Sunday, November 25, 2007

Staying Alive

I walk into the dim-lit bar with a mild, soft jazz music in the back. It's around 10 p.m, the place is crowded, and outside, on the same block, someone was using fists as an argument. "Is there a phone in here?" I ask the young, suspicious looking bartender. A raucous voice comes from a man with a cap pulled on his eyes : "Yes, there is, but its coin-operated". "Good, I have the right type of coins".

I may be a newbie, but I know my mission and how to get around. They take me to the Boss, the Godfather sitting with his feather snake babe in a private lounge surrounded by red curtains. The lights are low, and from underneath that hat I can barely distinguish his face. He explains the rules of the game and I give him my part of the deal as a sign of loyalty for La Famiglia, while the babe takes my picture in order to give it to my hunter. I know I'll have to fight for my life and stay alert for the next three weeks.

I depart. Outside, under the cold November rain, a guy is waving a menacing baseball bat. Now I'm in the game, fighting for my life, and I know that in the end there can be only ONE.

I'm afraid paranoia is bound to take its toll on me as of next week, since I signed up for a real-life Mafia game.What's it about? The game is called "Sicario" (the name of an Italian Mafia killer), and once you join it you're supposed to search for your victim, while also being hunted yourself. When you find your target, you have to shoot it with party spray and take up its objective.

Mission is: STAY ALIVE!

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Strike a Day Keeps Loneliness Away

Strike! Strike! Strike my bike!

Who hasn't gotten up one day to catch an Alitalia flight and rushed to the airport in his fluffy bunny pyjamas just to discover in disbelief that the flight had been cancelled for a general stewardess/air traffic controller/pilot/men in charge of slicing the prosciutto strike? Seems like there are many a good reason to cross arms and cease work, and it's very rare to see someone disagreeing over it.

In fact, it looks like strikes and mass street protest have the miraculous power of bringing together people that would have never dreamed to coalesce otherwise. The green haired teens and the hardened proletarian fighter, the pilot and the bus driver all have something to say against someone else who's not listening.

The ATM (public transport) strikes in Milan are regular, once a month. The strike gets announced with due timing, two weeks before, but no talks in order to avoid it seem to undergo. It's just plain fatality, like the icecap melting: nothing to do about it.

This Friday I caught the last train home, and I seemed to be on a streetcar named desire: violence and promiscuity about to burst through the kids' yelling, dogs barking, sardine-like cramming. Grateful to ATM for those splendid moments of true community building, I thought that we should declare a national strike day once a month, as a means of community reconciliation.

Think about it! Nothing as good as a strike to make you love thy neighbour and get in touch with your true self while you feel the taste of your liver squeezed between two very edgy, square, stylish Gucci bags. A strike connects us with our inner side, reminds us that we're humans traveling side by side in 2 square meters with another hundred of sorry fellas. Sympathy just comes natural, unless homicidal intents don't work their way first.

By the way: the strike reminded me that I really miss my tamed bike. Whomever accidentally found it, please bring it back. It's under medication.

Did you live to tell? When and where was the last strike you attended? How did it go? Comment it here.

Monday, November 5, 2007

What's in the Can, Man?

Following an early- bird conversation with a Chinese friend (thx Shan) over coffee and sour cheese for breakfast, I took a stroll in the Milan Chinatown and ended up in a store buying food that I don't know how to spell.

I also bought this can of... of.... the opinions are divided. I say it's soup, someone else says it's juice... Can you help me out? You have 10 days' time to vote, after which I'll open it and taste it. The lucky guesser gets a special prize. So, hurry up with the POLL. Identify yourself with the comments to this post !

Needed But Not Wanted

10 million immigrants in Italy within 20-30 years’ time according to a report published by Caritas- Migrantes, if the growth rate maintains the same standards. The number of foreign legal residents on the Italian territory amounts to an overall 3 690 052, with a 6.1 % contribution to the GDP and a total of 1.87 billion of euros of paid taxes; immigrants in Italy are now helping pay the pensions and boosting the welfare system. They certainly are needed.

At a superficial level integration in Italy is not difficult, since according to a research by Makno 85.9% of immigrants are satisfied with their life in Italy and the welcoming they receive. The main reasons of discontent are the difficulties in finding a house and a job, which is why we can speak solely of superficial integration. We may consider it as an extended form of the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) phenomenon, likely to occur in times of radical changes (although NIMBY is generally used for new constructions, see for example the TAR manifestations). We all know it is necessary and that it should be done, only that it would be better if someone else handled the situation. Are immigrants wanted?

Immigration is regarded with circumspection by the natives, fallen under the syndrome of the civilized assaulted by barbarians, to which the media reports add their own mystique of stereotypes such as “the Romanian homicide” or “the Morocco rapist”. A report published by the Italian Ministry of Internal affairs underlines how the percentage of regular immigrants under police report was barely 6%, while irregulars had significantly higher incidences of arrests- even 68% in the case of petty theft- correlated probably with their being irregular and therefore not easily controllable in the first place.

The real numbers do not appear helpful when it comes to media mythology and collective imaginary. The adjectives seem to be too scarce to describe the emotional impact of a crime perpetrated by a foreigner, and a newspaper such as Corriere della Sera proves all too lenient in its abuse of opinionated epithets such as “incredible escalation of crimes perpetrated by immigrants from Romania risks to feed new phenomena of xenophobia against Romanians”. The media as agenda-setters certainly do contribute to the instauration of self-fulfilling prophecies and consequent racist behaviour against entire ethnic groups.

What should be added to the debate issued these days consequent to the attacks from and against Romanians is the respect of the principle of universal legality, according to which everyone should be equal in front of the law irrespective of their provenience. An immigrant must respect the laws of the place he lives in just as much as he must respect those of the home country, and on the other side the welcoming country should enact measures strong enough to act as deterrents to all offenders.

The solution is not simple, as the flow decrees meant to normalize the incoming of new Eastern European workers can generate feelings of “second hand citizenship” from the new enters, eager to affirm their full rights as European citizens also on the extended European job marketplace. The sole certainty that we have is Italy’s transformation from a country of origin to a country of destination for immigration, and that a major consideration and increased participation in public life for its new co-inhabitants can only be welcome.
What's your opinion about immigration in Italy? Is the immediate expulsion law accurate? Will it have any effect? Comment it here.