Minnesota Musings

Unbecoming Italy

By March 28, 2020 April 22nd, 2020 No Comments
Unbecoming Italy

These days I have been self-sequestering. To pass the time away I have been watching television shows. Perusing the list of recommended shows I stumbled across a 21st century Italian mobster drama called “Gomorrah. What I found fascinating, as I worked my way through the first season, is the context in which I was watching it – the corona pandemic. This was a few weeks back when the pandemic worked its way into the fabric of Italian society mowing down and any all inhabitants that happen to be in the way.

Reading stories online about the spread happening so quickly in Italy, I was seeing why firsthand in the mob series. Italians touch and kiss one another with abandon. And a large part of Italians live in close proximity in dilapidated, what I assume to be, low-incoming housing and buildings, at least that’s how the creator’s of the series portrayed it.

I hesitate to use the word ghetto, but it was an unexpected sight, and not my image of Italy. Italy has always been one of architectural beauty and art. Think Venice, Rome and Florence. While they are beautiful places to visit, there is also the reality of life in other parts of the country. Like most other countries in the world Italy has created a myth to make us believe.

Our beliefs are created by images, experience and what people tell and do not tell us. Beliefs, while a part of all of us, are fluid and change over time as reality works its way into us. As I see the images of squalor in the outskirts of Italian towns on the TV show, coupled with the spread of the pandemic and loss of life due to the way in which the Italians live, my beliefs of the country change. This is not a bias against Italy, rather a reality check of my own beliefs so that I do not hold on to them so tightly. We all have beliefs, the trick is not to hold on to them letting them change with the context, time and experience.

The pandemic is shedding light on our beliefs as they begin to change. One other example, my country, the United States, the country that voted a president in on the phrase “MAGA.” I will not go into this phrase in detail as I have written it about it in a previous blog. I will say that the myth and beliefs around the American dream, we are seeing is less possible. However, people are holding on to this dream. How? By going into personal debt. The cost of living in the US is staggering, yet people are willing to forego this reality and allow themselves to live paycheck to paycheck. It will be even more unattainable in a post-corona world.

This is the death of the American dream. It hasn’t been nor no longer be possible as Americans are coming to realize they have no savings to last them past the next paycheck. The government safety nets that used to be so readily available are less so. The cost of health care is so high that many forego even getting it. And higher education for many is far out of reach without going into massive debt.

The beliefs of America and Italy are changing. These are not anomalies, they are the realities in just about every country. I don’t mean to assume that the beliefs are negative. Some countries have risen to the occasion. Germany for example has done a decent job for the most part. The same cannot be said of each and every country in the world.

I can say that as I write this now, Saturday, March 28th, we are on a voluntary lock down in Japan. We are on the brink of a potential explosion of infections. Just last week I wrote about why Japan has dodged a bullet. And in less than a week my beliefs, rosy as they were, continue to change.

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