Sometimes, jokingly, I tell my girlfriend that for Italians there is no such thing as ‘other people’. They’ll run you off the road when you want to cross the street, they don’t move an inch for you on the sidewalk, and an Italian lady was the first ever pedestrian to cut me off while we were walking around on a street market. Gli altri non ci sono.
When I compare the Italians around me to my Dutch fellow countrymen, it has to be said that they are not half as loud or as blunt, and that kids here actually are being raised, as opposed to the Dutch habit among some of creating some sort of anarcho-liberal environment for them in which anything goes. Italians however don’t seem to care much for other people. You do not want to have a heart attack on a street here – they’d probably just step over you.
This weekend two Roma girls – Roma as in “gypsies” – drowned near Naples and ended up on a beach full of sunbathers. Covered with towels, they were left there for an hour until the authorities picked them up. Almost none of the bathers moved an inch – people were seen having their goddamn lunch next to the two unfortunate girls.
It doesn’t help of course that the girls (11 and 12 years old) were zingari – the Berlusconi government is doing their utmost at the moment to cultivate the mistrust of Roma: special nomad crisis managers have been appointed in some cities (for what crisis?) and last week their plan to fingerprint all Roma kids went to the European Parliament, which rightfully denounced it as a discriminatory measure. According to the government, however, it was a humanitarian plan and now minister Maroni (Lega Nord – a far right, Northern Italian separatist party) has launched an initiative to make all unregistered Roma kids citizens of Italy. It looks as if he is setting the scene for another episode of the Stolen Generations – the period in Australian history which saw indigenous Australian kids or ‘Aboriginals’ kidnapped and brought to white foster homes.
But it’s worse. In his statement, Maroni does not fail to mention that kids are being “abandoned” and have a “tragic future”, because “we know some are used for the illegal trafficking of human organs.” Yep, that’s exactly what his statement needed to add clarity – a grossly generalizing, unproven and downright racist slur against a powerless, deeply impoverished and defenseless minority.
Like any right-wing government, Berlusconi’s coalition promises a safer country. It’s painful to see how they are hoodwinking the Italian people into believing that the victims need to be held in check to achieve that. And with all that talk of Roma treating their kids badly, I am sure some are already planning the next firebombings. Historical parallels of rather a different nature than the Australian one above are jumping up from the newspapers these days.
Sometimes Italy makes me very, very sad.