Today is that rare thing on my blog, a multimedia day. But of course I’ll just post links, not (gasp) actually embed anything in my precious text. Someone told me last week that this song reminds him of me. Here are the lyrics:
They heard me singing and they told me to stop,
Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock,
These days, my life, I feel it has no purpose,
But late at night the feelings swim to the surface.
Cause on the surface the city lights shine,
They’re calling at me, “come and find your kind.”
Sometimes I wonder if the world’s so small,
That we can never get away from the sprawl,
Living in the sprawl,
Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains,
And there’s no end in sight,
I need the darkness someone please cut the lights.
We rode our bikes to the nearest park,
Sat under the swings, we kissed in the dark,
We shield our eyes from the police lights,
We run away, but we don’t know why,
And like a mirror these city lights shine,
They’re screaming at us, “we don’t need your kind.”
That’s Southern California all over. Why else did we run away? But where do you run to these days? Bucolic Italy where the grass is always greener and the countryside is a Never-neverland of castles and grapes and beautiful sunsets? Well, yes. But the modern world is the modern world, even when Italy gives it a peculiar and elegant twist. Courtesy of my husband (who didn’t actually tell me this song reminds him of me, but did send me the link) is the Italian version of urban angst. In English, the lyrics would run roughly like this:
Hurry to school, hurry to school
Or they’ll make you repeat the year.
Study hard, don’t do drugs,
And they’ll teach you
What to buy, what to think;
You need to be free
To become a beautiful, greedy woman
Who’s never satisfied . . . never.
Hurry to work, hurry to work,
Or they’ll catch you.
You have to sweat, you have to risk it;
They’re watching you
To take your place and reject you.
You need to stop for a moment
Your whole life long, down the long road
That never ends. And you don’t know it.
But here no one understands us.
We’re just so many pieces of stardust
Living together, tormenting ourselves,
Always humble, always humble, always humble.
My friend, the one who sells tea, says
That to make it you have to be creative.
It’s enough to just think about it.
He sells his package of happiness
To the “noble” men,
Those who don’t know how to do anything,
But they know how to spend and to live.
I have a neighbor, a little old woman
Who lives next to me.
She’s worked for fifty years
And has nothing for herself,
Not even a husband to console her
When she feels fragile.
She lives alone, she talks to herself,
And she’ll die like that, alone. Alone.
What’s the difference? I suppose the Americans see the system as a sort of nameless, faceless, inorganic thing that nevertheless grows and chokes out everything else, leaving us with only meaningless jobs and then “mountains beyond mountains” of shopping malls to spend our empty time and money. The Italians see something more sinister, or at least more calculating, behind it all. The “noble” men who will teach us how to become compliant workers and consumers are really only in it for themselves, while the rest of us toil away like robots, supporting them. Do you love the cockroaches and black cords? In Italy, political options appear to be limited to fascist, communist, or anarchist. What I’d like to know is who stenciled all those Darth Vaders along the Arno outside the Uffici museum in Firenze. Whoever they are, I’m with them.
And what do we do about it? I guess the majority choose compliance, but for the rest of us there are as many solutions as there of us. Goats and chickens in the countryside was one way, but it wasn’t quite enough for me. I’m still trying to find out what is. In search of a dream to call home, you know. For me, I like a drastic change of scene. Somehow, when you’re suddenly surrounded by people who all share assumptions different from yours, you’re forced to examine not only their assumptions, but your own. It may just be the next best thing to the elusive, impossible objective point of view.
Carrying two passports gives you two simultaneous, valid, and irreconcilable points of view. And what do you do with that? Well, what does not kill you (as Nietzsche reminds us) makes you stronger. Somehow, in Hegelian fashion, an abrasive conflict eventually begets an almost magical synthesis, composed largely of, but also transcending the two original elements.
Hm, this may all be getting a little too metaphysical. I’ll just say that one of the reasons I love living in Italy (as a first choice, but really almost anywhere other than my origin) is that it’s easier to analyse what “everybody” does and decide myself if I want to do it than it is when I’m surrounded by all the same prejudices and habits I grew up with. As a foreigner, I have no choice but to not fit in, so I can skip over the social agony of making choice after choice to be different. That clears my vision to focus on how I really want to do things. Maybe you don’t have to move halfway across the world to do that, but hey, it works for me.