November 27, 2007

The power of history

We talked about the Italian Sense of History the other day as a dividing line between them and us, "being" and "doing", but where does it come from? In addition to the rich heritage left by ancient Roman philosophers, writers, politicians and orators, modern day Romans also inherited similar daily problems. As they say, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." How true!

Albero Angela, in a book being released today (in Italian), Una Giornata nell'antica Roma (A Day in Ancient Rome), outlines the eight major problems of Rome back then: traffic, noise, commuting time, street filth, housing crisis and high prices, unsafe buildings, uncontrolled immigration and nighttime security. The traffic was so bad that the ancient Romans even installed a sort of ZTL to keep private vehicles out of the center during the day and like today, certain high level public officials had the equivalent of the "auto blu" which they used to circulate not only for work, but also for pleasure. The via Appia and Ostiense were the equivalent of our train station area -- filled with immigrants on their way into the city from the ports of Ostia, Brindisi and Pozzuoli.

When you have been living with the same unresolved problems for nearly three thousand years, change is daunting. To be sure, you have tried it all before and obviously nothing has worked -- the same old problems just keep coming back. The flow of history is strong, constant and like a river wears away even the best of positive and optimistic intentions. No wonder a certain fatalism sets in.

I wonder when a certain fatalism will sneak into American culture? Maybe somewhere between three hundred and three thousand years of history. See you then!

a domani,

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