Daily Archives: August 10, 2011

A Tale Of Two Cities

"Celerini" wait to get into action, June 1960, "Tambroni" crisis.

I grew up in Rome, Italy, in a typical middle-class environment.

Compared to the standards of today, money was certainly not there in great quantity. No one felt “deprived” because he didn’t have luxury trainers, or a smart mobile phone.

Life was very simple, and utterly straightforward. You had people responsible for you (these were your parents), and they were the ones in charge of teaching you order, and discipline, and answering for it to the nearest judge. Most did their job rather well.

My father was on the sterner side of the average (I come from a family with a proud 100% Fascist background, mind; where Law and Order were written very large, rather than being a mere slogan).

As a child, I knew that punishment was not a possibility, but a certainty and in fact, I can’t remember one single instance where the threat wasn’t, when necessary, swiftly followed by its execution.

As a result, punishment was almost never necessary. Like many other fathers, mine mastered the art of deterrence at the start, and this made his life much easier ever after.

Parents were always present. They were really there. Being Italians they were, so to speak, everywhere. The idea I do not want to say that they might not know where I was, but that I might do the unthinkable  (like, say, opening the fridge without authorisation, or speaking when commanded to stay silent) was just not seen as belonging to this sphere of existence.

I can’t say to you that it was always pleasant. I still keenly remember my desire to grow up and be an adult, in order not to be commanded around. To me, Adulthood was a magical state, the bearer of the most delightful of gifts: to be able to decide for yourself.

Still and in all that, I can’t say that I felt, one single day of my life, neglected or unloved. I still remember the day I discovered – already at University – that there could be sons who did not feel loved by their parents. To me, this was something you read in tales, not something happening in real life.In real life, a child feels loved as inevitably as he can see the sun. Dear Mary, please remember this when my parents’ hour comes.

Duty. Order. Obedience. Discipline. I wasn’t even aware of being raised with these values, so natural they were, so practised around me all the time. And make no mistake: whilst I am graced with what must be the best parents on Earth, millions of other Italian families behaved and raised their children in exactly the same way. I saw that everyday, in the tales of my school comrades punished for rather trivial offences (which today wouldn’t even be considered such: answering in a cheeky way, say, and being sent to bed without dinner); and today I see in it a typical Italian trait, the remarkable social uniformity   among families. My friends were carbon copies of myself, their parents very similar to mine, an extremely constant  (with the benefit of hindsight) set of family values was shared everywhere.When a German friend of mine told me “you Italians all think the same way” I didn’t initially understand what he meant. Now I do. You’ll be surprised – and perhaps terrified; your problem   😉   – of how many Mundabors there are around.


At school, things were very clear. When you passed the threshold, you were – legally – in another realm. In this realm, the teachers and the Frightful-Commander-in-Charge, the Headmaster,  held all the power. And they took it seriously. Behaviour  (“Condotta”) was considered most important, because there was enough common sense to recognise that without that, nothing would follow.

There was none of today’s human rights crap. A teacher could take a pupil by the ear without causing any idea that this might not be in the natural order of things. Many times I have heard the ruler snap, and many more I have seen the teacher walking around with it in his hands. Whilst its use was, in the end, rather seldom and more threatened than effected, when it was used the event was duly noticed.

Things happened, which to today’s sloppy generation of teenager-like apprentice parents would seem outlandish: tomb silence on demand, anytime; proper way to pose questions and answer them; no swear words whatsoever in front of a teacher; people actually absorbed knowledge, could read and count very properly, at 10 years of age in the worst cases. Even in middle-school (11 to 14 years old) a vulgar answer to a teacher would cause one to repeat the year: the fitting punishment for daring to do the unthinkable, and showing a clear sign of a subversive mind. I’ve seen it happen in my own class.

The older teachers complained about the relaxations of the customs, and the old system that was in place quando c’era Lui, “when He was there”. “Lui” being, for the record, always the same person. Tales of corn grain, mainly. They told us about it, and you could feel the corn grains in your knees.


It continued on the road. Italy had three main police forces: Polizia, Carabinieri, Guardia di Finanza. All three permanently armed, and not with plastic bullets. You saw them as a child: always elegant, the uniform impeccable, exuding authority. The weapon often plainly visible. They were Law and Order made flesh, and did nothing to hide it. I can’t remember one episode where they were not extremely courteous; but again I was never a rioter or Molotov-bottle thrower.

Then there was another kind of police: the reparto celere, “fast (deployment) department”, whose members were universally called celerini. These were the anti-riot police, and here other rules applied. The officers were among the best: cool-headed individuals, like knife-throwers or lion-tamers. The foot soldiers, they were bloodthirsty bastards: people who relished the fight, and delighted in being able to thrash other people legally. Dobermanns with stern masters. They had strange rubber batons, with an iron core. They say the batons could break your arm without even leaving a mark. And the policemen/Carabinieri  had horses, and knew how to use them.

Water  cannons, very popular in the late Forties and Fifties, were now not used often, the horse being the weapon of choice. But in the Cold War years the unforgotten Mario Scelba – then Home Secretary  and, believe me, no Theresa May – used to have the water coloured with indelible tint, with the consequences you can imagine. In case you wonder about the colour it was, of course,  pink.

The rules of engagements were clear: the mob could be asked to disband and had to obey. If it didn’t, a warning would come announcing that, in case of continued disobedience, the trumpet would sound thrice and the charge would begin. Now, the charge was a frightful thing and I wish I was able to show you period footage, often seen on TV in past years. When the trumpet sounded the first time, the mob began to run already. The horses would soon follow, and the horsemen would thrash without any regard anyone who, at that point, had no justification whatsoever for being in the wrong place.  Those the horsemen had to contend with were no children looking for fashionable trainers or a TV set: they were full-fledged communist or anarchist hotheads; people on a mission, often trained in urban warfare, who knew how to throw a Molotov bottle and, at times, how to fire a weapon. Thousands of them became underground terrorists, two-thirds of these were killed by the police in the following years.


So, if you were planning to ask me why there have never been riots in Rome of the kind seen in London, with control lost for four days for a couple of thousand idiots looking for some appliances and a bit of excitement, you can avoid wasting the time.


The Contamination of Catholicism

The Great Populist Booze

I would like to explain to you the madness of the mentality engendered by Vatican II with two examples.

1) Some years ago I bought the “New Jerome Biblical Commentary” directly from Amazon (that is: without reading the introduction, etc.).When the tome arrived, I noticed that it was explicitly said that some of the contributions had been written by non-Cathlics, but their orthodoxy had been checked so there need be no worries.

This stroke me as very odd. Clearly, a non-Catholic is a person who is in error and no amount of ecu-maniacal waffle will ever change a iota in this. Why, therefore, a person who is in error might be asked to write a commentary about the truth is simply beyond me. “Ah, but we have checked!”, says the publisher; which sounds as logical as to say that you have asked the plumber to make a new chair for you, but you have checked that the chair is all right. One also wonders why it was so difficult to ask Catholic authors in the first place, as one assumes that there must still be a good number available. The only possible answer is that in the post Vatican II climate, it is considered bon ton to allow Protestants to explain Christianity to Catholics. I also wonder why the opinion about “orthodoxy” of a person who can even conceive to allow a Protestant to form Catholic consciences should be of any value. I mean, these are people telling me that the plumber is good enough to make me a new chair! Finally, I wonder whether even the texts from Catholic authors are properly orthodox: an editor so concerned with “ecumenism” as to invite Protestant authors might well choose only those among the Catholic authors who are most accepted by Protestants. You see, the one with orthodoxy is a slippery slope: if an editor doesn’t show that orthodoxy is the most important thing to him, he simply loses credibility.

Some people must stop drinking the Kool-aid (or the vodka) and start acting as Catholics. My tip to you: don’t buy the book, as the money can be better invested in writings of people of non dubious orthodoxy.

2) More recently, I ordered (always by Amazon, the situation in British bookstores being rather tragic, with “gay and lesbian” sections everywhere, and books of aggressive atheists prominently displayed in the meager “Christianity” section) a book called “A Benedictine daily prayer: a short breviary”. I thought this was safe, as it came directly from the religious order.

Fat chance. Once received the book, I noticed the comment that the book had been compiled in such a way as to be usable also by Protestants, in that those passages and prayers had been chosen, that are compatible with non-Catholic Christianity.This was explained with the fact that particularly in the US, such books are used in “ecumenical” communities. Which is as to say: as there are Catholics who pray together with Protestants (which as far as I know they are not even allowed to do; I might be wrong), let us protestantise ourselves. Here post-V II “ecumenism” shows its real face.

Isn’t it beautiful? You buy a (short) breviary from a Catholic religious order, and they give you something which has been purged from evidently Catholic elements in order to be acceptable to non-Catholics.

Idiots. No wait, let me rephrase this in a more polite manner. Idiots.

Also please note that the introduction made clear that the Benedictines themselves can’t use the version sold to me and must refer to properly orthodox sources instead. So, this compilation is not good enough for them, but  I can use it. This is patronising besides being idiotic.

This is the situation we are in these tragic post-Vatican II years; years when you can’t even buy a Benedictine breviary without falling in the trap of ever-present ecu-maniacal spirit.

At that point I have decided that in principle I wouldn’t buy anything published after the V II years anymore. Thankfully, we have a wealth of books that are now becoming available again (think of Fulton Sheen, or Ronald Knox, and the likes) and if one looks long enough one can find real pearls of Catholic orthodoxy, like the never enough admired Iota Unum, also available online for free. The wealth of Catholic apologetics written in times above suspicion grows every day, and the next years will certainly see an explosion in supply as Catholics wake up to the drunkenness of the post Vatican II mentality.

I suggest that you follow, as far as practicable, the same pattern whenever you are not absolutely certain beforehand of the book’s orthodoxy (and no, the book coming from the Benedictines is not enough!).

In the present times, you trust everything published after V II at your own peril.


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