination has never actually been constructed. Sure, I agree that Plečnik designed a few nice things, but this parliament certainly isn't one of them. The huge cone-shaped thingie in the middle reeks of pure megalomania. It would do well enough for some evil imperialist power, but it's hardly appropriate for a small and decent country.

I'm also somewhat annoyed by the use of the princely stone of Caranthania. The only good thing about this is that it pisses off the Austrians, just like it did in 1991 when there was a picture of the stone on the temporary Slovenian banknotes. The stone, just like Plečnik's parliament design, is routinely an object of fetishization on part of the chest-thumping right-wing ‘patriots’. The inclusion of the stone on the new coin designs is just yet another symptom of the increasing influence of the right wing, of its conservatism and its lamentable tendency to mythologize Caranthania, the supposed democratic character of its monarchy, the almost entirely imaginary influence of their coronation procedure on Thomas Jefferson, etc., etc. I can't for the life of me imagine what's the point of mythologizing Caranthania. Yes, sure, it was the first state-like entity of which our distant ancestors were a part, and furthermore it was one in which they were governed by a ruler who was one of them rather than a foreigner. So what? Big deal. You have to start somewhere. And no matter how much you try to inflate its importance, you cannot get past the fact that it was essentially just a minor historical footnote; a smallish country in the turbulent early middle ages, which soon found itself unable to preserve its independence and was eventually engulfed by the Frankish empire. What the heck are you going to accomplish by fetishizing an obscure entity like that? If you absolutely feel that you prefer convenient mythological fiction to actual history, then at least go the full monty. Don't settle for a mere Caranthania. Join the ‘Venetic theory’ instead, insist that our ancestors came here in the 6th century BC rather than AD, have the audacity to claim that the ancient Etruscans and Veneti were really their close relatives, and that the Slovenian language holds the key to interpreting Etruscan inscriptions. I can always appreciate a good absurdity even though I am unable to take it seriously. But the fetishization of Caranthania lies uncomfortably halfway between absurd mythology and historical fact, lacking both the charm of the former and the veracity of the latter.

Besides, do look at the explanation on p. 19 of the above-mentioned PDF file. The motivation for including the stone among the coin motives is that it “is the ancient symbol of the hierarchical organization of power in the Slovenian consciousness”. And they dare to put this on a coin — practically to commemorate it, to glorify it? Isn't it entirely obvious that this is something to be ashamed of, not something praiseworthy? Is it this, then, that our government now stands for? Hierarchy — authoritarianism, oppression, obedience, monarchy — this is what our consciousness is now supposed to be about? So was Cankar right after all? Don't they realize just how FUCKING ABSURD it is to fetishize Plečnik's ‘cathedral of freedom’ (p. 13) on one coin but then prattle about the hierarchy of power in the motivation for another coin? And, once again, if we have to go for absurdities, let's just go all the way — let's just put a whip and pair of manacles (or maybe monocles, given that the slavedrivers nowadays tend to be of the capitalist persuasion) on one of the coins, or maybe a bundle of fasces with an axe in the middle — or maybe, what the heck, let's just go for a big fat swastika: after all, the Führerprinzip is where the concept of the hierarchy of power found its most perfect expression. (Yes, yes, Godwin's law, yadda yadda yadda. See if I care.)

The other motives aren't necessarily that bad by themselves, but the designs of the eight coins as a whole lack all uniformity and coherence of style. Our current coins are much more regular in this sense: you can see that they are all based on the same underlying theme, and all executed in a similar way. In the new euro designs, we have a bewildering and incoherent mixture of techniques: silhouettes of Prešeren and of the pair of horses; engraving-style pictures of Trubar and of the princely stone; a photorealistic picture of Triglav; a drawing of Plečnik's parliament; a pointilist picture of Grohar's sower; and finally the stork in a style all its own, taken from the current 20-tolar coin. These things don't fit together nicely at all. Besides, most of the designs are too busy. There's way too much stuff on them; Grohar's sower is a particularly egregious example. I am disgusted. I can only hope that these designs will look better on the actual coins than they do now in the PDF file. And I can only hope that we'll soon get a period of decent inflation which will render those coins worthless as soon as possible and thus put them out of their misery.

9 Comments:

Blogger peter said...

I agree.

Except I wouldn't be hoping for inflation to render euro worthless just because you don't like one side of a very small share of coins. On the contrary, I'm looking forward to seeing euro ousting $ from the international oil market...

Let's better swap our future coins with the EasyJet tourists. And the remainig coins could be taken south and forced on Croats...

Thursday, October 27, 2005 1:19:00 AM  
Blogger ill-advised said...

I admit, I guess I wasn't being entirely serious about the inflation. But as for this being only a very small share of coins, I don't entirely agree --- most of the coins we'll deal with here in Slovenia will probably have the Slovenian designs on the obverse side. Current experience shows that coins cross the border only in rather modest amounts (i.e. when people travel abroad, they prefer to take banknotes).

As for the euro being adopted by the international oil market, I don't really know enough about these things to be able to form an opinion. I guess it can't hurt if it works out that way, but at the same time, when I look at the fact that the US dollar is presently used by the international oil market, I can't help wondering what good has this ever done for the average American. It hasn't saved them from overwork and widespread poverty, nor from social decay, nor has it provided them with decent health care and social security. And besides, if the euro gets adopted by the oil market, wouldn't this lead to a risk that we won't be as motivated to switch to alternative
fuel sources?

But anyway, I'm not sure whether the possibilities of the euro replacing the dollar in the oil market are realistic. After all, why would we expect that the European economy will, in the long term, be more successful than the American one? Or even if we could expect it, would this be really desirable? As long as the Americans are willing to put up with more hard work, less social
security, more environmental degradation, and to allocate more of their resources into developing military strength, I don't see how we can compete with them. In my opinion, when you see that a race to the bottom is in progress, the only sane thing to do is to opt out of it rather than to participate in it (let alone try to win it).

By the way, to return to the topic of inflation --- one good thing about inflation is that it wipes out people's savings. Thus one is no longer motivated to save one's money. In non-inflationary circumstances one is always torn apart between two extremely unpleasant choices: either you save some money now, which means you don't have as much to spend (and it's extremely painful to have some money and to prevent yourself from spending it), or you can spend it all but eventually end up without savings (and, even worse, find that everyone around you does have some savings, and is using them to be better off than you). Inflation wipes out the second choice, leaving only the first one. One doesn't have to worry about spending all one's money, and one is absolved of the dreadful, abominable, disgustingly unpleasant responsibility of taking care of one's future financial situation.

Thursday, October 27, 2005 8:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's motif, not motive, when we're talking about coins.

You are, of course, entitled to you opinion, but I would have to say that I strongly disagree with you. Motifs are the mirror of Slovenian culture and society as it was in the past. If you don't think that it is important to know history of your own people that's your problem, but i'd much rather have meaningful motifs than some uncompehensible futuristic...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006 4:27:00 PM  
Blogger ill-advised said...

It's motif, not motive, when we're talking about coins.

Thanks, that's useful! Although dictionary.com says that "motive" can also be used in this sense, I agree that it's good to have separate words for this.

You are, of course, entitled to you opinion, but I would have to say that I strongly disagree with you. Motifs are the mirror of Slovenian culture and society as it was in the past. If you don't think that it is important to know history of your own people that's your problem, but i'd much rather have meaningful motifs than some uncompehensible futuristic...

But I'm not proposing the use of anything particularly futuristic on our coins. Our current coins, for example, have animal motifs -- there's nothing incomprehensible or futuristic about that.

What matters to me, however, is not just that the motifs should be meaningful -- I also care about *what* they mean. And this is why I am annoyed by our new euro coin motifs -- they stand for a tribalistic Neanderthal notion of patriotism and national identity that has caused the death of countless millions of people throughout the 19th and 20th centuries and should have died out at least fifty if not a hundred years ago.

As for knowing the history of one's own people -- frankly, I don't think that it's important to know it. (If you think it is important, I would be interested to hear why.) In fact I don't think it's important to know any history whatsoever, either of one's own people or of other nations. But if people do want to learn about history, I would appreciate it if they took the trouble to go beyond the superficial level of pointless factoids about "great" people, important events, crusty old national symbols, etc.

I would be happier if the national side of our coins was dedicated to some worthier cause than promoting the pointless fetishization of long-dead people and national myths.

If you care about democracy in this country, don't go about worshipping the Caranthanian princely stone or the abomination that is Plečnik's proposed parliamentary building, but instead take the trouble to do something to improve the transparency and responsibility of the political process here and now, in 21st-century Slovenia rather than in 8th-century Caranthania.

If you enjoy good romantic poetry (I sure do), sit down every now and then and read a poem or two by Prešeren -- along with those of Byron, Schiller, Lermontov, and the numerous other fine romantic poets. If you don't much care for poetry, you will certainly do well to ignore Prešeren altogether. In either case, nothing is to be gained by pointlessly swooning over his visage on a slug of metal.

If you enjoy hiking in the mountains, by all means go and climb the Triglav if you wish (though I think you would do even better to choose any of the numerous other mountains that are just as beautiful and accessible but not nearly as crowded). If not, then don't. In either case, there's not much use in fetishizing Triglav as some kind of symbol. It's just a big pile of limestone.

If you don't care about poetry, you have no business enthusing about Prešeren. If you don't care about the mountains, you have no business enthusing about Triglav. If you don't care about impressionism, leave Grohar alone. Stop dragging beautiful and meaningful things into the service of your vile, horrid 19th-century nationalist instincts. Find yourself a nice local football club and cheer on it. But don't make a mess of the coins that I'll have to put up with every day.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006 8:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ill-advised...oh my god, where the hell are you come from? Why do you hate slovenian culture, symbols and other stuff... another communist and fossil?
Well you don't like Duke's stone of old Karantania... Have you even read any book about Veneti, Romans, Etruscians,... I think, these symbols of old Veneti and Carantanians will open many doors to peace to all europeans, who will find out who our ancestors really are,...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007 12:09:00 AM  
Blogger ill-advised said...

I'm from Ljubljana, not that I think it matters very much... I don't hate Slovenian culture — on the contrary, I'm sufficiently fond of it that I don't want it to become the prey of nationalist myth-makers. And I don't want my compatriots to base their identity on ridiculous, murderous myths of the type that should have died out along with the 19th century. But then, if this wasn't clear to you from my comments above, you obviously just don't want to understand and there's no point in explaining it all yet again.

As for communism, I am indeed very fond of it, but I don't see why you think this should be incompatible with a fondness of Slovenian culture. In fact I think that communism offers better possibilities for the cultural preservation of small nations than capitalism; under capitalism, market forces will tend towards the obliteration of smaller cultures. But anyway, the reasons why I'm fond of communism are really more economic than cultural; its benefits in the cultural sphere would be just a pleasant side-effect.

Well you don't like Duke's stone of old Karantania...

Actually I don't mind the duke's stone. In fact as a historical curiosity it's rather neat, as is Karantania as a whole. And I wouldn't mind knowing a bit more about its history, if I could find a source that I felt I could trust to provide real facts rather than convenient "patriotic" myths.

I'm not terribly fond of having the duke's stone on a coin, however, partly because I don't doubt that it's motivated by a desire for the mythologization of Karantania rather than by any genuine curiosity about it as a historical entity; and partly because of the explanation that was offered in the .pdf file where the designs were first presented — the one having something to do with the hierarchy and the Slovenian consciousness, and some such bullshit. That is simply an abomination and we should have nothing to do with it.

Have you even read any book about Veneti, Romans, Etruscians,...

Well, my anonymous friend, you are in luck! Just a few pixels away, in the top right corner of the page, there lurks a "Table of contents" link which, if you boldly touch it just the right way with your favourite pointing device, will take you to a page containing several links to my posts about such books.

And in fact I have the greatest admiration for the Etruscans' feats of water engineering. They cured Tuscany from malaria by draining its swamps, and they built the famous, venerable cloaca maxima in Rome. I wish they were still around; perhaps they could help us cure our modern-day Venetists of their pseudohistorical megalomania, and build a sewer big enough to flush away the bullshit they produced.

But of course what you are really asking is whether I have read any of the pseudoscientific books that pretend to show that the Veneti and/or the Etruscans are somehow related to the Slovenians. Well, I haven't read anything of this type; I generally don't read pseudoscience except for its amusement value, and I doubt that our champions of the Venetic theory are amusing enough. I think I'll just stick to Berlitz and von Daeniken.

I think, these symbols of old Veneti and Carantanians will open many doors to peace to all europeans, who will find out who our ancestors really are,...

Yes indeed, our ancestors are really noble ancient people like Etruscans and Veneti, not some dirty lousy hairy-eared knuckle-dragging bear-skin-wearing Slavic barbarians who came here only in the early middle ages, right? **** off, you filthy Nazi.

As for the idea that "these symbols ... will open many doors to peace to all Europeans"... Everything that can be reasonably said about this statement has already been said by this walrus.

Thursday, September 27, 2007 10:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, ampak strinjam se z onim clovekom, ki je pisal v anglescini in malo pokomentiral tvoje antislovenstvo. Sem prekmurec in kot prvo stvar, ki sem jo slisal iz ust moje babice je bila, da sem Vend, Vent kakor je moj narod ze od nekdaj bil... Ce bi ti slisal Vendscino-prekmurscino pred 50 leti, ti nebi bilo prav nic jasno. Slovenski jezik je nazalost asimiliral prvine jezika obrov, avarov in drugih narodov ze v Karantaniji oz. Zgornji Panoniji...(madzarski viri!) Ohranil se je le grobi skelet starega jezika preko posebnosti dvojine, poganskih ostankov in kulture, obicajev. ne bom ti nasteval, verjetno se bos strinjal, da imamo posebno kulinariko in kulturo. Zdaj pa se le vprasaj, zakaj so madzari hoteli ohraniti vendscino tudi v II. svetovni vojni in zakaj so hoteli biti nasi "angeli varuhi", kot so prikazovali takratne slikovne propagande. NE LAZI IN NE SPREMINJAJ ZGODOVINE MOJEGA NARODA! SEM VEND IN VEND BOM OSTAL, PA CE PRIDE SE 1000 in 1 CESARSTVO ALI NAROD NAD MENE!

Monday, January 14, 2008 8:41:00 PM  
Blogger ill-advised said...

Ce bi ti slisal Vendscino-prekmurscino pred 50 leti, ti nebi bilo prav nic jasno.

No, tudi če slišim prekmurščino dandanes, mi je bolj malo jasno :) Pravzaprav dvomim, da se je prekmurščina v zadnjih 50 letih spremenila kaj dosti bolj, kot se pač jeziki in narečja tudi sicer običajno spremenijo v takšnem obdobju. No, dejstvo pa je, da o prekmurščini in njeni zgodovini zelo malo vem (čeprav bi me načeloma zanimalo vedeti kaj več).

Slovenski jezik je nazalost asimiliral prvine jezika obrov, avarov in drugih narodov ze v Karantaniji oz. Zgornji Panoniji...(madzarski viri!)

Zakaj pa na žalost? Kaj pa je slabega na tem, če si jezik izposoja stvari iz drugih jezikov, še zlasti od jezikov svojih sosedov? To je vendar čisto naraven pojav. Saj so si tudi Madžari, če se ne motim, kdaj sposodili kakšno našo besedo.

Ohranil se je le grobi skelet starega jezika preko posebnosti dvojine, poganskih ostankov in kulture, obicajev.

No, po mojem bi se, če bi človek trezno pregledal te reči, izkazalo, da se je ohranila večina slovnice in dobršen delež besedišča, še posebej za bolj osnovne in vsakdanje stvari. Kakorkoli že, načeloma bi me zanimalo izvedeti kaj več o tem -- če bom kdaj našel kakšno poljudno napisano knjigo o zgodovini slovenščine izpod peresa kakšnega vsaj za silo uravnovešenega jezikoslovca, jo bom z veseljem prebral. Ni pa mi prav hudo veliko do tega, da bi si mnenje o teh rečeh ustvarjal na podlagi nekoherentnih all-caps komentarjev na svojem blogu :)

ne bom ti nasteval, verjetno se bos strinjal, da imamo posebno kulinariko in kulturo.

Ne vem čisto točno, koga tu misliš z "imamo", ampak jaz na splošno ne dvomim v to, da ima praktično vsakdo posebno kulinariko in kulturo.

Zdaj pa se le vprasaj, zakaj so madzari hoteli ohraniti vendscino tudi v II. svetovni vojni in zakaj so hoteli biti nasi "angeli varuhi", kot so prikazovali takratne slikovne propagande.

Po mojem zato, ker bi tako lažje nadzirali Prekmurje in poskrbeli za asimilacijo njegovih prebivalcev -- s takšno propagando lahko ljudi odlepiš od neke večje narodne identitete (v tem primeru slovenske) in jih preusmeriš v eno manjšo (v tem primeru vendsko), ki jo bodo težje ohranili in ki si jo bodo težje zamišljali kako drugače kot v okviru tvoje države (saj so Prekmurci do konca prve svetovne vojne že precej stoletij živeli v okviru madžarskega kraljestva). Poleg tega, če se ne bodo šteli za Slovence, ti tudi ni treba (če si npr. madžarski okupator) toliko skrbeti, da bodo sodelovali z drugimi Slovenci v odporu proti tebi. Saj to ni bil edini tak primer med drugo svetovno vojno -- okupatorji so marsikje po Evropi spodbujali takšne lokalne identitete, včasih bolj, včasih manj za lase privlečene. En znan primer so bili npr. Gorali na Poljskem.

NE LAZI IN NE SPREMINJAJ ZGODOVINE MOJEGA NARODA! SEM VEND IN VEND BOM OSTAL,

Ja, kar izvoli, vrabca, kdo ti pa brani? Jaz sem načeloma pristaš stališča, da so narodi pač zamišljene skupnosti, tako da, če se npr. ti in tvoji sovaščani štejete za Vende, Slovence, Bantu črnce, ipd., je to vse enako OK in ste v tem primeru potem tudi res Vendi, Slovenci oz. Bantu črnci. Če se vas bo nabralo neko razumno število in boste dajali vtis nekakšne bona fide narodne skupnosti, se bom nemara začel celo zavzemati za to, da vas je treba zaščititi podobno kot druge manjšine :)

PA CE PRIDE SE 1000 in 1 CESARSTVO ALI NAROD NAD MENE!

To si zdaj tako napisal, kot da bi mi tukaj v Ljubljani že ogrevali tankovske motorje, da pridemo pregazit Prekmurje :) Po mojem se vam do naslednjega sončnega mrka ni treba bati, da bi prišlo kaj dosti ljudi nad vas :))

Monday, January 14, 2008 10:36:00 PM  
Blogger Marko said...

I have been a collector of coins my whole life, and also do not like Slovenian 10 cents coin. I find it offending to the architect himself, didn't he produce enough live standing structures (triple bridge, the national library, Shiska church... ) to put on a coin, and not a crazy idea of a pyramid parliament, for crying out loud. I find it ridiciolus.

Also, I must give a comment to first commemorative 2 euro coin of SLOVENIA (not the obligatory roman contract issue), but the 2 eur 2008 primoz trubar coin. I mean, we have already put the guy on 1 euro coin! Is there nobody else we can put on a coin? Are there only 2 famous slovenians, trubar and preseren?

that shows just lack of interest in those who design motifs for coins, and is rather offending to us, the collectors.

So, please, be creative folks!

Cheers!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 11:24:00 PM  

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