Flags & Horses; Past Forever

For a minute, suspend your disbelief in the obvious impracticalities of what I’m offering and consider this: Suppose we ‘cut out’ a generation. Culturally. What would happen if our children grow up never being in touch with anything that resembles civilization. No cities, no language, no tools. What would happen to our species?

Biologically we would be the same. But biology is genetics. The rest of what we consider to make us human is not genetically transferred. Our culture is not genetically transferred. Every work of art, practice of medicine, means of communication, it’s not genetically transferred. In other words: We might be nothing else but hairless apes.

Subsequently, I would point towards the way our species operates as a whole. Humanity as an organism on its own. An organism that keeps perpetuating knowledge and tradition within it’s own collective consciousness. Past the limits of one mortal, bridging generations in the process. The scale of which is exclusively human. At least on this planet. And you can witness it all around you.

What follows is an example of the human organism at work. How the web of tradition within culture brings people together over the years in order to create something that transcends the capability of an individual. Case: the biannual horse races of Siena, Italy: Il Palio.

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Each Siena neighbourhood (contrada) has a flag and a horse around which the people rally. They come together in the Duomo for a blessing (a blessing for the horse, that is).

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Every flag represents the neighbourhood’s animal. This is the flag of the tortoise contrada (Tartuca).

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During the three days of festivities there’s a lot of processions with drummers and flags. The flagbearers are usually children.

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Painting showing flag dancers during the Renaissance period. Flag choreographies go down from generation to generation.

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There’s practice runs on the main square (Piazza del Campo) every day after a procession.

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Carroccio (war altar). Now ceremonial in nature, once a part of most Italian mercenary armies during medieval times.

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After every practice run the track needs flattening.

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Every contrada has a song. The melody is the same for every contrada but the words are unique.

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Torre del Mangia (1348) overlooks the Piazza

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Don’t forget to take a selfie too

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