When I lived in the Netherlands, my landlord welcomed me in the rickety house where I would have spent the next six months chasing mice up and down wooden stairs with the words
"Ah! You're coming from I-taly".
Despite the awful conditions of the house he was renting out, Mr Bhawanie was a chatterbox and a friendly chap. When we had problems with our shower, he tried to fix it personally. He failed miserably, but then was nice enough to lend us a second-hand plunger to unblock the drain and avoid the whole house from being flooded by muddy water.
According to him, one of his beloved daughters was going to marry "an I-talian boy, like you". I couldn't help but feeling sympathetic with Mr Bhawanie apart from when he accidentally started pushing up my monthly rent.
Anyways, at that time my English pronunciation was even worse than it currently is, but all the same I tried several times to correct my landlord by putting many "Italy" and "Italians" in my sentences.
Every time, after a brief moment of dismay, Mr Bhawanie was breaking out with a "Maybe you mean I-taly, you I-talian!". I gave up.
Now, I'm starting to think that my Dutch landlord was a genius.
That "I-taly" of his stood for "first me, myself and I" and then the rest of the world.
This is, at least, the way another Mr B ruled (in his spare time) a whole country in the last years, like a mere extension of his personal short and aging body. And not even the most noble extension, I dare say.
I will not talk that much about him here.
I will not write what our quintessentially I-talian Mr B did and how hard it became being an "Italian" abroad. It will suffice saying that as all the Italian ex-pats in the last years, have never been short of flattering topics they were asked to talk about: fascism, terrorism, mafia, bribes and then finally the man who managed to sum all this stuff up: our
Let's face it. I-taly became a joke. And for many good reasons.
First of all for being represented abroad by a pimp and a corrupt tycoon who considers himself never-failing, attractive and -even worse- blessed by an irresistible sense of humor.
Although reading the foreign newspapers it seems like these 17 years of a nightmare are over, I wouldn't be that sure. What Mr B is if not the living portrait of all the worst vices and aspirations of millions of "I-talians" who wish to set themselves before the others calling altruists losers and being the office kings and the block tyrants of our lives?
Of course, there is nothing bad in being ambitious and success-driven but within some limits, respecting the laws, helping the others, not considering all that walks on this Earth an annoying obstacle to pull down and tread on.
What happened with Italy is that its "I-talian" part become larger and larger, heavier and heavier to carry almost obliterating the majority of those who still work hard and honestly and couldn't sell their parents to the best bidder.
On these selfish foundations a man like Mr B found the perfect soil for growing up, getting power and money by promising many others to share a part of the plunder.
Now that this blotch of a man is on his way to resign (but he will stay around, don't worry) the biggest mistake we could do as "Italians without a dash" is thinking that all of our problems will suddenly disappear. They will not.
That arrogant "I" part of us boosted up by Mr B is still making a mess.
Mr Bhawanie knew it better and I hope his daughter knew it too.
Photo courtesy of Spinoza and The Economist