Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Letter from Rome

This just in from my dear friend Joelene, who I have mentioned and had as a guest blogger a few years back. She is still living in Rome with the Italian voice of Homer Simpson. Recently, I asked her about how the whole PM-getting-a-statue-thrown-in-the-face thing was going, and if there is an Italian satire show to mock him:
Italy is as hysterical (in the Latin sense- not "ha ha" hysterical) as ever. We're in for at least three weeks of constant media coverage of this whole Berlusconi getting hit in the face thing. Already there are so many conspiracy theories (Italians are way worse than Americans in coming up with conspiracy theories). The latest one is that his bodyguards were paid off by the leftist party to let the assailant pass through to get to Berlusconi.

I don't know, Italy is such a beautiful country with an amazing culture-- but sometimes it feels like it's in such a mess organizationally and politically. You know what it is? It's oppressive! I don't know if all of Europe is like this, but here in Italy you really feel the weight of a government that seemingly exists only to collect taxes (seems like they do absolutely nothing to improve infrastructure, education, culture, etc.), a social hierarchy that leaves people with little hope to get out of the "class" into which they were born, and a bureaucracy so useless and complex that even completing the most mundane task is near impossible (try paying an electric bill!)...and the high cost of living with low paying jobs. I can't even tell you how many stories I've heard about people trying to start up something positive here and running into government bureaucracy that ultimately shuts it down. The nurse at my dentist's office was telling me about how her class in university started a dental education program for little kids, where they would visit classrooms and teach kids about dental hygiene (which there is a HUGE need for, since nothing like this exists in Italy and since the "dental care" of your average Italian involves letting your teeth slowly rot until you're 50 years-old so you can get a whole set of implants or dentures). She said they were forced to shut the program down after just one semester.

So there you have it. You know, on days when I miss the US it's usually because I miss the freedom of hopping in my car and going to the bank or going to the grocery store. Stuff like that becomes really difficult here in Rome between the traffic, no parking, and weird hours (everything closes from 1:30pm to 2:30 with lots and lots of exceptions-- for example, the butcher doesn't reopen until 4:30, apparently there's some historic explanation as to why butchers need a three hour break).

To answer your question, no, there's no Daily Show equivalent here, which is a shame because they would have sooo much material. That's another thing, everyone's so paranoid here that they're afraid to bad mouth the government. There is this show called "Hyena" that does some pretty good investigative journalism- -they're always doing exposès on some type of corruption of the system. One time they showed how easy it was to walk into the public courts building and rifle through files and literally walk out the door with stacks of confidential documents.

Ah, "La Dolce Vita." Sounds kinda sour to me.

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