In Italy we’ve been doing what comes naturally, the complaint. For us complaining is a mono or dia-logical outburst over the impatience that comes from seeing that nothing goes as it should… day by day. The problem is that often we do absolutely nothing to change the situations we don’t like. We must also say that we’re very self-critical: when some progress occurs, we aren’t able to see it, but this is the other side of the coin…
It usually starts in the morning. It could be a bus that doesn’t arrive (and then it arrives so packed that you cannot enter). Simple things that you must complain about. Or more complex. As an advertisement for another, shameless, “free job,” the new oxymoron of the new Millennium. It continues in the afternoon, when you maybe go to the City Council to present a new business plan and they tell you: “nice idea, but you cannot do it because it’s not provided“. But maybe for this reason it’s “new”… and you realize the suffocation. It finishes in the evening where somebody in a square complains about the total garbage of empty bottles, glasses and anything else on the steps of an old fountain, but – toh! – he/she has left the same shit on the floor. While someone else has just seen his home or shop destroyed by a flood or an earthquake, again and again, inexplicably because nothing has changed between then and now. Just for not caring. While the real people (who acts out of the gobbledygook) goes ahead through gritted teeth, feeling more and more abandoned.
So we can say that Italians have many and good reasons to complain about. Almost daily reasons, repeated, that would drive anyone nuts. Because it’s in the repetition of what is wrong that complaint grows and thrives. The first time you could be able to think “well, it’ll be better next time”. But it’s always the same. In this way complaint multiplies, becomes dialogic, the typical bar / bus / long-lost friend kind of talk. Transforming real reasons in stereotyped chatter, ending with an inexorable “in Italy everything sucks“.
But (there’s always a but) here is where the paradox snaps. Italians complain about because other Italians have made some mess. So we constantly complain about ourselves. But without doing anything to change. Otherwise we won’t always be here to practice complaint. And so on. A vicious circle that seems to stuck Italy in apathy and paranoia. I don’t believe in the bullshit that we’re divided in good Italy and bad Italy. I believe most in the average-man. But the fact is that we are all Italians and all responsible for what we do. From morning to evening. Today a friend and colleague posted: “And so on in the era of professional carelessness“. I just thought: it’s true.
I remember an old comic, The 12 tasks of Asterix. The eighth was an improbable ride in an ancient Roman public administration’s building, already monumental, the “house that makes crazy”. The test “just” consisted in requiring the A38 pass. “Among endless series of references and forms, Asterix and Obelix find themselves on the verge of a nervous breakdown, saved only thanks to an intuition of Asterix. He decides to ask at a desk the new (non-existent) A39 pass: this request has an unsettling effect on employees and officials, who go crazy of their own bureaucracy”. Asterix – that now understands how things work – goes directly to the Prefect, met along the hallways, and finally gets the pass.
One day I “dropped by” in the municipal registry tunnels myself. In fact I spent a whole morning, up and down the stairs, like Asterix and Obelix, looking for offices and non-existent employees on vacation; compiling improbable wait-lists, with names written by pen on loose sheets; resting on benches that divided corridors. It was like being in an occupation. All this because rumors were saying that they would have called us, “But they who? I can’t understand!”. “Until the bitter discovery – although you feel it increasing under the skin – that you were waiting in the wrong row. In the meanwhile nice women in their miniskirts pass on, thanks to those who understand the situation: “for me it’s like home, sweety, if you take this corridor, you’ll find a door after a closet, see it? Talk to that lady, relax“. Only to find out, really at the end, an even more bitter reality: “look, it was simple, you just had to go to that office and give this sheet”. In fact you ask at the ground floor: “Excuse me, where is that office?”, “Which office?” is the answer. “Simple”, tragi-comic reality. Ah-ha.
Maybe there’s a way to ensure the toxic cloud of complaint doesn’t swallow everything in Italy. Simplifying. Former prime minister Matteo Renzi promised it, but nothing has been done again. It’s important that Italians spend less time to get angry and complaining. Giving them, us, the opportunity to freely open ourselves to our potential, so we’ll cease to complain. It’s simple. A virtuous circle.