Saturday, November 29, 2008

Italian Racism

“We are not racists.
We are Italian racists.
We hate everybody.”

Italy. 28 May 1985. Montecatini Terme. A magnificent, almost-summer snug Tuscan nightfall. I have just come up to the intercom at the door of the building on Via Manzoni where my vest-pocket studio apartment is located on the third floor. I hold two pizzas. One margherita con cipolla and a marinara for Maria Luisa. I ring the bell to have Maria Luisa open the door for me arms-filled and to signal to her that she can take the cold beers out of the frig and pour them. I walk up.

When I arrive, the door is ajar, I see no beers, and Maria Luisa—glued to the TV screen—is waving her hand frantically for me to come next to her. I put the pizzas down and move quickly to her.

Heysel Stadium. Brussels. The Liverpool-Juventus game has been interrupted. To my horror, I see Liverpool fans on the pitch with bats and chains threatening Juventus aficionados. Maria Luisa tells me the sportscaster has reported that a wall has collapsed; it is believed there are people crushed to death under the rubble and the feet of shocked spectators who are trying to escape in a stampede. I cannot believe my eyes, and I have to remind myself I am in Europe and not Yankee Stadium in New York. I am really sad and depressed. I have never even dreamt in all my years that a spectator sport might provoke violence and death. I feel as if I have come upon a very dismal, exceptionally unbelievable discovery. I am lost for words. Maria Luisa is practically crying.

Even still more seemingly impossible is the fact that the game will be played to its finish! I am dumbfounded. 47 fans—32 of them Juventus supporters—are dead. Yet the show must go on. I understand later on that the decision was based on the thinking that if the game had not been played out, more violence would have erupted. I do not agree. I believe we all should have hung our heads in shame for the rest of the night.

The tragic event is finally over. The television news’ programs begin the lamentable rehashing of the night’s events as death toll verifications come sadly trickling in. The next morning I will watch, benumbed, videos (some of them amateurish) of the rescue efforts to bring to life the trampled bodies with broken limbs. It is a ghastly sight. I feel the same I did when I visited my men in a field hospital in Kontum after the battle of Dak To.

It is time to accompany Maria Luisa to her home in Sesto Fiorentino. I do not have a driver’s license, so I must take the train back to Montecatini. It is almost late. We walk down the stairs solemnly, and before we go to the car, I toss our uneaten pizzas into the trash disposal unit in the street. We say little on our way. I kiss Maria Luisa goodnight and walk the kilometre or so to the train station to catch one back. I feel very bad. I am perplexed.
The train comes. I look to see if there are others as deadened as I. I cannot determine that. About twenty-five minutes later the rickety train pulls into Montecatini Terme—the main station. I start my ten-minute walk up the street leading to my apartment. All of a sudden, I hear a caravan of about fifteen cars and trucks—overflowing with young men and women screaming with joy and shaking their fists about with gleeful energy—coming towards me. I am puzzled to discern what the commotion is. All the revelers are dress with some violet; they are fans of La Fiorentina—the arch-rival in Italy of the famous Juventus squad. The La Fiorentina tifosi are shouting at the top of their lungs: Grazie, Liverpool! Grazie, Liverpool!! Grazie, Liverpool!!!

Before talking to you about Racism, my dear reader, please read with me these three definitions of it which I copied out for you:

1. From lo Zingarelli 1998, edited by Miro Dogliotti and Luigi Rosiello, Zanichelli; Bologna, Italy: “Teoria che tende a stabilire una gerarchia tra le popolazioni umane, esaltando le qualità superiori di una razza, affermando la necessità di conservarla pura da ogni commistione e respingendo le altre in una stato di soggezione.”
2. From The Concise Oxford Dictionary, Sixth Edition, edited by J. B. Sykes, Oxford University Press, 1976; Oxford, England: “Theory that human abilities etc. are determined by race.”
3. From Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, edited by Frederick C. Mish, Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 1994; Springfield, Massachusetts, United States: “A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”

I know about Racism. How could I not? I have lived with it all my life. My mother, fanatically Roman Catholic (Irish wing), right-wing, and a bigot of enormous stature, set the “tone” for me in the beginning: “Don’t ever invite a nigger into this house.” Amen! I studied for sixteen years in Roman Catholic schools: “Cross your legs, girls, and shut the gates of hell.” (When are Roman Catholics going to come to terms with the truth?…priests do not want to marry…if they did they would never have even thought of joining an organisation that keeps them from women…priests are women-haters…they want to be alone with themselves…they think they are better than we are…even a dull-witted Jesuit would understand this…priests belong to a class of people unified by a community of interests for them more powerful than love….) I served for two years on active duty in the United States Army; I was a social worker in the northwest section of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; I lived in the north of Florida—part of the Deep South—for four years; and, I have lived in Italy for more than sixteen years with those who might be considered the greatest racists in the history of Western Civilization—they have been practicing the art of Racism for centuries and with spectacular precision.

I am sensitive to acts of Racism and have been for most of my life. Racism denigrates that which is good about humanity, and because there is so much of it in all parts of the world, it has become almost popular to opine that there is, in fact, no remedy for the causes of Racism, they being so ingrained in the innate makings-up of the human being. This belief is so common, it helps in almost giving carte blanche to racists to perpetrate their rants and ravings. Racism gives humankind a bad name. Which is to say that if Racism did not flourish as it does, the world would be a better place to live for all individuals—a less vexed place to be in. Racism establishes the truth that most of us are weak-willed, that we are inclined to take the easy way out when we should be confronting, for sure, that which is threatening us and our fellows. The orchestration of hate against whatever minority group or member of that arrangement by parties larger than it, is one of the most despicable acts of pusillanimity conceivable. There are many other why and wherefores I can bring to the forefront to express my disgust for Racism, but it is now more interesting to concentrate specifically on those characteristics which distinguish the racist from others.

Remember Mark Fuhrman? It is pretty much agreed upon by most people that Mark possessed racist inclinations, and these were revealed—most embarrassingly for him and his defence attorneys—during his trial which also brought to light many interesting aspects of his personal life. But let us now concentrate on Mark’s face. That face, for me, is a “racist face.” I have seen it time and time again during my life. There it is. Mark’s face. A very listless face. I have espied thousands and thousands of them. Mark’s is a face full of hate and full of fear and full of cowardliness. One ashen with sadness, rigid from smirking, and smitten with loftiness. In Vietnam, that face said this to me: “Lieutenant, if you want to make the United States Army your career, don’t associate with those nigger privates.” That face said this to me: “Tonight we’re having a company party to celebrate that nigger’s (Martin Luther King) death. Are you comin’, lieutenant?” That face said this to me, under its breath, refusing to salute me, when no one was in sight of us: “Lieutenant, you’re a nigger-lover. You’re a Jew-lover. And I don’t salute Yankee scum like you!” In Florida, that face said this to me: “Why don’t you go back to New York where you belong?” That face said this to me: “Here in Lake City we know how to take care of our nigger problems.” That face said this to me: “The Division of Family Services of the State of Florida is not corrupt and mismanaged as you say. We do our best to help the Negroes in the northwest section of Fort Lauderdale where you are assigned. You are being released from our organization because you are insubordinate.”

This face can be found easily in any city in the world. This face is malignant, and it is invested with potentially unlimited growth. It expands within itself through the strength of its ignorance and its craving for punishment inflicted in retaliation for an injury or offence. This face pounds and beats to the ground that which is around it. This face, in the course of time, sinks in its own poison. I cannot imagine why this disease is not alphabetized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association!

Perhaps you have heard of Jean-Paul Sartre? He wrote a very interesting book, Réflexions sur la question juive, in 1954 in Paris, France, and which was published by Gallimard, a very famous Parisian publishing house. It was Sartre’s intention to bring to light one of the most sordid sides of human behavior, anti-Semitism, and his experiences fighting Fascism and Naziism during World War II no doubt influenced his sense of disdain for the tragedy that had been inflicted upon Europe’s Jewish population during that conflict. Sartre, surely, did not think that Racism was the breeding ground for anti-Semitic individuals exclusively. He knew there were many different strata of Racism. But because he was a very courageous man, instead of writing some prosaic, academic treatise on the subject which would have blanketed all the peculiarities of all forms of Racism—thereby keeping the author safe and unperturbed in his generalizations—Sartre picked a fight with anti-Semitism and its adherents per se. He was not one to dillydally—as many academicians are wont to do—about matters he deemed menacing to society and which he thought should be nipped in the bud with determination.

According to the grand French philosopher, the linguistics (thought patterns) of the racist are devoid of substance and, therefore, easily engaged in verbal counter-attacking. The adversary of the racist—using serious words because he or she holds to the word and employs them to win an argument against the racist—must respond to the buffoonery of the racist who retorts by trying to discredit the earnestness of the non-racist counter-attacker. The one intolerant seeks to hit back with banter, to intimidate light-heartedly, to displace from normal position or relationship the argumentation at hand. When confronted with the propriety of language, the bigot is afraid to appear ridiculous, incredulous, and he attempts to mitigate the confrontation he is embroiled in at the moment.

Interestingly enough, Sartre points out this characteristic: the racist is often provincial-minded. (Are racists living in metropolitan areas less racist than those living in the countryside?) For example, the anti-Semites he talks about in his book and who were all French citizens, could boast a two-thousand-year-long tradition. They were “glued” to their birthplaces and counted so much on the wisdom of their ancestors, they felt they did not need to be intelligent for the simple reason they had been benefiting from what others of their past had been already doing for centuries. What was there to be learnt! Attachment to their property was paramount to their thinking. Their possession of it was part of the cause of their fears. Their land had not been bought. It had been passed down to them through the centuries. The countrified racist is fixed to his property. He fears to lose it. He is suspicious of others whom he feels might take the acreage away from him. It is very easy for these country bumpkin-like racists to divine plots about usurpation of property by foreign invaders and, of course, the Jew is the classic butt of these ultra-nationalists’ prejudices.

Sartre says there are other ways we can identify the racist. For one, the racist is not inventive; he prefers to keep things as they are sticking to those rules which maintain the status quo. The racist will not assume responsibility for his or her actions because in doing so, his or her bluff will be called immediately. Nor will racists form any faction from which they may be singled out for identification. They prefer to join secret organisations. (The Ku Klux Klan, of Scottish origin, is a hooded group.) Racists will not elaborate any fixed program which might evidence their actions or plans of them. They do not seek legal identity or registration as a legal entity for dread they will be caught sight of. They hide in the dark.

The racist wants to be a disciplined member of an undisciplined group. The little person needs those who can be hated to sustain—as high as possible—the level of anger in his or her being. The racist wants to destroy people, not institutions. The intolerant one is concerned with what is perfidious for him or her, and goes about trying to combat that intimidation. Sadly, the racist is not in search of that which is intelligential. He takes the long, slow road to hatred. As a consequence, the illiberal is apprehensive of himself or herself. The racist is craven.
Sartre makes this observation near his closing: the racist is very much interested in occult powers, magic, irrationality—all things that are intuitive.

Italians are one of the most misanthropic of people in the world. But victims of their Racism and xenophobia should take heart. Italians are, above and beyond, more unforbearing of themselves than they are of any other existing ethnic group! As a matter of fact, Italians despise themselves so much more, they have subconsciously conspired to start eliminating their stirps under the aegis of a methodical, self-imposed demographic standstill that has already ruptured their proliferation more than did the two world wars of this century. A mass suicide is evolving in Italy and hate is the weapon of choice. (Listen to this quote by an Italian journalist: “Ho imparato che in Italia bisogna parlar bene di tutti. Quando dici una cosa cattiva succede un putiferio. La capacità di moltiplicare l’odio da parte delle persone di cui parli male è infinita. Io non odio e non voglio essere odiato. Non voglio mettere in circolazione tossine di malanimo. Questo è un Paese di odiatori professionisti.”) Italy is sinking in the mire of its own vindictiveness.

Let us hypothesize about highly-bigoted individuals, members of the Gestapo and the Ku Klux Klan who, socializing, drinking beers together in a spirit of camaraderie, are rabidly involved in an enthused discussion about which one of their systems of cruelty is better at mastering the domination of victims through the various means of torture and murder available to implement the maddening horrors of the two. The German speaks about the gas chamber, mutilations of body parts, firing squads, and many other systems of abuse. The Northamerican speaks about lynchings, castrations, beatings, slavery, rape, and still more systems of abuse. Both compare notes. They learn from each other. They teach each other better ways to torture and wound and kill innocent people who have become terrorized by them. They drink into the night enjoying their friendship and feel confident in assuring one another that they are accomplishing something for the betterment of this world. Along comes the Italian. He sits with the black-garbed German man and the hooded Ku Klux Klan man. The first thing he wants to say is that he can devise death instruments that are better than the German and Northamerican’s, and that he can kill more efficiently and reap better results. No one can do this work more effectively than the Italian. He is the best at everything. He is also the best at being doubtful about himself. (Schopenhauer: “Il tratto principale del carattere nazionale degli italiani è un impudenza perfetta. Questa consiste sia nel non sentirsi troppo impari a nessun compito, onde la loro presunzione e sfacciataggine; sia nel non sentirsi troppo alti per nessuna cosa, onde la loro bassezza.”)

Italians consider themselves the most furbi of all. A furbo is an individual gifted with cunning. Perhaps it is so that Italians are furbi as much as it may be said that they have endured—throughout their long history—all varieties of invasion, oppression and other national tragedies that have left them particularly sensitive to suffering and obligated to do all needed to survive (Italians sold the virginities of their children, through lotteries, to United States Army G. I.’s—all lined up and hoping to win—during the bacchanalia of post-World War II Italy), or better said: mangiare! Furbizia, the fine art of being calculating, is something of a carry-over idiosyncrasy fixed in the character of the Italian, and it has come to mean, to some extent, a taproot of ability and power naturally lacking in non-Italians. With this ace up every Italian sleeve, inhabitants of The Boot kick their way, frequently, to have their way, to even a score, to put across their point of view. Always, there is present this ratiocination: “We Italians are something special.” No doubt they are. Their opinion of themselves comes across rather anti-climactically for most foreigners living with them because the outsiders know that no one else in the world is particularly impressed with Italian furbizia. Therefore, why should Italians be? (Henry Kissinger: “Voi italiani siete vittima di un’unica, peculiare forma di stupidità. La vostra presunta furbizia. Se ammiraste meno la vostra furbizia, sareste probabilmente i più intelligenti e i più civili.”)

Suppose you are an African from Senegal, a scruffy Albanian from Albania, a Chinese with almond-shaped eyes which distinguish you from your fellow Italians, a Florentine Jew who has spent his life hiding the fact that he is Jewish, an Arab woman with your head covered, an olive-skinned Tunisian, or an Indian who has recently arrived in Italy after being stuffed illegally into the hull of a ship filled with other poor people who have paid their way to come thousands of miles to escape persecution in foreign countries in the East, seeking a better life in Europe…. It is Sunday afternoon and the Franchi Stadium in Firenze (Florence!) is filling up with fans, tifosi, come to see some important match crucial to the overall Class A standings. You know damned well that you better stay a hundred kilometres from that place! And why…?
Well, inside the stadium there is the stench of violence all over the place. Sections of season ticket-holders, grouped under diverse organisations with their blazoned flags or logos, are expressing their pent-up emotions and taking advantage of a unique opportunity: to let it all out against anything caught in the nets of their disapproval and rancor. There are banners with anti-Semitic slogans written on them. There are chants against Africans, Albanians, Chinese, Jews, Tunisians, Indians—you name them! There are Nazi salutes to greet their favorite players. The Mayor of Firenze, the Cardinal of Firenze, the owner of La Fiorentina, businessmen, bankers, lawyers, police officials, doctors, actors, actresses, and the editor of La Nazione, a Florentine daily newspaper, Vittorio Feltri (he who still refers to African people as “niggers” in his columns—just as my mother did in our home!) are all there. They are talking and laughing with other “notable” personalities in the V.I.P. section of the stands. The demonstrations of hate and brute force (by now hoards of combat-equipped police are spraying rambunctious fans with water hoses and shooting off tear gas canisters at them) do not interest the “City Fathers” one iota, and they appear to be so used to these brutish commotions, they do not even anymore take notice of them. In some parts of the circus, more sedate ticket-holders are frozen to the spectacle of savagery, and they remain silent hoping the entire ugly scene will—in some way—just melt away out of their sight. It never does. These more reserved spectators never have even a grunt to voice their opposition to the disgusting shows of dissoluteness. Bocca chiusa. It is hard to find a child among the thousands of gawkers. This is not the place to bring the innocent, nor is it the place to invite your friend who is visiting you from another country. It would be just too embarrassing. What is amazing is that people are not usually killed during these marvels of ferociousness. The loathing is pretty much contained—it has to be or it will not be able to be replayed next time—and instead of breaking bones, what is broken the most is the stadium itself. If you want a fight while you are visiting Firenze on vacation, the place to go is the stadium on Sundays. (Is World War III on its way?)

Oh, no! The referee has made a favorable call on behalf of an opposition player, and all the La Fiorentina tifosi are furious! A rain of coins and cigarette lighters is falling onto the field…oh, no! Thousands of La Fiorentina tifosi are shouting at the top of their lungs: PUT THE REFEREE IN AUSCHWITZ WITH THE REST OF THE BASTARD JEWS! HEIL, HITLER!…oh, no! Someone has thrown a “paper bomb“ onto the field, and La Fiorentina will now be automatically disqualified for the next game. The tifosi applaud…oh, no! Helmeted police are chasing some juvenile delinquents through the stands and other tifosi are throwing anything they can get their hands on at the police…oh, no! An ambulance has pulled up to take away an injured tifoso…oh, no! Tifosi are trying to break the bullet-proof panes of glass that help keep them from going onto the field…oh, no!…oh, no!!…oh, no!!!

The “game” is over. The stadium is a mess. Things are broken all over the place. There are charred pieces of wood and shards of glass as far as the eye can see. The tifosi are energized to go home, to continue in the streets of Firenze their acts of violence. About two thousand visiting tifosi, tifosi of the opposition team, caged in an area with high fences around it, must wait at least half an hour until the La Fiorentina tifosi have disappeared from the confines of the area surrounding the stadium. They will be then escorted, through the streets, in long lines, by the police very anxious to put them on their trains and buses home. Meanwhile, on their ways home, La Fiorentina tifosi are destroying the team bus which transported the opposition players to the stadium. They are overturning cars, breaking storefront windows which foolishly were not boarded, setting fires to garbage disposal units, throwing rocks at passing cars, ripping telephones out of their sockets, spraying windows and street signs with violet paint, and one tifoso with a hatchet in his hand is chopping away at a tree! The La Fiorentina tifosi have a surprise for their opponents who are now entering their trains and buses. About two hundred have gathered near the train station and are positioned, in hiding, ready to pelt the parting train with rocks, bottles, pieces of metal, and anything else they have found not tied down. A Molotov cocktail a few years ago burnt ninety percent of a Bologna tifoso’s body nearly killing him. (The Ferrovia dello Stato spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year repairing damage to trains that have transported football/soccer fans on Sundays.) If you walk a block over, you will see that each and every car in that via has a long scratch on its side etched on by the keys of the La Fiorentina tifosi.

Oh, no! A group of almost thirty La Fiorentina tifosi have encircled two Albanians who happed to be in the area probably unwittingly. They will not be killed. The tifosi know better. However, the foreigners will be spit upon, kicked, punched, and left on the ground in agony. Fellow tifosi have been set at the corners of the streets to warn of arriving police vehicles. Often, the police just watch and let the tifosi run amuck crazed with howling. The faces of the Albanians are white with terror, and they are doing whatever they can to protect themselves—without saying a word. (Let’s ask the tifosi of La Fiorentina how they treat their girlfriends and wives!)

Stadium violence is kicked around so flittingly so. It is subject to long holdings forth by droning sociologists and psychologists and beyond-all-bounds “journalists” and vainglorious civic leaders, but little is done to quell the destructiveness. It has become an accepted fact—an uncomfortable one, but not that much so. The reason? The tifosi blackmail the teams: “Let us rumble and do what we want, or we won’t buy our season tickets.” Other ignoble approaches are employed. They are not bluffing. They are the masses. They are discontented. (Bertrand Russell: “Cynicism such as one finds very frequently among the most highly-educated young men and women of the West results from the culmination of comfort with powerlessness. Powerlessness makes people feel that nothing is worth doing, and comfort makes the painfulness of this feeling just endurable.” Russell said that in 1930, my dear reader!) And in the masses they are supreme. With their banners, swastikas, death signs, paramilitary clothing, flags, Rebel flags of the ex-United States Confederacy, arms, symbols, et cetera, they form “our group” against “their group.” There are leftist and fascist elements in the stadiums. The Italian hooligan expresses a bad feeling, which is generalised, of a dissipated society: Florentine society. They bring their chains, brass knuckles, hammers, cigarette lighters, axes and explosives to blurt out their desire for passion, myth and dreams; but, what oozes out from their nonconformity is their incompleteness, their bafflement. These individuals are empty. They exist to belong to their rustled groups; ridiculous concoctions: Che Guevara Group, Dixie Group, Marxist-Leninist Group, Nazi Group, Bad Boys Group, Renegade Group, et cetera. All their heroes are negative ones. They are the paladins hated by the establishment. The tifosi are nihilistic. They cannot create anything. Violence renders these individuals visible, but they will be violent only in a place which is socially acceptable and where they can hide in groups: the stadium. (Those two Albanians might be killed in the stadium; outside they are safer.) The cowards make gestures at the TV cameras—with their faces erased by ski masks—then escape to hide in the masses. These delinquents believe it is better to transform themselves into revengers in the stadium instead of being nothing. They have no values and they yearn to publicize their insignificance. Should it, then, surprise anyone that Italy is number one in Europe for use of heroin, cocaine and amphetamines? I hope not.

I have compiled a simple psycho-socio identikit of these Florentine monsters for you, and I think it will help to serve to bring you to a better understanding of them and Italy, “the problem child of Europe”—a CNN Freudian blurting out. (Bettina Luscher’s baldness is not the only thing CNN is trying to cover up!)

Their mothers and fathers sacrifice them for their very own ambitions. Italy suffered a great deal after World War II, and grandfathers and grandmothers and fathers and mothers then set themselves the goal to give all they could to their little darlings so they would not have to languish as much as they had to. But, they overreacted by vitiating what they thought was best for their offspring. Italian parents do not impart their love to their children. They give them their thoughts. Children have become a commodity of sorts. No one believes that children come through their parents; they believe they come from their parents. Possession. Children are not heartened to leave the nest; they are brought up to be soldered to the family. It is very common, still, to find unmarried forty-year-olds living with their parents.

Children are taught to oblige. As such, they speak in a monotonous sonance without any enthusiasm for life. They are tense—on the alert to do what they must. The kids are catechised when they are tired and angry. They are loaded up after school with English classes, piano classes, karate classes, swimming classes, ad nauseum. They must do that which their parents did not! Parents platform their children saddling them with their maxims. Schools teach the same boring subjects, in the same boring way. Children are bribed to learn. They are always being corrected, chided. Kids are forever, neurotically, being asked questions; controlled. They are inflicted with humiliation at every turn. The children lack motivation, vigor; they are conformists, obeyers. Apathetic. Passive-aggressive personalities. They get what they want by manipulating for it. They grow into little tyrants. They do not have to earn anything. They are exempt from manual work and that which would require them to partake in some activity they could say they created or invented and then enjoyed. They possess no spontaneity. They have no sense of duty to others. They are taught to have rights only. Possessive mothers, grandmothers, aunts and mother-in-laws condition their children not to love (Visit Firenze’s Careggi Hospital and go to the feeding rooms in the maternity wards. If there have been some births recently, you will find two or three mothers—cigarettes dangling from their mouths—bottle-feeding their newborn. You will also see, in the cloud of contraband MARLBORO cigarette smoke, their mothers and grandmothers and aunts and mother-in-laws brushing off the cigarette ashes that have fallen during feeding time onto the GUCCI sweaters of the mums.) Italian kids parrot the customs of other nationality groups. Others’ clothes, others’ music, others’ ideas. They are not respected. They respect not. They are always riveted to the television or video games’ screen, and they go to study tired of watching television in lieu of going to watch television tired of studying. They are pushed to compete—but not on an intellectual level. Their parents are thinking only about their immediate lives and those of their children. The children are not listened to; they are preached to. The children are given bad example. They are not given love. It is no wonder that these warped individuals seek a violent outlet in the stadium: it is the only place where they can revolt—feel themselves free from a suffocating family oppression. The stadium is the only place they cannot be ensnared.

This sad state of affairs exists today victim of neglect and hypocrisy. It has been incubating for decades, not addressed by governmental, religious, political and economic institutions. As if the quandary did not exist. Warning signals have been flashed time and time again in the past, but no one has ever responded to them. The sickness has spread on and beyond. It is believed by many that the chance for a turnabout is now impossible. Italy is on its way to extinction.

There are many who will not lose sleep over this “fall” of modern, self-indulgent, corrupt Italian society. They will surmise haughtily that Italians cooked this plate themselves, and now they must stew together in it. Italians want to go down, down, down; and, they want to be brought closer to some Final Action. They are destroying more than they are producing. It will not be kind, or just, if Italians are let alone to limp to their Final Plunge. Their problems are Europe’s. Italy is an obstacle to the economic and political stability of the European Union. It needs Europe’s help desperately.

Most interesting are the reasons why this is so. One must stretch the imagination in all directions to draw some precise conclusions. It is incredible that a society that boasts of an almost-two-thousand-year-long history should have found itself in this unthinkable predicament. For Firenze, the responsibility is perhaps even greater for it was here that the seat of humanism was warmed so well five hundred years ago. What can we say about Firenze today? Why has it fallen into such a dismal state? Could it be that the very values of a devotion to the humanities have no sense, no merit? Must we re-evaluate the moral and spiritual fundamentals of Western Civilization that for so long have nurtured our intellects? Is this agony that Firenze is suffering through the result of it coming to an unreal dead end? What can be done to alter this disaster course? Can it be altered? Why cannot the Florentines relate to themselves and their society in a hale and hearty manner? Why cannot the Florentines enjoy themselves, put themselves to that which has a basis in reality? Why are Florentines afraid to seek a new interpretation of their place in this world? Why are Florentines so alienated?

I daydreamed the other day that Dante, Boccaccio, Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo were together in Piazza della Signoria, in front of Palazzo Vecchio, under the same balcony from which Adolf Hitler addressed thousands of roaring, applauding Florentines. These masters of the Renaissance were all screaming in shock: “Who are these imbeciles? Who are these imbeciles? Who are these imbeciles? What has happened to our city? Our art and traditions have been left in the hands of fagged, muddleheaded overseers!” They were overwrought. I was hoping that at that moment a caravan of Northamerican tourists—trekking in slow motion and on their three-week tour of The Old Continent—would float by for Dante and his friends. We could have flipped a coin to see which of the two came off the more ridiculous. Heads, the Northamericans; tails, the Florentines! (From A Book of Aphorisms and Quotations by Anthony St. John: “116. Northamericans have been obtuse for more than two hundred years. Europeans have been obtuse for more than two thousand years.”) Look at the Northamericans! Little fat, flush old ladies and chubby sales representatives (Hey, man! I’m on vacation, not civil rights!) from multinats who have won international sales campaigns, slobbering from one plate of pasta to another, their heads spinning from rich, red wines, subsidising racist taxi drivers, racist hotel clerks, racist waiters, racist travel agents, racist bankers, racist barbers, racist electricians, racist audio/visual technicians, racist stenographers, racist printers, racist photographers, racist display builders, racist translators, racist musicians, racist security guards, ad nauseam. When the Northamericans come to pay their bills, the Florentines smile and kiss them on both cheeks. Then the descendents of the Renaissance about face, up the middle fingers of both hands and, violet with envy of the Northamericans’ wealth, ridicule how “fat, uncultured, and—of course—how terribly dressed are those Northamericans!” (We Florentines must be better than they are!) This disgusting ritual plays itself out time and time again and has been grinding on so for decades. Northamericans tilt home, their cups filled with “culture and souvenirs” and two or three nights fattening up in Florentine restaurants the average Florentine citizen cannot afford to go to.

But let us not ramble further on about stupidity, my dear reader. Let us get one thing clear in our minds: Firenze has the lowest birth rate in the world. There are now about 57,000,000 Italians, and in about thirty years there will be 7,000,000 less—and then 25% of Italy will be over sixty five years of age. Is it not time to come to the rescue of Firenze and, hoping for the best, wish with all our might that Italy will follow suit? Is it not time for the United Nations to send task forces of psychologists and psychiatrists into Firenze to weed out the hatred which is destroying Firenze from within? Is it not time for B-52s to drop How to Raise Children books all over Toscana? Is it not time that we do something drastic to save Firenze from the Florentines? S.O.S. from Firenze! S.O.S. from Firenze!! S.O.S. from Firenze!!!

Three days before I finished this article, I was on a Florentine bus going home, seated at the back with other immigrants. (Just as in Alabama in 1953!) There were five gruff-looking Albanians talking and laughing in their own language. After a number of stops, three bus line ticket controllers entered the bus and they found that, as usual, each Albanian did not possess a ticket. The Albanians had no I.D. cards, and as the ticket controllers wrote out their penalties, the Albanians offered names and addresses which—the controllers said—were false. When the ticket controllers left the going-home, crowded bus, the Albanians took their fines, shredded them into confetti, and threw them into the air. Not one Italian in the bus blinked an eye. They watched with tight-lipped virulence. The Albanians stared back at them—they too—defiant. Not one Italian thought to call the police. To do so would mean that the Albanians enjoyed the same rights the Italians possessed; and, these, the Albanians would never have in racist Italy. Nor would they have a decent house to live in, a decent job to labor with, a decent life to live with decent people.

Firenze is an incubator of xenophobia, racism, and hate. And as such, it is killing itself. Steadily, furtively it is marching to the destra.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. Vittorio Cecchi Gori, Italian Senator with immunity against prosecution, courier pigeon between Vatican “Incorporated” City and Hollywood City, and bankroller of that magnum opus of demagogy and disingenuousness, the film Life is Beautiful, is also the owner of—you guessed it!—La Fiorentina!

La vita è bella? For whom?

* * *

Written by:

Anthony St. John
Casella Postale 38

15 December 1999

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