It’s been pointed out to me that I wasn’t terribly clear in the post below, Scum. It was written fairly soon after the disturbing events, and I was quite anxious and frustrated at the time. I want to be perfectly clear, though, so I’m going to make a few additional points and clarifications. Primarily, I want to define the term scum as I intend it to mean here, but that requires a few preambles. And so:
1. Humans, and all organisms for that matter, are opportunists. This is not positive or negative, it just is.
2. What accounts for the everyday difference in behavior between myself and someone like the Scum Boss? The short answer is culture and values. The long answer is that I grew up in a culture that values the social contract and he didn’t. Therefore, I’m extremely reluctant to engage in behavior that is bad for society (i.e., stealing). He is not.
3. I’m perfectly aware that there are many Arab immigrants in Italy who do not behave as the Scum Boss does. Italy’s economy, much like America’s, would halt if all its Arab immigrants suddenly stopped working. There are many, many, honest and hardworking Arab families living in Italy. Demographically speaking, the problem generally lies with large groups of young single men. I’d wager that young immigrant men who have women in their lives–whether they’ve brought their mothers, sisters, and especially wives with them from the old country–generally engage in less antisocial behavior. Whereas large populations of young single men, in any society, tend to instigate a disproportionate amount of societal angst.

So. All that being said, my definition of scum: A person who believes that the best way to get ahead is by taking from others.
When I first started trying to define the term scum, I started with “someone who is motivated primarily by self-interest”. But that is not quite right, because the social contract that you and I were raised to respect really is in our self interest. I want to live in a society that upholds ‘the good, the true, the beautiful’, therefore I (try to) uphold those things. It’s in my self interest. If instead I use ‘taking from others’ as the defining characteristic of scum, the meaning comes into clearer focus. In the social contract, my self interest is also yours. In the scum’s universe, my self interest is contrary to yours. And that’s why its called scum.


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Frecce Tricolori

Balance that last post with this, the zenith of Italian awesomeness.

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This is another in a continuing series of stories from my daily life examining human scum.

Last night I met some friends in the main piazza for a beer. We were sitting on the steps of the duomo, shooting the proverbial merde. At some point we noticed a sea of people to our left suddenly stand up and move towards us, avoiding two men engaged in fisticuffs. The men moved down off the steps and into the wide space of the piazza, followed by their fellow scummy friends. Someone identified them as Albanian, but I’d guess Moroccan or Tunisian. Who knows what they were fighting about, they were drunk. One was smashing a bottle over the other guy’s head, and it really looked like lasting damage was being done. Meanwhile, 20 meters away, the police just watched and refused to move a finger. All that was needed was for them to get in their waiting car and drive it slowly into the piazza, and the fight would immediately break up.

My friends work for an American college study abroad program, and they had just brought the new students to town. So this was the first night in Perugia for about 150 American college kids, and this is their first impression.

After a while, the fight died down. We continued yakking until my friend ‘Bart’ noticed his bag was gone. He had put it behind him, leaning against his back, so we turned around to see if anyone behind us had noticed anything. Immediately the Scum Boss asked us “can I help you? what’s wrong?”. So Bart went to sit down next to him and calmly explained the situation. There hadn’t been any money or a phone. Just some papers for work, his diary, and two USB devices. The Scum Boss sympathised in a friendly way and then called his Scum Minion over and, in Arabic, told him to go get the bag. It was returned to Bart within 20 minutes, for 10 euro. The USB devices were gone, and his keys in disarray, some missing. His papers were torn. Through all this, the Scum Boss addressed Bart as ‘my friend’ and smiled and patted him on the back as if he really were doing altruistic deeds. Somehow this made me want to punch him even more.

The Scum Boss is the same person, in fact, who once stole food from Bart and another friend ‘George’. Bart and George used to make a lot of homemade salsiccia. One evening we had plans to have a grill at a friend’s house, and Bart and George stopped on the way to pick up some extra food items. They put the bowl of salsiccia down on the counter of the little grocery store as they browsed the shelves. After paying, they left the store, only to realize they had forgotten to pick up the bowl. It was gone. They raised a stink about it, and the lady behind the counter yelled at the Scum Boss (in Arabic), who had come in at some point, to just go get the stuff. He went around the corner and retrieved the salsiccia. Bart was about to tear the guy’s head off, but George pulled him away before the situation went downhill.

We live among these people. They know where we live, they know where we shop and work. There are consequences to tangling with them.

The only other major fight (besides the one last night) was about a year and a half ago. It was a full on brawl between the Perugini and the Scum. Broken bottles flew back and forth. Finally, after a significantly long time, the police got in their car and drove into the piazza. The crowd dispersed. The only police reaction to the fight was to fine the bar that had left their recycled bottles out.

I am convinced that this sort of thing could only happen in a place like Italy, where the proper authorities do nothing to stop bad behavior and the average citizen either doesn’t care or doesn’t want to get involved. The Anglosphere, at least, does not suffer fools the way Italians do. This recent story is, to me, a typical expression of American disdain for fools.

Any tourist knows that public busses are the pickpocket’s natural habitat. It’s never happened to me, but I know it’s common–it’s a integral part of the cultural landscape. Everyone on the bus knows who the pickpocket is. As does the driver. Yet the driver will stop and let the guy off, and no one on the bus will say a thing. Try that anywhere in American or Australia or Scotland, etc. and the average citizen will, as they say in Glasgow, set about ye.

The effect of last night’s events, on a personal level, is that I have the urge to pack up a leave this town, if not the country. More than the Scum, I hate the indifference the Italians have for scummy behavior. There are scummy people everywhere, all over the world, looking for scummy opportunities. They prosper in Italy because the culture here is resigned and complacent.

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Italian economy in perspective

In the post below, Zach pointed out

though I think Italy offers all that you say it does, it also offers a healthy bit of discrimination, as well as second-class citizenship (e.g. limited political say and unequal access to jobs and other pieces of the economic pie). In other words, it isn’t as if Italian arms are wide open: they are, however, pretty damn open.

I want to make a few points about why that economic pie isn’t totally available to recent immigrants (or to most Italians, for that matter)
All the following figures are from the World Bank’s excellent annual report, Doing Business
Starting a Business
number of procedures: 9
time (days): 13
percent of income (per capita): 10
Obtaining Licenses
time (days): 284
Tax rate (%): 76

Compare that to the United States.
Starting a Business
number of procedures to start a business: 5
time (days): 5
percent of income to start a business (per capita): 0
Obtaining Licenses
time (days): 69
Tax rate: 46

In an economy like Italy’s with such an onerous bureaucracy, immigrants (overwhelmingly from poor countries like Tunisia, Morrocco, Albania) just don’t stand much of a chance.

This is not to make some silly claim about how poverty breeds hate, because after all, immigrants do eventually become properly Italian and prosper (in relative terms). This is simply for edification purposes.


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Big News

Big news here in Perugia.
Yesterday I ran into a good friend of mine, Marco, who lives with a police officer. Marco told me the news of the morning (Saturday) which was that the Perugia police did a ‘blitz’ on the mosque in Ponte Felcino and found all sorts of jihad type materials. Marco was feeling pretty good about it because so many of our socialist/communist/leftist friends enjoy accusing him of being a racist for insisting that the mosques in town are not involved in totally benign activities.
Today I’ve been reading the papers online about the blitz, and the news is quite scary. The international press mentions it, but not in much detail. The Italian papers, however, cover it quite extensively. This is a major catch for Italy, which has not suffered from global jihad as has Spain, the UK, France, and Holland.
English press coverage is here
From that BBC story, this caught my eye:

he director of the Cultural Institute of the Italian Islamic Community, Sheikh Abdul Adid Palazzi, told BBC News that he was not surprised to hear of the arrests.
“It is the top of the iceberg in our country – like in the rest of Western Europe. Most mosques are controlled by extremist pro-terror organisations – 90% of mosques,” he said.
“And I think the percentage is more or less the same in Italy, Britain, France and Germany.”
However the imam at the central mosque in Perugia, which has a 10,000-strong Muslim community, said the Ponte Felcino group had not appeared dangerous.
“Generally it’s a quiet community,” Abdel Qader told Italian news agency Ansa.
“A few made some noise over the international situation but those were just words. We trust justice… and if any [of the suspects] has made a mistake, he will have to pay.”

It’s very rare to hear a Muslim leader speak like Palazzi does, admitting and lamenting the ugly ideological virus afflicting Western Europe’s Muslim population. It’s so rare, in fact, that I wonder how many bodyguards he currently employs. Qader, on the other hand, spouts more of the usual pap, which, besides being absurd and disingenuous, really scares me. Qader’s mosque is a football field away from my house.
This quote from the Corriere della Sera scares me even more:

L’imam, secondo gli investigatori, ha addestrato e istruito molti integralisti islamici alla preparazione e all’uso di esplosivi, armi, sostanze chimiche nocive per avvelenare acquedotti.

Translation: The imam, according to the investigators, had prepared and trained many islamists in the preparation and use of explosives, arms (guns), harmful chemical substances to poison acqueducts.
The water in Perugia is famous for being fresh and delicious. One time in Rome, I mentioned to someone that I live in Perugia, and she exclaimed, “oh, the water there is so delicious”. There are fountains all over the city and everyone drinks from–it’s fun to find the coldest one on a hot day.
I don’t have much to say besides that. I’m reluctant to repeat what’s already been said, and much more eloquently, by the writers I admire like Mark Steyn and Orianna Fallaci. But here’s my gut reaction: What nerve these men have. All the great things Italy has to offer them: free medical assistence, a beautiful culture, great food, cheap or free education, jobs. And their response is to chatter on about what a mitzvah it is to kill Jews and Americans and to extend thier murderous victimology to killing innocents? In a country that allows them so many freedoms (especially the freedom to practice their religion, a freedom that is lacking in their home countries). What nerve. This really puts me in an Old Testament sort of mood.

Oriana Fallaci
La Fallaci


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Berlusconi’s latest

Big news in the Anglosphere regarding Silvio Berlusconi’s latest remarks. At some public talk the other day, he referred to Margaret Thatcher as “una bella gnocca” which is an incredibly vulger way of complimenting a lady’s intimate anatomy. Note: unrelated to the food product, gnocchi.
As a bit of context, Berlusconi is famous for these sorts of ungentlemanlike outbursts. A few months ago, I saw a headline noting that, in the midst of some court proceedings, he told his opponents to “andate a quel paese“, meaning Go to Hell. Something you don’t see in America, as vulger as our public discourse can be.
Anyway, the Brits are fascinated and repelled by this latest. As wacky as it is, I think a bit is being lost in translation. This particular turn of phrase is most often used between guys as a way of pointing out a sexy woman, but also as a way paying the highest possible compliment based on other general factors. In this way, referring to a woman’s great sexual prowess is really only a metaphor for her other great assets. And certainly the great Iron Lady has those other “great assets” in spades.


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American journalism vs. Italian journalism

Italians are very proud of their journalists, and they have right to be. Previously I’ve dissed continentals who turn up their noses at American “cultural imperialism” (as if we force our cultural output on the world), and noted that Italian culture hasn’t accomplished anything of real relevance in the past 200 years. So here’s an exception: Italian journalism. Italian journalists are almost like celebrities here, regardless of their political positions. My very left wing friends love right wing journalists, and vice versa (sample: “Lui e’ di sinistra, ma bravissimo comunque”). The very fact that journalist’s political positions are freely divulged is a huge difference from their American counterparts. That Helen Thomas pretends she’s immune to partisanship is just absurd–I much prefer the Italian version.
Today I found a post at A Conservative Mind, a great Italian blog, noting the same thing, by way of MSNBC’s Dog Bites Man news item of this week: identified 143 journalists who made political contributions from 2004 through the start of the 2008 campaign, according to the public records of the Federal Election Commission. Most of the newsroom checkbooks leaned to the left: 125 journalists gave to Democrats and liberal causes. Only 16 gave to Republicans. Two gave to both parties.

Post scriptum. Tranquilli, in Italia è diverso. Simili cose qui non succedono, della dignità professionale si ha un altro concetto. Un giornalista non darebbe mai i suoi soldi ai politici. Figuriamoci. Semmai se li farebbe dare. Formato cash, formato consulenza o formato posto di lavoro in Rai.
Post-post scriptum. A proposito di Stati Uniti e di establishment liberal: applausi per Rudy.

Translation of Italian, by me:
P.S. Don’t worry, in Italy it’s different. Thinks like this don’t happen, one has another concept of professional dignity here. A journalist would never give his money to politicians. Don’t worry about it. In form of cash, in form of consultance, or in the form of a position at RAI (media conglomerate in Italy).
PPS. Speaking of the US’s liberal establishment, applause for Rudy.
me: they looooove Rudy here.

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