By Kristján Ketill Stefánsson (A teacher and a member of The Left-Green Movement in Iceland).
Between the 23rd and the 31st of May 2009 my girlfriend and I had the opportunity to drive around East and West Liguria. We stayed in Levanto, Genoa and Menton, France.
In this short post I will try to describe some of the things I found fascinating and scary in comparison to the Nordic / Scandinavian reality I am used to.
We started our journey in Reykjavik, Iceland, on a typical cloudy, rainy, day with temperatures 9 degrees Celsius. After a brief stopover in England we landed in Milan in 32 degrees and not a cloud to be seen (they were probably all in Iceland).
Already at the car rental the first thing I noticed was that Italians do not seem to respect the Scandinavian virtue of waiting in a line while others are being served. This was an ongoing theme whenever we needed public services at tourist information offices, car rentals etc.: Italians serving other Italians while the foreign tourists waited patiently.
The same law seemed to go for the traffic. When I drove in an aggressive manner (for my taste) others gave room for me in the traffic. Careful behaviour was not tolerated.
We reached Genoa that evening and got lost in the narrow and steep one-way streets. Desperately I put down my map and asked an old Italian lady where we could find our hostel. She said that she lived close by and she could join us and show us the way. A wonderful thing to do but would probably never happen in Iceland.
For the next three nights we stayed in Levanto and took the trains and walked between the five villages of Cinque Terre. The landscape and the villages are beautiful with the terraces olive and lemon trees, and steep cliffs plunging into a clear and bluegreen sea. In the evening I read and tried to watch some of the famous nationwide TV channels controlled by the Prime Minister himself [Silvio Berlusconi]: Italia 1, Canale 5 and Rete 4.
These channels all seemed to broadcast brainless reality and game shows that seem to concentrate on degrading women into stereotype sex objects. Very disturbing to think that this giant instrument to form public opinion is being used by the Prime minister to lessen critical thinking of the public and withholding a masculine and sexist society.
The elections for the European Parliament where coming up and we saw posters from the different political parties both in Italy and France. In Italy we came across one of the the most disgusting political message I have ever seen in my life. A poster from Lega Nord (North League, LN) stating that native Italians will be driven from their country by the immigrants like the native Indians in North America. To my horror this sick and xenophobic party managed to get 10.2% of the vote into the European Parliament and as much 28.4% in the region of Veneto.
I love Italy, the food, the art and the people. The people of Italy seem to want the same things as people in Iceland. To have food, clean air, peace and the secure notion that their children will enjoy at least the same richness in life as we do today. I met many lovely Italians and shared long meals with them. Three things disturbed me in the way some of them phrased their English and all incidents had to do with people of foreign origin.
1. The first thing was how the immigration of women from Ecuador to Genoa to work in taking care of the elderly was considered the
first "flow" of immigrants. Were there no immigrants in Genoa before? And is a flow not usually a bad thing?
2. Another thing was the statement that the craft of building the legendary terraces of Cinque Terre are now lost. In my foolishness I pointed out that I saw a number of men building and maintaining the walls while walking there a few days earlier. The explanation was that the ancient craft was now in the hands of Albanian immigrants and not native Italians. Are people of Albanian origin not worthy of becoming Italians?
3. The third thing was more general in nature. That was when talking about diversity many Italians put “the problem of” in front of the word. Is diversity the problem?
If we are going to build a sustainable world for our children to live in social injustice must be fought in every corner of the world. Italy has only kept 3% of its promises for developmental aid in Africa (all.Africa.com). At the same time Italian companies are being caught dumping dangerous waste into African waters (tlaxcala.es).
Wake up Italians! Wake up from the sleep of post-fascist propaganda and save Italy before it is too late. Do the world a favor, take active part in politics and say Good Bye to Berlusconi.