Rome did not fall in a day. Italy will not, either. Italy is falling apart at the seams. Wherever you look you see the symptoms of an Italy in dissolution – materially and immaterially.
River beds and sewers are stuffed with debris…there are fissures in foundations everywhere…roofs leak in offices and homes…flood walls are in ruins…in the autumn, Italy becomes the Land of Landslides…cigarette ashes are on the floors of hospital delivery rooms…cockroaches scurry about on the surgical wards…coffee cups are contaminated with microbes…Italian cars begin to fall apart only months after they are purchased…telephone, electric and gas bills are Russian roulettes…trailer trucks zoom through residential areas and spew black smoke in the faces of children…cars are upped on sidewalks, cracked and broken…one arrives at an airport or train station asking not when departure time is, but how late the plane or train is…public telephones are mostly disconnected and/or vandalised…streets and highways are impregnated with breaks and holes…lights in buses and apartment hallways are lit in the middle of sunny days…monuments are crumbling; or, air pollution is corroding them…downtown areas are gas chambers…school bathrooms and heating systems often do not function…there are not adequate sports facilities for children…stamps come, frequently, without glue on their backs…Swiss ladies have clauses in their health insurance policies to escape in an air ambulance flight to Switzerland if they become ill…banks offer 5% interest on savings then, after a month, decrease the interest to 2% without advising depositors…crooked churches threaten to collapse…construction sites—left abandoned for years—dot the countryside…floods, then droughts, damage crops…filth is in the air and on the ground…stadiums are wrecked habitually by acts of violence…hills are polka-dotted with garbage…supermarket shelves often are missing products…television programming is the worst in Europe…thousands of companies are in debt or going bankrupt…fountains are clogged with scum and refuse…repair work is shoddy…trees and plants are dying whichever way you rivet your eyes…urban planning is non-existent…public places are pervaded with tobacco smoke…motor scooters zoom to a standstill…STOP! signs are GO! signs…ad infinitum…
Rivers of photocopied sheets—blown-down to spy size—accompany students to their examinations…thirteen-year-olds, during final exams, ask to be excused to go to bathrooms where they cellphone their mothers at home to get the answers to perplexing questions…software, C.D.’s and video-cassettes are replicated illegally with aplomb…politicians burp on television…prices keep rising; nevertheless, newspapers report inflation is under control…no one knows what the public debt is; they are afraid to hold it in view…children go to study tired of watching television and playing computer games…Italians are intoxicated with illegal and legal drugs; every Italian home is equipped with a mini-pharmacy…there are no qualified workers to content hundreds of thousands of job openings…Italians are the most over-weight people in Europe…they are dressed to kill: the most elegant bankrupts in the world…they are, according to the International Monetary Fund, the most dishonest in the European Union…singers steal music from others…every third mille lire banknote is a fake…the cost of a cup of coffee keeps going up; nonetheless, the size of a coffee cup keeps going down…kids go to school, defy all in authority, call a strike, order teachers home, and when they are asked why they have walked out, they respond defiantly: “We don’t know. But, we know we must do it!”…business is good—for the few…La vita è bella—for whom?…Italy is spinning its wheels—going nowhere…from the mouth of a nine-year-old Florentine girl: “When I grow up I want to live with Alessandra. But, please understand we are not lesbians.”…from the mouth of a forty-year-old Prato bus driver smoking while driving: “I’ll smoke wherever the **** I please.”…from the mouths of thousands of Veronese calcio fans screaming in delirium: “WE HATE EVERYBODY!”…”Of course, that is stupid. But, it is Italian stupid!”…television audiences are paid off to clap at the right moment…games are fixed…players are drugged left and right…banks lend money in excess of legal interest rates…ad nauseam…
Dr. Annan, is it possible that Italy—in via di estinzione—will be the first “Wall Street” dynasty to fall after The Fall of the Berlin Wall? Is it possible that Italy—corrupt and unreliable—will be called one day “The Venezuela of the European Union?” Is it possible that Italy—bending over backward to be something it is not—will implode upon itself much the same way Venezuela imploded in the faces of Henry Kissinger, David Rockefeller and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.? Is it possible that the Post War and post-Post War stranglehold on Italy will one day blowback(implode?) upon Washingtonian blowhards (imbeciles?)? Is it possible that one day it will come to be that the United States and The Old Soviet Union managed to sting each other to death—like two scorpions in a bottle—in their quest for global pre-eminence, with their savoir faire to breed resentment all over the world? (Who cares about Venezuela and Italy? Do you?)
Quo vadis Italia? Quo vadis Europa? Le Nouveau Moyen ge?
I beg you, M. Secretary General, to help Italy come to its senses. In April of this new year, Italy—well on the way to coiling itself up in the armor of hate, xenophobia and racism—will be again called upon, at another fork in the road of its turbulent history, to choose the best passageway. That election promises to be one of the most important in the last fifty years of the Italian political drama. Italy has in its hands the power to legitimize a dangerously ill-conceived rightist movement—ready to metastasize as the worst of any cancer may and succored by fringe elements, bent on loathing, in other European states living under the threat of economic and political instability. Will the fatal choice be made to hand Italy over to a demagogic squad (Berlusconi’s) brimming with vituperation and squashing tactics? The consequences for all of us would be tragic. Italy’s march to the extreme right must be thwarted by all individuals who respect the principles of democracy and who admire all others who differ from them.
Mr. Anthony St. John, a former American, contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from Italy.