Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The measure of man

Man is the measure of all things (Protagoras).
It's two hours that I am waiting and who cares if they look at me, I grumble in a low voice while I look for a corner in the mirror to check my hair and adjust my tie. There are several things in the mirror: synthetic material backs showing off branded jackets, legs slipped in linen trousers because summer is approaching, strange structures, vaguely anthropomorphic, to support shirts or sweathers, those ones that must be carried carelessly on one's shoulders, and there, between two pairs of moccasins, there is also my head, my face a little nervous, serious, hopeful.
People stare at me, somebody smiles, others give a nudge with the elbow to a mate to make him look at me, and I know that it's not because for what I am wearing. Dressed or in the nude i am not going to pass unnoticed. I collected some flowers in the nearby park, nothing exceptional, simple flowers that were there, easy to pick up. I don't even know their name.
Will she come? I doubt it, because I know how difficult it is to overcome a fear that is not fear, a shame that is not shame, the most innocent guilt. I doubt and, to win the distrust of the hours spent in waiting I light a cigarette. Now I attract much more the looks of the passers-by. It's always like that. "He's smoking", "He's eating", "He's crying". Anything I do it's always like that.
All of the sudden I look at the bunch of flowers and i notice that my hand, instead of holding, it grinds them, it chokes them with that minimum violence enough to defeat their fragile plant necks. I smile thinking how they wither in such a minimum lapse of time like the flags of an as much minimum and defeated army, and their ragged petals tell me that it's time to start my retreat.
I throw the flowers in the first trash bin and I go away, followed by the looks of the passers-by and their voices that say: did you see how the dwarf threw the flowers away? Did he have a date? With a dwarf-girl? They left the dwarf in the lurch. Dwarves are strange, and other comments on which stature i wouldn't and shouldn't say anything.

Luis Sepúlveda, La lampada di Aladino (Italian translation of La lámpara de Aladino) - English translation of mine.
Some time ago I watched on the TV program "La Vita in Diretta", this interview with Marco Sessa, vice-president of AISAC, Associazione per l'Informazione e lo Studio dell'Acondroplasia [Association for the Information and Study on Achondoplasia].
Usually i am not very interested in this gossip program, but in that occasion it had been suggested to me by a very close person, a mother of an achondroplastic boy, who knew that interview was scheduled for that day.

I'll spare you a search on Wikipedia: Achondroplasia is a genetical disease, a form of nanism. It particularily affects the limbs, that develops much less than the rest of the body (for whomever is interested here is the link.

Besides the medical side and the problem of the architectural feature that denies
access, what surprised me in the interview was the observation of how, although I have a case so close, I have never before considered the humiliation of who is affected by this syndrome. Every time they are mentioned as abnormal phenomena, the dwarf is considered a freak, and that word is lost in insult. I think to circuses, but also to other works of any cultural level (Snow White fairy tale, Lord of the Rings saga, Fantasy Island tv series, the song Il Giudice by De André...).
Or even the implicit offense towards them when they are compared with disdain to Berlusconi (psycho-dwarf), with a bad taste comparable to the one of Berlusconi himself towards the color of Obama's skin (sun-tanned), almost like if the physical stature was some way a mirror of the moral one...

Since that day I am trying to learn to weigh better that word.

Monday, February 16, 2009

M'illumino di meno

The banner of the event
February 13 was energy saving day, organized by RadioDue radio program "Caterpillar", in occasion of the anniversary of Kyoto protocol.
The hosts of the program invited viewers to turn off as many lights and electric appliances as possible for one hour and a half, starting at 6:00pm.
They computed that it had been saved about 500MW, against the 400 of last year's edition, so it was a big success.
Besides private citizens, several associations and public sites participated, such as the Coliseum and St. Peter Cathedral at Rome. The event was also exported in some foreign countries.

Also in previous years, I always thought that this event has a big symbolic value, although a small practical one.
In the 2008 edition they estimated that the energy saving for that hour and a half was equivalent to the electric needs of the entire region of Umbria for the same amount of time. Sounds like a big lot, but, if we carefully consider it, the conclusion is that only Umbria region consumes 400MW of electric in just one hour and a half, so not a big lot at all!
Without mention that if for example one avoids to use the microwave oven during that hour and a half, most probably he will have the need to do it after, using then the same amount of electricity saved.

This year, Maddie, Mr. Bentley, R and I decided to try to do it (to tell the truth only R and I have the authority in this matter). We turned off the lights, the PC, the TV and the other household electrical appliances, also the ones in a stand-by position.
Except the telephone.
And the clockalarm.
And the fridge.
"I go to take a shower", i said... In the dark? I decide to take a candle with me.
Dammit, the thermostat that switches the methane heater for the hot water is electric. Another exception.
I exit the shower. And now how do i dry my hair? Well, i could have thought about it before, now i have to use the hairdryer.
Then i have to take some clean underwear. It's in the cabinet. And the opening of the doors switches a light into the cabinet. Well... could i ever stay in my robe till 7.30?!
After the shower I went out to get a couple of takeaway pizzas. The gate of the condominium is electric driven. The light of the condominium are lit, so are the street lights and the lights in the pizzeria. I don't think the pizzeria itself, even if it has a wood oven, could ever work with no electricity.
I went back home with the pizzas, being very careful not to light anything. We ate by candlelight (which is also kind of romantic, worthy of valentine's eve). Finally we hear the 7:30 tolling from the bells of the nearby church. They are electric driven.

I thought again about it. Saving electricity is very important, but this experience taught me that doing completely without it, although for one our and a half, is quite impossible.
The only thing to do is to use clean sources.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Eluana Englaro and the Light of Truth

However one chooses to believe, it is a tragedy.
17 years ago, a 21 year old girl suffered a bad accident. Then she went into a coma for 17 years, till few days ago.
And then she passed away.
It is sad.
The kind of sadness that should be suffered in the intimate silence of our consciences.
And here i will stop talking about it, in order to suffer this sadness in the intimate silence of my conscience.

But there is another point of view in this case.

Democracy is based on the non-absoluteness of the Truth. Or, atleast, on the unknowability of the absolute Truth.

Silvio Berlusconi
In fact it is evident that if it existed a known absolute truth, also the moral would be absolute. And so, given the absurdity of any immoral position, any politic decision would be already fixed. There wouldn't be the need of any choice. Least of all a popular one.
If every citizen admitted the existence of the absolute truth and recognized at least one physical person as the holder of the knowledge of that truth, the problem of governing a people would be easily solved giving absolute powers to that person. So, we would have a government that not only acts well for the needs of the people, but it would also do that in the morally best way.
Unfortunately (or fortunately?) absolute truth doesn't exist, or, if it exists, we cannot know it. Not even the most integralist catholics would really agree to acknowledge somebody the super-human ability to know it.
And so we have to settle for Democracy.

Our Constitution establishes the foundation of our democracy on a sharp division of the three powers: Judical, Legislative and Executive. Magistracy holds the Judical one, the Parliament the Legislative and the Council of Ministers the Executive one. And the President of the Republic has the task to keep the three powers separate, avoiding that the actions of who holds one of the three interfere with the other two.

Now, i personally don' t like very much that one of the three branches of the state (the Magistracy), that in some way represents the society of the Italian citizens, is called to decide in a case like Eluana's, that instead should be limited to the reserve of conscience privacy and that, i think it cannot be generalized. The issue, anyway, concerns a philosophical and moral field, so it's not absolute. It's difficult to believe that it can have an exhaustive political solution.
In other words, i don't like that the Society decides on a subject that is, and should stay, individual. But that's how it is. Magistracy had been called to decide about the request of Eluana's father to be allowed to pull the plug. And it expressed in a complete, sharp and undoubtful way.

One can agree or not, but it must be adimitted that there is a sentence, and it had been obtained in a correct way. Now, a normal citizen can also rebel, accepting to suffer the consequences of that rebellion.
Also Berlucsoni, as a normal citizen, should have the possibility, and also the moral duty to uphold his disagreement, if he believes the sentence ethically wrong. And, in my opinion, if he really believe it right, also to try to illegally obstruct it.

But it happens that Berlusconi is not a normal citizen. Incidentally he is the President of the Council of Ministers, and he who holds the Executive power should never interfere with the Judical one, unless questioning the foundations of Democracy themselves. In fact, the President of the Republic Napolitano demonstrated this authority so that it didn't happen (refusing to submit the decree-with-the-force-of-law). In the same way also the President of the Chamber of Deputies Fini (Legislative power), well made reaffirming his authority in the Parliament.

Clearly Berlusconi believes himself a kind of moral guide. And he believes that what he considers just is absolutely just. And so he believes that it is licit to impose it. And so, who refuses to accept this moral infallibility of his, must be driven by Evil.
Berlusconi shows this disbelieving look towards who dares to question the certainity that he is right. Be damned all those assassins, communist, coglioni opponents that dare not to accept the semi-divine nature of Berlusconi.

Anyway i don't think that Berlusconi is so stupidly fanatic he really believes to be enlightened of God.
On the opposite, i believe he is really smart. His goal is not to achieve his moral good.
I think that he doesn't even consider the problem that he limits himself to do his own dirty interest. And that he tries to find the way to have carte blanche to do it with no obstacles. No matter what, he smashes the epilogue of the last breath, already seventeen years long, of a dying girl. Or on the reserve of her parents. No matter if to do it he must wipe his dirty ass with the social pact, the foundations of the Constitution, the Democracy itself.

Berlusconi is a wannabe dictator. The only thing, to him, is to find a safe and easy way to obtain the absolute power that a real dictator must have.
It looks we are really close to it, already.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Une Gourmandise

A chef, to be a real a chef, must mobilize all the five senses.

Muriel Barbery
A course must be a joy for the sight, for the smell, for the taste, of course, but also for the touch, that so often drive the choices of the chef and has its role in the gastronomic celebration. The hearing doesn't seem to carry a lot of weight, but it's true that the act of eating is not marked of silence nor of row, because any sound that interefere with the tasting favours or hampers it: in this way the meal reveal itself definitely synaesthetic.

Uncooked tomato, eaten when just picked up from the garden, is the horn of plenty of the simple sensations, a cascade that swarms in one's mouth gathering every pleasure. The resistance of the tight skin just as much as it's enough, the tissues that melt in mouth, the liquid rich of seeds that pours at the corners of our lips and that we wipe out with no fear to make dirty our fingers, that little succulent sphere that pour in us rivers of nature: here is tomato, here is the adventure.

The real sashimi is crisp, yet it melts on one's tongue. It invites to a slow and flexuous mastication that doesn't have the purpose to change the nature of the aliment, but only to savour the aerial "soft-flabby-ness". Yes, soft-flabby-ness: Not softness, nor flabbyness, because sashimi, velvet powder similar to silk, brings in itself a few of both and, in the extraordinary alchemy of its gauzy essence, keeps a milky density that clouds don't have.

The point is not to eat nor to live, it is to know why. In the name of the father, of the son and of the cream puff, amen. I die.

(Extracts from Muriel Barbery, "Estasi Culinarie", the Italian translation of "Une Gourmandise", translation to English by me - here the Italian version)
Uhm... "crisp"?