Monday, 10 October 2011

Hell, net & freedom

Recently I'm reading again an (the?) Italian classic: Dante's Inferno.
I loved it back in high school. As everybody else in Italy, I spent quite a good number of hours in 3rd grade reading it and writing comments and paraphrases of it.

My Italian literature and history teacher, prof. Castellucci, was amazing. She wouldn't read us Dante: she would declaim it, each class a performance, her desk as the main stage.

It was not possible not to be completely enthralled by her. Whatever she picked to read us was a gift and I still believes it's all thanks to her that I never considered Dante an homework.
Things were to change the following year, when we moved to the Purgatory and to a different teacher, that didn't think poetry (or any other type of artistic expression) was as important as the ministerial program.
But back then I was blissfully unaware of the fate waiting for me in few months and, after finishing the homework, I normally kept on reading, into the next chapter, just to see how the story was evolving.

About ten days ago I was unpacking my boxes into the new flat, listening to some songs, and in less than the infamous 6 degrees of separation, I found myself thinking about Dante.
And about Pier delle Vigne, in the forest of suicides: one of my favorite part of the whole Comedy, I started reciting it. But then disaster stroke:

"Men once we were, and now are changed to trees..."

Than my mind went blank. I couldn't complete the verse.
The more I tried to recall the words, the more they seemed to slip far away from my reach.

If I were back in Italy I could simply go and check the book. My school book is still in my mum's studio: just go, pick up the book off the shelf and satisfy my curiosity. But I was in Harlem, so I googled it.
Later in the day, I realized I was curious again: I downloaded the free ebook from Project Gutenberg and started reading it.

Right now I'm reading a little bit every day. Progress are quite slow I might say: partially because my old Italian is a bit rusty and because every line seems to bring back some memories of my teenagehood, so I feel I need to stop every 2 or 3 verses.
The biggest challenge, as Stefano pointed out, is however to read it without foot notes. It's a complex opera that can be read from so many points of view and has references to many historical figures and events, mentions and hints about the political situation of middle age Italy. I figure this reading will bring with itself a massive refresh of medieval history.

Yesterday I started Canto III: ""Abandon all hope, ye who enter here", as my mum would say back then looking at the state of my bedroom.
I like this chapter as it talks about the "ignavi", i.e. the uncommitted, the souls of people that didn't take a position in life, neither for the evil nor for the good.
They are refused entrance even into hell and, as punishment, they have to run behind a flat, while being stung by hornets and having their blood and tears drunk by maggots. 
When I was 16, my first reaction was: "Bet Tarantino is so envious he couldn't come up with something like this first!"

But aside the jokes about pulp fiction (literally, no pun intended), something else remained with me: the notion that you can try to live in blissful ignorance, shut yourself out from the problem of this world, but shit will eventually catch up with you.
Not taking a position, no matter the reason why, is something you will sooner or later pay for it.
If Dante's Inferno were true, than the uncommitted army must be full of Italians that kept their eyes averted from the history in the making, thus setting in motion terrible consequences for the country, its people and the world around it.
However sometime Italians decide to act, even though at first look it seems hard to find a positive side to this rather sad and worrying news.
Italy is probably the first country where Wikipedia website has voluntarily gone dark for some days to protest against the threat posed to freedom of speech by the so called "Wiretapping Law". Doesn't it feel nice when Italy still manages to do something never done before by any other country?
One of the points proposed by the bill is that, if a blogger publishes information considered to be defamatory (or better, considered to be defamatory by the subject of the "alleged" defamation), the blogger will be forced to print a correction within 48 hours of publishing the offending post or pay a fine of €12,000.
Italian Wikipedia posted a message on the main page and Wikimedia Foundation supported the protest. I think Jimmy Wales, one of the co-founder of Wikipedia, explained it the best.

If Dante's Inferno were true, wikipedians (? Is there a better way to call them) are definitely not going to end up among the uncommitted.
Something less to worry about I guess, which is quite good, because if this law passes, Italy will have something else, something quite important, to fear about.

As of now, the bill still stands and the dangers coming with it too. It's not just about the freedom of bloggers, the whole bill puts in dangers the rights to free information and free press (and Italy, according to a recent survey, is already in quite bad shape). Not to mention the threat posed to the judiciary system that will see its investigative activities limited by the bill.
Next Wednesday the Parliament will vote again. 
Can a bill override some rights that are guaranteed to Italians by the Constitution? Well I guess that since part of the government refuses to march on Rome as it's too south, they had to start somewhere else.
48 hours, even less than that, to the vote. The amount of time that would be given to any blogger to print a correction, else pay the fine.
I think I know where Dante would put the people that proposed and voted for this bill, Prime Minister first. I bet it would get quite crowded. It's called Antenora. It might be the last time I can write it.
Then I won't be able to say it.
The next step would be to not allow me to think (it).


  1. Brava, Virgi! Bravissima! "Lasciare speranza" indeed, to those who won't take a stand one way or another. You and I may not agree politically on certain points, but at least we say what we think.

  2. I agree: as long as we're both free to say what we think, there is no danger, as we're both able to stand our position and get along at the same time.
    Wish I could say the same for nowadays Italian politicians: in the moment you don't agree with them they only shout and insult. Very mature indeed.