Saturday, July 30, 2016

The stupid Italian way - "What for?"

First of all I have to apologize in advance, I am going to be rude and ruthless.

I have explained the reasons why I lef Italy in other posts. I thought that there was only one direction for Italy: namely, the decline.

It was not only a matter of economy, Eurozone, fixed exchange rate, de-industrialization, shortsighted policy makers and so on.
You see, the crisis in Italy simply brought to the surface what are some of our worst defects:
1. The inability of looking further than our nose tip.
2. The idea that, whatever happens, we will manage to find a way to move on
3. The idea that, if things get worse, then we will find the best, sometimes illegal, ways to withstand and overcome the difficulties without any  strategy: in Naples, there is a nice saying for this, that goes on like "to go through the night", which means to survive a  distressful night, ( it was originally referring to a woman suffering for delivering her baby). Just have faith.

More in general, in Italy we say "arrangiarsi", one single word that means: "to try to manage something, try to find a short time solution,  that gives you the opportunity of overcoming  temporary difficulties, since nobody is gonna help oyu. You are on your own.".

Just imagine that one year is made of 365 nights and you have to "arrangiarsi"for 365 days running. I think that this would send a shiver through the spine of a Dutch, German, French or Norwegian folk.

I was born in Rome: in Rome, we are typically cynical, ruthless, and with a subtle sense of desperate humor. This is our best resource, and our worst defect at the same time. We have grown up with this kind of idea, that is everything is always the same, nothing really changes. When islamic ISIS sent threats to Rome, menacing of destroying the "cittá eterna", we mocked them: "you are welcome, just try to avoid the traffic at 7.30 in via Appia", or "are you sure you wanna work that hard? what's the point of cutting heads at noon when you can enjoy a cappuccino in Piazza Navona?". Fantastic. I think only romans can answer this way from a kind of threat like that. The problem is that we apply the same approach to everything: "holes in the roads, queues at the post office, etc" We think we can solve anythings with a joke or by mocking the guy in front of us.

When I came here, to the Netherlands, I spoke with a cab driver: he said he had been an entrepreneur, he had owned four bookshops, had several employees working for him. Then, due to Amazon, and internet in general, the customers became scarce. So scarce that he had to shut down the activity. Now he is an employee. He said that if you do not dislike to work, you always find something.  I was in admiration. Respect.

Another cab driver told me a thing that, as an Italian, literally made me drop my jaw.
He said : "you know, Lorenzo, we stole the land of Holland from the sea. So, each time we raclaim land, we do not think to ourselves; and we do not think to our sons: we do that for our grandsons."

Now, the southern Italian side.

My son had to do repeat the same year at school in the Netherlands. When we came, he was five, and he was speaking a broken Italian, not even to mention a foreign language as complex as Dutch: so, he attended the same classroom twice. Together with some other Dutch classmates: in the Netherlands, there is no shame in repeating a class when you are a child: they say that children have different rate of learning and maturity so it is normal. Respect for such wisdom.
That said, my wife spends many hours a month helping our son to learn Dutch properly. Now, he speaks with his Dutch friends, plays with them, go to their places. I am very happy and the teachers told us he has made huge improvements.

There is an Italian child: she is smart, curious, and she has come here form the south of Italy only recently. Since she came here that she was  already 6, she could not repeat the same class, so she has passed to the class upwards this year. Nevertheless, teachers told her parents that the next year she will need to repeat the year to improve her Dutch before going further. No issue: the kid is smart and clever, but she needs to learn the language properly.

Now, she is not studying at home. Her parents tell her to apply. She replies : "what for? I have passed this year". And their parents give up.

Can you see? a smart 7 year old little girl that says "What for? I have passed this year."

Welcome to the average Italian way of the South of Italy.

Sometimes they ask me why there is this story of the Italian genius, who stands above all the others. The answer is simple: the general situation is so disorganized and messy that, if you are valuable, you are more valuable than any other homologous of yours in other countries. That is why Italians abroad are so appreciated, in general, and are successful: they are hard workers, are open-minded, elastic (differently from Germans and Dutches), have sense of humor and they have left their native Country because they were fed up with the lives they had to live and the general sense of "arrangiarsi" that prevented them to fully exploit their potential. In a nut shell, they have exported the best of the Italian attitude and have left at home the "art of arrangiarsi". Once you take the weights off, you are free to fly.

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