Among those things that really get on my nerves there’s a special place for stereotypes.
The French are rude, they can’t speak English and only eat cheese. The English have bad teeth and stiff upper-lips. The Irish are red-headed religious fanatics. The Scots are stingy. The Welsh, well, they have sheep, you do the maths. The Germans have no sense of humour and smell of beer and Sauerkraut. The ‘Merkans are overweight rednecks, thick warmongers who have no whatsoever sense of style. The Canadians are dead boring. The Russians are alcoholic communist spies who murder their enemies via polonium-210 injections. The Chinese are copycats. The Japanese are neurotic workaholics. The Arabs are either belly-dancers or bombers. The Spanish are loud, wine-drinking bull-fighters. And the Italians…
Ah, the Italians are dishonest, possessive and fashion-addicted pizza freaks. And mafia members, of course. Each and every single one of us, even my two-year-old niece, she’s actually the boss of us all, Al Capone was a nobody in comparison, she’s into money-laundering, she hides money in her potty!
But of course!
So, reading articles about Costa Concordia on foreign press today really caused me a nervous itch: for every Christian Science Monitor journalist out there who feels delusional just because Capt. De Falco «is balding and, in uniform, looks more like the maitre d’ of an exclusive restaurant on the Amalfi Coast than a swashbuckling heartthrob» (the reason why “heroes” should have tons of flowing hair on their head is beyond me. Surely you’re thinking of Fabio what’s-his-name on the cover of romance novels?) there’s a Salon interviewee stating that «the reputation of the Italians, frankly, is that they are sometimes a bit casual».
Well, why, thank you.
Stereotypes and reputation often go hand in hand, especially when referred to quite a few million people who happen to live in the same nation. It’s not even a matter of «bella figura», despite Beppe Severgnini’s claims on the subject, it’s just nobody — British, French, Spaniards, Germans, Americans, Japanese and Italians alike — likes being portrayed as something different from what they are for real. If one of some of my fellow countrymen do something wrong (or something right, it’s a two-ways thing, at least for me.), why should I or anybody else in this country be considered equally responsible for what they did? We’re not all «a bit casual», nor cowards, nor mafiosi as much as not all Americans are fat nor all Brits have bad teeth. I’m fed up with being considered a thief because somebody else in my country has robbed, or dishonest because somebody else here has cheated.
So as much as we don’t want to be considered a bunch of jesters just because our former Prime Minister is one, now Italians don’t want to be considered cowards, nor «a bit casual», because an Italian man freaked out and didn’t do his job, causing a major accident and the death of quite a few people. And we don’t want to be considered heroes, either, just because another Italian man stepped in and helped rescuing other people. Besides, Capt. De Falco himself stated he’s no hero, he was just doing his job. He is right. And we’re just grateful he was in charge and did his job, stepping in for someone who wouldn’t do his. He looked like a hero to us for a few moments because, after having seen for ages people not doing their jobs and getting away with it, just seeing someone properly doing their job was like a breath of fresh air, even in such a dramatic situation. Then we realised that’s how things should *always* work, so all we can say is grazie, Comandante De Falco, thank you for having done your job.