Thursday, July 22, 2010

There's something wrong with Italy


I don't speak or read enough Italian to be able to tell you anything more concrete, but there is something seriously wrong with this country.

And while it does not manifest itself in quite the same ways as That Thing That is Wrong with Britain, it is every bit as serious.

What do I mean?

Some time ago, I wrote a somewhat muddled post about how the British are forgetting who they are. I compared it to a novel by Ursula le Guin in which an evil wizard had torn a hole in the fabric of the universe in an attempt to live forever. All the cultural memories of all the people of Earthsea was draining out through the hole, and the people had forgotten their history and how to raise their kids. They had become bestialised by this terrible spell, and it was all so that one man could cheat nature.

What is happening in Italy seems to be different, on the outside, but there is something about it that smells like that.

Nothing, of course, can ever stop the Italians from being Italian, and the rot has not gone so far as it has elsewhere because the time when Italy was still a mainly agrarian, Catholic society is still within living memory.

Last winter I went with a group of friends down to visit Monte Cassino, and we stopped by Fossanova on the way home.

And I keep having the same thought: What happened to the Italians?

We drove through some towns down there that looked like they were sets for a Mad Max post-apocalyptic movie. I've lived in buildings put up by Italians in the last ten years, and they fail even to perform the basic function of shelter from the elements. The extreme crappiness of current Italian construction is legendary. How did they get from Fossanova to the apartment that fails to keep out the rain?

And what's with the 1.3 birth rate? I'm told by people with kids that the Italians are still nuts about them. That you can't push the pram down the street without getting mobbed. So why aren't they having any?

But there really is one thing above all others that creeps me out. That gives me chills in July.

It's that...

this man is the most popular "opera singer" in the country.

Aren't the Italians supposed to know when a man can't hold a note?

I mean, heavens. It's embarrassing.



Anonymous said...

If you ask me, the Holy See can pack its bags and head out to Manila and the Church would be none worse off. (If that happened, the Cathedral will be packed to the hilt every day, and will only get more and more packed with each successive generation).

I mean, the Church of Antioch moved to Damascus 800 years ago and no one complained (but mainly because, you know, The Muslims).

But who am I to say anything, since my sympathies lie more with the Orthodox and I'm Filipino.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

800 years ago, the visible head of the Catholic Church did not live in either Antioch or Damascus. He lived in Rome.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

...and BTW: please see the commbox rules, linked below on the sidebar, on the use of pseudonyms.

Zach said...

Well, the papacy did have that little side-trip to France... how did that work out for everyone?

Fr. Hair Tonic said...

When I lived in Rome, we had two theories about the Thing That Is Not Quite Right with Italy, one tongue-in-cheek and the other more serious.

The amusing one is that the real Romans, still having some remnant of military genius, figured that if the barbarians were coming from the north, then the north must be mostly empty whilst the barbarians were sacking Rome, and so they snuck off to Germany in the dead of night and became the modern Germans, while the barbarians became the modern Italians. Although 5 minutes with a history book would quickly debunk this thought, it explains a lot about German and Italian engineering and efficiency. Pity it's not true.

The more serious idea is that the Italians are heading toward voluntary extinction due to their famous addiction to La Dolce Vita now being untethered to any religious sensibility that once served to govern it. A report was released while I was there claiming that Italians as an identifiable cultural group would cease to exist in about 100 years due to the current birthrate. The general response of the public was to shrug and say they'd be dead in 100 years anyway, so why not enjoy the present. Several young women who were interviewed added that kids cramped their style, were too much work, took away from their ability to have fun, etc. Once upon a time, a family would have been viewed as one of the desirable goods of a comfortable life. Now, it seems, the Italians have absorbed the siren song of selfishness, integrated it with their own notions of the good life, and taken it to the logical, albeit sad, conclusion. Without the Church as a guiding force in Italy any more, all one can do is enjoy some gelato and wait for the Muslims to take over, I suppose.

Ingemar said...

My name is Ingemar, my email is funnibunney -at- hotmail -dot- com. Just so you know I'm not hiding.

We're going to disagree on the Pope vs. concilliarity thing, so I'm not going to expend any more energy on it.

However since "Christendom" is no longer interested in preserving its traditions, its unborn and has basically outsourced its faithfulness to little brown people with Barbarian tongues, I'm just thinking that the Church may have to make yet another paradigm shift.

Just like how the Bishops of Rome used to be illiterate Galileean fishermen or slaves.

Gregory said...

Not fair. I am not a huge fan of Boccelli myself, but the generation of opera fans for whom Beniamino Gigli was THE tenor and Gino Bechi was THE baritone used to say the same things about Pavarotti.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Like they used to say on Highlander,

There can be only one.

Young fogey emeritus said...

He's been rightly described as not an opera singer but a helluva wedding singer.

- John Beeler

Bearess said...

I live in a bubble. Who the heck is that singing? Is he paralyzed? Is he propped up on a stick at the front of the stage? I've never seen a more passionless, boring and uninspired (and uninspiring) rendition of Nessun Dorma.


(My email masks my name. It's Elisabeth.)

liberanos said...

After decades of degenerate wailing and growling into microphones you expect standards of culture?

It's not just Italy (or Britain). Who is building & creating for eternity?

The only good thing is that all this shabby stuff will come down as easily as it was thrown together.