The photo of the day for today entitled ’Cold Snap’ was not taken today but before Christmas just past. It was, in fact, taken in December when we were without heating and waiting for our new wood-burning boiler to arrive. I was somewhat shocked to see from the photo that the ice was on the inside of the window! Luckily the new boiler did arrive and has functioned better than we envisaged so the cold snap that seems to be on the way tonight holds little fear!
We have arrived at the maximum disk space available as part of our web hosting contract. As there is no possibility with our current web host to increase the maximum hard disk space available, we need to transfer to another provider. In theory there should be no problems and the transfer of our domain from one host to another should happen seamlessly and be unnoticed by users. However, the truth is that often there is a period when the website disappears for a day or two.
Already this evening, the start of the process was not completely auspicious as it proved more difficult than expected to compile the hosting-transfer web-pages required to kick the thing off. Our website has been going for years and I lacked some important historical coordinates to complete the process. It was clear that if you are in the website business and do tens of transfers weekly or monthly it must be as easy as falling off a log. However when it is for the first time it is more like going over the Niagara Falls in a barrel!
So, if you read this and then find that our site is gone, it should only be temporary (gulp!!). We should be back on within a day with the webcam time-lapse covering the whole of last year in HTML5!
With all the jollity of the Festive Season now only a memory our noses are to the grindstone, figuratively, as we get-on with the pruning of the vines. The days have been luminous, the skies limpid and the sunsets colourful. It is a wonderful time to work outside. But it does mean that in the evenings I find myself comfortably fatigued and all to often give-in to the warmth and cosiness of bed rather than adding to my blog. I did, however, come across some interesting comment in today’s Messaggero Veneto - the Local Rag.
OUR DAILY BARBARISM
[La Nostra Barbarie Quotidiana]
Pier Aldo Rovatti
More than once in the past months I have been asked: “What do you mean when you say "we, the barbarians” I have sought to explain myself, but now, the incredible sinking of the Costa Concordia on the reef of Giglio Island is worth more than any word. Not so much because of the frightening tragedy of the dead, the injured and the missing but more than anything the dynamic of the event, all that happens in front of the eyes, starting with the Captain, called Schettino, that abandoned the ship and his ineffable telephone calls with the incredulous and dismayed officer of the Coast Guard of Livorno.
This Captain, currently under house arrest, is emblematic of our strange Country: not mad, or one who has suddenly lost his head, on the contrary he represents a certain normality, a way of being quite diffuse and such a way, normal and diffuse, is the actual barbarism, at least as I see it. And he is not there by chance or error: his behaviours, his gestures, his words are not of some variable crazyness, we must rather admit they are a mirror of a part of us and in short carry the air of familiarity. By now it is accepted that this bloated ship (a true and proper city on holiday, a microcosm divorced from reality) would ’make a bow’ to picturesque locales that it encountered during its voyage and he, the Captain had done it in person only that he erred in the manoeuvre. It seems that he had called to his side the head cook, originally from Giglio in a populistic urge and for fun, that is the same ethos for that floating city, and that was the reason behind the stunt: festive evening airs, joy sustained by alcohol, the collective desire to joke. They are all there for that, packed in that monster of glass and steel and the Captain personifies perfectly the climate of the situation. He carried on playing his part even when the party had turned to drama and panic. He minimised and didn’t want to know: he didn’t give the alarm, to the contrary he avoided the topic for as long as he could, almost as if he didn’t realise “Get back on board” “ But it’s dark” “They are already dead” “How many?” “It’s you that must tell us. Get back on board. Fuck! It is an order!”
The Captain didn’t return to the ship, already inclined at 90°, climbing up the rope ladder to the prow as he had been ordered. Now they tell us that this Captain from Sorrento always loved adventure and the unexpected, perhaps challenging the rules, such as the time he decide to move from the port of Marseilles with an incredible manoeuvre notwithstanding a storm sea.
It would be too easy to leave it there. It would be more honest to admit that through the barbaric behaviours of Schettino we have a glimpse of a world we know.
When I came to La Faula in 1997, notwithstanding not speaking Italian, I rapidly came to realise that Italy is a madhouse. In 1995 when Luca arrived, La Faula was a property with a tatty vineyard and a large old farmhouse. It had not been a working farm since 1950. In 1958 Luca’s father had bought La Faula and kept it as a hobby-farm.
What Luca and I did was exceptional. We created a viable business where one had not existed for 47 years. The fact that we managed to do it at all in Italy was heroic. Acquiring Italian language drew away a veil and I was shocked by what I saw and experienced. Italy, and living in it, was so far away from my experience of living in New Zealand, the United States and Great Britain that I started to write about it in this blog. Italy, I realised, was the negation of all the key social developments that had occurred in the English-speaking world in the time I had been alive. And Italy was a basic contradiction of the principle that a nation should exist to enhance the welfare of all of its inhabitants and should exist to secure their unalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
But I never knew how the story of Italy would finish, at least in the immediate future. I knew that a country like Italy, based on a lie and where falsehoods are in the very air that we breath, could have no good future. But it seemed to keep on going, even though it shouldn’t have, racking up debts that anyone living here knows cannot be repaid.
Of course, investing in sovereign debt is like pass the parcel or musical chairs. It is fine unless you are the one without the prize or chair. And recently the markets got nervous about being uncovered. First they asked for more interest to reflect the risk. But eventually they will know that loss is certain and will turn away from Italy’s begging cup.
But now I think that it is very clear how Italy is going to finish. The problems that Italy will have in off-loading its debt are not the problem. Just the reflection. Italy’s problem is that it has followed a path of de-industrialisation which must be close to reaching a critical mass. That de-industrialisation has been enhanced through wanton neglect and bad policy.
to be continued ......
Below, with the help of Google Translate, I have inserted an English translation of the 2 January 2012 blog of Massimo Fini published in the on-line edition of Il Fatto Quotidiano. Normally I don’t read bloggers but scrolling the page what caught my eye was the title "Better German than Italian" It caught my eye because no Italian ever believes that it is better to be anything other than an Italian. Italy might be dysfunctional and its politicians corrupt and self-serving but the Italians believe in their own innate superiority as descendants of the Romans, as founders of Western Civilisation, as saviours of that civilisation’s decline in the Middle Ages ("dark ages" in Italian) through the Renaissance. Italians are the inheritors of the Venetian empire not to mention discoverers of America and inventors of banking (hmmm, that last one ....). All around them stand old remnants of their past greatnesses and current structures expressing the elegance and beauty of their architecture, art and design. In history and by form the inhabitants of the Italian peninsular have been capable of astonishing greatness. They took a religion from the middle east two centuries ago and made it theirs then exported it to humanity, and for better or for worse kept it going so that it is today powerful, vibrant and alive.
From the day that Italy was created in 1861 the Italians have been told what a special people they are. So special, in fact, that they were obliged to live together in the Lucky Peninsular in One Nation. So special that having invented nationalism and flush with the thrill of it they threw themselves as protagonists into two world wars. From Catholicism they crafted the temporal religion of Fascism. It caused a lot of problems but they forgot about that.
So it seemed almost unbelievable that a man with the name Massimo Fini could write that it was better to be a German than an Italian. In fact it was. His mother was Russian. Anyway, the blog entry makes a good read!
BETTER GERMAN THAN ITALIAN
We hoped that with the government of the bankers, professors, and others from the Bocconi University at least there would have been granted a reprieve. We hoped that for a couple of years the politicians would disappear from the scene and from our sight, having emigrated, at least for a while, in New Zealand to go and hide under the long-haired and impenetrable merino sheep. But you can not turn-on the TV in the morning, afternoon, evening, without seeing them all still there, Gasparri, Cicchitto, Romani, Romano, Bersani, Finocchiaro, Rutelli and even Ignazio La Russa, to perform, to pontificate, to exchange the usual accusations which they then use to absolve themselves from responsibility, as if nothing had happened, as if the "government of technocrats" (which no other country has resorted to), does not mark the failure of this and not only this, but an entire political class of today and yesterday, say the last thirty years.
And then you realize that, after the brief experience of the Bocconi alumni, it will begin all over again. The only one to keep a low profile is Silvio Berlusconi, who, one must recognize, being intellectually honest, is a few steps above the others. The big guy has become even moderate. He does not attack the judiciary any more. Meanwhile in the basement of the shaky St. Raphael hospital [subject to Berlusconi’s patronage - now bankrupt and embroiled in corruption allegations] someone under the supervision of the criminal Don Verzè [just deceased friend of Berlusconi], is crafting the elixir of life (120 years minimum). Berlusconi works quietly preparing for his triumphant return. He is convinced that the people love him again. And he’s right. In fact, it was not the Italians who threw him out, nor the left with their congenital bloody stupidity who have on many occasions favoured him and will continue to favour him. But it was the Germans. Seeing when the house was on fire and a fire extinguisher was urgently needed, Berlusconi sent instead the impudent "letter of intent" that postponed all indefinitely, hoping, like all his countrymen, right and left, in the star of Italy [that represents the good fortune that is believed to have accompanied Italy in, its many, moments of difficulty].
And who could replace Berlusconi as prime ministerial candidate of the People of Freedom (of crime) now that his best man, Giulio Tremonti [ex-Finance Minister], has gone bag and baggage to the Northern League? Alfano? We do not laugh. Cicchitto? There is a limit even to the more indecent shamelessness. Scajola? It would be possible to buy him, without his knowledge, half of the Prime Minister’s Palace. Berlusconi will be back and say, "I saved Italy for the second time." And to those who ask why, he will say, "I fucked off [translating Berlusconi’s colloquialisms] at the right time, passing the buck to others, to the insipid, boring professor who has never given you such a good time as I gave you myself. And this proves my high sense of responsibility and love that I have for this country of shit which it does not deserve and for which I have sacrificed so many of my evenings [words of Berlusconi]." In two years, Italians, as always says [Marco] Travaglio, a people without memory, will have already forgotten who it was that brought us to the brink of the precipice and will remember instead the joy and revelry that we lived before the Wehrmacht came to put us in line. We have risen high in recent months because we have surrendered our national sovereignty to the German, Angela Merkel. I would bet that it was the " unfuckable lard-arse." [Berlusconi’s words] that did it. The thought that the Germans [may] tire of paying for the slackers from around the Continent makes one’s blood chill. In any case I prefer a Europe ruled by the Germans to an Italy ruled by the Italians.
So I explained to Loris that I was afraid of not being paid by the wood-cutter but that I couldn’t just rush in and treat the guy as if he were a delinquent!
’Of course’ I said ’If we had been obliged to cut the pines by the Forestry Guards in all probability we would have had to pay someone to cut the wood but ...’
’Non voi essere preso in giro’ said Loris inserting the phrase that I couldn’t quite find. Yes, ’preso in giro’, played for a fool, I didn’t want to be played for a fool. In this community being played for a fool is never the best but as an outsider, more than anyone, I have to show that I can avoid this. In Italy when one ceases to be worthy of respect life with the others becomes more difficult, much more difficult. Once one has been well played for a fool, like sharks feeding themselves to a frenzy, there is a risk all will play you this way. Many of our interactions rely on a certain level of trust and if we’re seen to be easy prey there is a real risk of being taken advantage of. Uneasy sleeps he who the others feel able to exploit!
A couple of days later the wood-cutter turned up at our house.
’Here. I’ve got the weight of the wood and according to the size of the logs I have calculated how much I have to pay you for the timber that the logging truck took away the other night’ he said. ’If you’re OK with this I will pay you within the week’
Now, the wood-cutter is young, fit, good-looking and has a very easy way. He is naturally friendly and open. In his dealings with us he has been clear and precise about the terms of our agreement. Given my previous fears, I was, of course, very glad to see him.
’That’s great’ I said when he told me the sum we are due to be paid. I went on ’But look, more than anything I want you to be satisfied with the monetary split between us. You came to me, I didn’t come to you. You proposed the price and I accepted it. You must be satisfied with our arrangement and then there can be no excuse to take wood on the sly or under-report the tonnage you cut.’
’You’ve made the running’ I said ’And I’ve accepted it. If you’re happy, I’m happy. I’m not a dummy and if I find out that you’re haven’t dealt straight with us well ..... well, I’ll have to leave Italy as you will have ruined my trust in all Italians!!’
That was pretty lame wasn’t it? ’I’ll have to leave the country as you will have ruined my trust in the Italians’ That must have put the fear of the devil into him!
In Friuli there is a steady succession of arsons to businesses. Warehouses, tractor depots, machinery all go up in flames. Occasionally there are cold-blooded assassinations. This is life in the North East of Italy. The crimes are never solved. The victims express themselves perplexed and shocked that anyone would want to do this to them. About 100 metres from La Faula is a cute little cottage. It is a meeting point for the local hunters during the hunting season. This year it was done-over and vandalised three times. The owner blamed the gypsies but the gypsies never come to Ravosa.
Vendetta is an Italian word. Through brute force the Italian State has frightened us into not taking the law into our own hands. But that same State has not provided us with an accessible legal system that keeps people honest and makes them respect their agreements. To enter into a financial arrangement with someone you don’t know is, every time, fraught with risk. Honesty in Italy is a personal, not a social thing. And sometimes, for some Italians, justice is also a personal, and not a social, matter!
Carried on from 30 December 2011
A few days later I was comfortably disappearing into the sofa of my friend Loris from the village. In another place, time and circumstance Loris would be a doctor or a lawyer, living comfortably with a good profession. But he was the only male born to three brothers: his father and two uncles. These three brothers and their wives and daughters farmed together an undivided mixed farm of milking cows and cereals. Loris’ arrival coincided with the beginning of mechanisation. The brothers had acquired their first tractor and found it strange and unfamiliar after the horses and oxen that they were used to working with. So it was that from twelve years of age Loris became the tractor driver on the farm. School seemed of little import and his labour was exploited shamelessly. But in those times the world outside Ravosa was very far away and he enjoyed farming and being so key at such a young age. That was his destiny.
Loris is lucky. He really does love farming. And he is good at at. He applies his intelligence well and with satisfaction. Loris has helped us a lot since we arrived here at La Faula. But over time, in some way, he lost the ability to see the world as the Italians see it. He doesn’t have a computer or internet connection. He lives at home with his mum and the outside world arrives through the distorted and partial world of Italian TV. He doesn’t even see so well so reading is a real challenge. But he has a clear, clear mind and he can apply logic and think rationally. He is not prone to magical thinking and he does not defer to the apparent wisdom that flows from self-serving Italian opinion formers who so lazily and effortlessly find a following audience amongst the ill-educated and ignorant who are pretentiously gratified to find that by unthinkingly adopting the facile ideas of others they too can be intellectuals.
So when I find myself with a knotty problem of an Italian kind I discuss it with Loris. He is my insurance against crossing some unseen cultural line or taking a risk with the ways of another people that could bring home problems.
to be continued .....