(Apologies for the mixed metaphors there but I thought “that ship has sailed” would be too brutal in the circs.)
So to recap, while the real life ship was going down, all through the horror of the botched midnight evacuation, the queasy, German expressionist daylight images of this huge broken toy thrown against the rocks next to the tiny harbour, all through the feverish media speculations and the viral U-tube clips of the – by now surely - most public dressing down in history, (translated here but without the expletives unfortunately) I was away from the office to my alternative place of employment, for my monthly dose of what feels like playing table tennis with a drunken but hyperactive octopus.
Therefore this story of Italian cowardice and ineptitude, followed by the tiny resurgence of some national pride thanks to Capitano Gregorio De Falco, (a man so damn upright and just plain wonderful that even as he was tearing strips out of Schettino, the farcical fugitive ship captain, urging him to “get the fuck back on the ship, for fuck’s sake”, never strayed from the polite/formal “lei” third person form of address) sort of passed me by.
I was aware of it, but dimly, lost in the background noise to my round of meetings, followed by cascades of contradictory emails, resulting in a cacophony of several more conversations conducted in second and third languages, and hastily scribbled to-do list for when life in the regular office begins again.
Catching up with the sorrowful tales of the survivors on a two days old newspaper on the train back home I was struck, as usual in these cases, by the casual spitefulness and vengeance of the god I do not believe in, so vicious to his own flock. The devout, retired couple from some US backwater who raised a large family and never had a penny and were now soooo looking forward to trip to Europe: dead. The nice woman who let the wheelchair-bound passengers get ahead and into the lifeboats: dead.
And another thing: It’s so hard to do good and so easy for things to go to shit, have you noticed? It’s as if some sort of moral gravity force was a play: after weeks of pushing tiny incremental changes laboriously uphill, an economic reform here, a sober press conference there, the new, grey haired, dark-suited Italian PM had nearly managed to make people forget for five whole minutes what a country of chancers and scoundrels we are. But it takes a tanned imbecile a moment’s stupidity and a long night of cowardice and arrogance for this to all come crushing down.
Maybe I’m feeling particularly despondent because a person I really respect quit her job this week in exasperation and disgust: years of pushing tiny boulders uphill, with few results, against increasing odds, eventually got the better of her. All that effort, what for? You may well ask. She did and stopped pushing and the boulders are crashing back down even as I write.
It helps, I suppose, to have a sense of humour and not to be too afraid to laugh through the tears.
My compatriots are now buying t-shirts emblazoned with a myriad of variations of the De Falco’s outburst: “Pay your taxes, for fuck’s sake!”, “Get in the queue, for fuck’s sake!”).
Mild mannered intellectual husband, who I have missed more than words can say, has just cooked a celebratory dinner. We are celebrating the fact that I’m back home, not from a death cruise but from an ordinary working week which had its share of banal evils for both of us, that we are together, alive and make each other laugh.
Tomorrow boulder-pushing resumes as normal. Tomorrow we have to – as Capitano Gregorio De Falco would no doubt put it- “get the fuck back out there” and do our best, probably pointlessly, against ridiculous odds.