The Corona Crisis in Italy
by Francesco Lamendola
FromRome.Info’s English translation of the original Italian article, entitled:
PUBLISHED ON MARCH 24, 2020
We must “thank” the Coronavirus because, in this emergency situation, finally things have become much clearer: it is in moments of crisis, in fact, that the naked truth of people emerges and you can see who is made of wax and who is made of flesh and blood.
We thought we were living in a democracy. Now we have discovered that a Mr. X can close Parliament with a stroke of the pen and lock up sixty million people at home, and no one dares to say “Bah!”: no one, from the President of the Republic downwards. Not even Mussolini had gone that far. We observe, incidentally, that if Salvini had still been in government, those same people who now invoke the state of necessity, dura lex, sed lex, would have started squawking like ducks, denouncing with loud shouts and fiery words his attack on democracy and establishment of a dictatorship.
We thought we had a public health service at European level, for which we pay top taxes, and we discovered that we had a Third World health service, with a number of beds, intensive care equipment and even antibacterial masks for medical and nursing staff, ridiculously inferior to the needs of an emergency situation. Which objectively is not particularly dramatic: we are not in the presence of a pestilence, but of a slightly worse influenza than usual and which spreads faster. So the drama is not the virus, but the total unpreparedness of our health machine, dismantled by two decades of frenzied cuts. It’s like discovering that when war breaks out, the army has the troops and even the cannons, but not the bullets. It is called lack of foresight and it is not the fault of the Holy Spirit.
We believed that science would tell us what to do and how to evaluate an epidemic, but now we see scientists arguing furiously with each other and threatening to sue each other because of what they say, because of the assessments they make about the health emergency. It has been understood that in the final analysis they are in charge, it is they who make the decisions for the good of the Italian people, in their unquestionable judgement, and not politics; but there is discord among them, and so we ask ourselves: to which of them should we lend faith? It is impossible to find an answer: if disagreement reigns among the technicians, what can we understand, that we are not technicians?
We believed that the forces of law and order and the army existed for our protection and for the defense of our vital interests; that their institutional purpose was to protect our security against criminals and against possible external aggression. Now we find that they can be used to control us, to fine us, to denounce us, to treat us as criminals for committing the terrible crime of leaving home to go for a half-hour walk, or to go shopping with our wife who, perhaps because of her age or for other reasons, does not have enough strength in her arms to take home bags that are too heavy or a box of food. We discover that it is also a crime to take the car to pick up our daughter at the airport, who returned from abroad after a thousand difficulties, with a special flight organized by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, but remained blocked due to the absence of trains, physically and psychologically exhausted by the total lack of information and the closure of hotels, which forced her to spend a night in the open air: that the Carabinieri can stop us, impose a huge fine and trigger a criminal complaint against us.
We believed that the Catholic Church existed to give us spiritual comfort, to administer the Sacraments, to strengthen the faith in us, especially in times of particular difficulty; and we discover that she has been able to tell us absolutely nothing comforting, she has left us without Holy Mass, without the Eucharist, without Confession and even without funerals, all on the grounds that we must protect public health by avoiding mass gatherings. In this way we discover that the clergy has declared faith in God useless and totally commits themselves to science in order to seek salvation. We also note, in passing, that the same pope, the same bishops and the same priests who were preaching to us every day with their prayers of welcoming migrants, not to mention the environment, climate, plastic and biodiversity, have not been able to say a single good word to us, a single spiritual word, nor have they been capable of the smallest gesture of welcome and mercy towards us, the sheep of Christ’s flock, dazed and frightened under the hail of psychological state terrorism.
We believed, because we had been told to boredom, that borders are a very ugly thing, that we must let in anyone who wants to, break down walls, build bridges, embrace the Chinese and toast with an aperitif that Milan is not stopping, and so we would have shown those racists, nationalists and populists who talked about quarantine and closing borders; but instead we have found ourselves immersed in a nightmare of which we can not see the end, in which the other has become a danger, a contagion, a enemy to be kept at a distance, to be treated only with gloves and a mask. Now they no longer speak of kisses and hugs: these have become an attack on public health and a provocation to doctors who are committed to the point of exhaustion to wring death from hospital patients. It was not well understood when the change of course took place and when, for example, those governors who minimized and were astonished because some of their provinces had been included in the initial “red zone”, and announced that they would demand the revocation of these measures, began to preach and invoke ever more rigorous, ever more draconian measures, and sting the government because it does not do enough, is not strict enough, does not multiply the prohibitions and does not tighten the sanctions for transgressors. The fact is that this radical change has taken place, and it has taken place under our noses: but with such a suddenness, with such dexterity, that perhaps not even a magician or an illusionist would have been able to do better.
We thought we had a government that could not have been worse: unelected, unwanted, largely minority in the country, morally and politically discredited from the beginning for the cynicism with which it was done, putting together two parties that hate each other and that until the day before had spilled over avalanches of mutual contempt; but to have, on the other hand, a strong and constructive opposition, of centre-right parties, with clear ideas and two young leaders full of determination and initiative, capable of interpreting the true feelings of the Italian people (let us not speak of the third, the living corpse [Editor’s Note: Berlusconi] that insists on scheming for the interests of the ECB, as well as its own, like a Trojan horse); and to have, moreover, a gentleman in the role of President of the Republic, to act as an honest referee in the unpleasant and rigged game that is played between government and opposition. We have discovered, instead, that there is no opposition, because the self-styled opposition has, if anything, started to compete with the government, showing itself to be more realistic than the king and calling for even tougher emergency measures and police measures: as for the rest: no difference in method and approach to problems; no ideas, no grit, no nothing. As for the President, we have discovered that he is not at home.
We believed that the European Union would show, at least on this occasion, some of the cohesion and solidarity that we have always been promised and magnified, but which we have rarely seen at work; that at least this time there would be, on the part of the other Member States, some cooperation with our own, invaded first and most strongly by the virus; that negotiations would be suspended for the much controversial ESM, that the ECB would promptly grant a soft loan to Italy, or at least that it would hasten to cut the interest on the loans it will need to face the blockage of its economic activities and much of its industrial production. Instead, we have seen France insulting us and mocking us with outrageous and racist videos; Germany withholding medical supplies for itself and even requisitioning Chinese masks already purchased by an Italian company, in transit through its territory; Austria closing the Brenner Pass with the army and Slovenia interrupting the transit of Alpine crossings with stone barriers on the road; and as icing on the cake, the President of the ECB calmly declaring that it is not her job to keep the bond spread low, and automatically unleashing, with such words certainly not said at random, furious financial speculation that in a single day has burned 70 to 100 billion euros on our stock exchange.
We also believed we had, despite the overall disorganization, some of the brightest, freest and most original intelligences in the world, both in journalism and in culture and science. Instead, we discovered a flatness, a conformism, a disconcerting mediocrity in each of these fields. Journalists and intellectuals have literally competed in laying down on the most banal opinions and, coincidentally, on the indications and recommendations of the government, unconditionally approving the line of rigor and repression, adopting the opinion of the most alarming biologists, and contributing to spreading panic among the population with the utmost zeal. It is also true that only the politically correct points of view have found and find space in the mass media of national importance: if someone dares to express an opinion considered heterodox, he is immediately silenced and marginalized, as we have seen in the case of Vittorio Sgarbi, who is not used to be intimidated. And yet, perhaps by turning to the social media, we would have liked to see at least some of the great names in journalism and culture asking the power the uncomfortable questions we all want to ask: is it logical to quarantine sixty million people to protect a small part of them? Would it not have been more rational and easier to quarantine the latter? And does it make sense to impose the same restrictions and limitations on the municipalities most affected by the virus and those who do not register a single suspicious case? And why does the Prime Minister systematically choose the hours of the night to announce any new package of anti-accounting measures, while always remaining vague and never giving precise indications and a clear time limit? We are the only country in the world, including China, to have adopted such a line of containment and prevention, which means that national life is almost completely blocked: are we really the best and the most intelligent of all?
However, the most bitter and unpleasant surprises, let’s be honest, are not those that come from outside, but from ourselves, both psychologically and spiritually. Psychologically, we thought we were discreetly prepared to face the difficulties and the unforeseen events of life, and above all to come to terms with the idea of our mortality, and instead we discovered that we were totally unprepared and totally, irrationally terrified of the possibility of getting sick and dying: even if the numbers say that, so far, practically nobody has died only of Coronavirus. We have locked ourselves indoors, and we call for even stricter measures, and we watch our neighbor go out for a walk with his little dog, not so much because we are afraid of the fine and legal penalties, but because we are afraid to die. It is true that television, our almost only resource in times of quarantine, does its best, or its worst, to terrorize us, attacking us around the clock with an obsessive hammering on the epidemic and using hysterical and distressing tones. We, however, were prepared to let ourselves be influenced to the maximum, because we had unconsciously developed a sort of claim to immunity from disease and death. Which, without a doubt, reminds us not only of the lifestyles of diabolical consumerism, but also of the betrayal of the former Catholic clergy, who have long ceased to preach to us. Remember, man, that you are dust and in dust you will return, to milk our ears with much more melodic and soothing refrains, made of goodness and mercy at a kilo, in the style of the former Argentinean bouncer indecently absent from the chair of St. Peter. Spiritually we have realized the weakness, not to say the inconsistency, of our faith, if Catholic, and of our lay points of reference, if not believers. We have realized that we are fragile and frightened like children: because when the knots come to the comb, one discovers what a man is made of; and we have realized that we are made of wax.
Who knows what good may come from all this. It will not be an automatic thing: the hashtag #ItWillBeAllRight is nonsense, if understood as an automatically effective incantation. Trials do not make people better, if anything worse, if they are not lived with the right disposition of spirit. We must reconvert our lives from frivolity to seriousness, from unconsciousness to awareness, from superficiality to reflection. We have to go back to wondering who we are and what we are doing in the world, why we are in this world.
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