Travel blog 2012-01 Rome is burning

Travel blog 2012 - Rome is burning - by P.K.Odendaal - 28 May 2012.

So it is back to my travel blogs as it is summer in the Northern Hemisphere again, and as always, my mind will take priority on this trip, whilst my body follows the fixed itinerary.
And the location of my body is on board ms Nieu Amsterdam, a drifting island somewhere in the Mediterranean. I find the state form of this island kingdom quite exotic. It is not capitalist, although I can see some strains of capitalism here and there. It is also not communistic, and any sign of socialism has been hidden carefully. I do not know whether this is on purpose. We have a dictator in charge of everything, and he does not care whether I have a say or not - he just won't listen to me or any popular vote on board - in fact here we have no voting rights at all. we call him the Captain, and a real dictator he is at that, but he sees to it that he keeps his word and gets us to the right destination on time, every time. And, come to think of it, he looks really well after us, and has told us that he only has our interests at heart and none of his own ... now that is an excellent good dictator .. you can take my word for it. I wish the whole world was filled with their kind. The food and lodging is better than any country I know of, and we are really free to do what we like ... I mean within bounds. Jumping overboard is not allowed and neither is staging boycotts or strikes.

I have found myself on this ideal Mediterranean island since we left Barcelona on our way to Venice, and today we have emigrated momentarily to Naples, previously known as the Kingdom of Naples. It does not look like a kingdom now, because there is no king here and generally chaos prevails. I do not mean the type of chaos like in Genesis, but just a general disregard for law and order ... and oh yes, for work as well.

I noticed the first hints of unemployment when we visited Civitavecchia, the port of Rome, yesterday, when everywhere I saw middle aged men sitting four-four on benches in the parks, like they are waiting for better days. It seemed to me that they were still of the age where they could do some work - not that it would be useful work though. The expression on their faces was more one of despair. Something strange also happened to me on my way to the Forum, which reflected their despair and was an omen of things to come. I arrived happily at eleven am at the railway station, totally prepared for the twenty minute train trip to Rome - and the Forum. However, when I wanted to buy my ticket, the lady clerk said that the next train would be one o'clock or two o'clock. I refrained from saying or three o'clock or four o'clock rock, knowing that she was not in charge of train schedules and operations. I mean - from the main port of Rome to central Rome - a few kilometeres apart - could one not assume that trains frequented this route more than once or twice a day - and that after the clockwork undergound metro of Barcelona - I could not believe it.
And that brought me to the subject of this blog, Rome is burning. Of course this is an age old phrase - to be exact, it was coined in 70 AD when Caesar Nero played the fiddle while Rome was literally burning. Of course he did the natural thing then - like all atheists do now - blame the Christians for it. Rome is burning again with the financial crisis,  paganism, unemployment and just plain lawlessness. At least that is my impression while I visited Naples today.

There is no discipline in the streets. Cars and especially scooters drive as if there are no traffic laws, no traffic signs and no speed cops. At first I thought they were all from the Mafia, but later I realised that it was only the scooter drivers that were from the Mafia. They almost run me over four times, which led me to believe that they are from the Mafia or from some other hit squad. Our sight seeing tourist bus was almost unable to make its way through the narrow streets, and it soon became obvious to me that this city was built before tourist buses were in vogue. I have yet to see a scooter stop for a pedestrian crossing or a red robot - or for a bus, regardless of what the traffic signs say. Double parking in these naroow streets is mandatory.
At one stage about thirty people were barricading the main street, and we had to wait and wait ... for the police to arrive. So after about fifteen minutes this armoured car full of police arrived, heavily armed, you could see. I thought by myself that the twenty two Euro which I paid for the bus, would be a bargain if it included this clash with the police, which everybody was waiting and longing for. However, the police made as if they did not notice the barricaders, and I got the impression that they were waiting for more reinforcements before they would go over to action. It was also clear to me that these ten or so heavily armed policemen would be no match for the thirty unarmed demonstrators or barricaders. So our bus driver did not have the time and inclination to wait until the armed police would outnumber the demonstrators by ten to one, with semi automatic guns and cannons and all that stuff, and we reversed and left the scene of infamy. I call them barricaders, as they only blocked the street off, and did not have any placards. Maybe they are not really professional, like in other countries, where they say on big placards what their complaints are. I mean, a placard is not such an expensive item after all. Anyone should be able to afford one.

As usual, when I get to an ancient city like Naples, I head directly for the architectural and art treasures, and the only places you will find them, is in Cathedrals. So I go up by bus to the far away hill of Capodimante where the archaeological museum is, and then walk down, making sure I miss no church or cathedral. The first and most beautiful one is, of course, St.Gennaro, a replica of St.Peter's Basilica in Rome.

And whilst we are at the church, let's ponder spiritual things. On the bus we were told that the saints look after Naples. There is a saint who keeps lightning away from the city, and St. Gennaro himself keeps illnesses away. Twice a year on specific dates, his dried blood would become alive and anybody looking at it will be healed. So you see, there is no need for God. And so Nietzsche was right after all. He said that God was dead. Not that he meant it literarily, but he meant we killed God, because we did not need Him anymore. Having saints looking after everything on behalf of God, is quite a boon for God and absolves Him from many troubles and responsibilities. Like the Irish who say they are a race of self made men, thereby relieving The Almighty of a dreadful responsibility. If you check my blog on a dialogue between Moses and Aristotle, you will find St. Thomas Aquinas is :
said to be patron saint of academics, against storms, against lightning, apologists, book sellers, Catholic academies, Catholic schools, Catholic universities, chastity, colleges, learning, lightning, pencil makers, philosophers, publishers, scholars, schools, storms, students, theologians, universities, University of Vigo. If you have problems with any of these, you might want to talk to him or go and see him - what a farce.

And the most helpful, are the corpses in the catacombes. People look well after them, because if you come into the presence of one, or his ghost, you might obtain the secret code for one or other lottery.
I do not understand why people blame God for all the wrong and grief in this world, whilst it is really the field of responsibility of St.Thomas Aquinas and these other saints who do not do their work properly.

And that is what I meant about paganism in my introduction. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Yesterday, the TV and press were full of the butler of the Pope who was found with highly confidential and sensitive documents in his possession, having been suspected of selling these documents to third parties. It was such an eye opener for me to read and contemplate this, as I thought that churches use only the bible, and that is availabe in almost any bookstore. Looks more to me that the Pope conspired with those demonstrators in Naples, as they were also not prepared to make publicly known what their aspiratiuons were. Or maybe the Pope has tried to secretly slip a few people into heaven or eternal damnation without them knowing it, much like the hit list of the Mafia.

Well, I walked about ten kilometres in my quest for the art treasures of Naples and indeed they were magnificent. And even the Italians of Naples are so friendly and helpful, as they are known to be. I could just say Duomo and they would direct me to the nearest one.
One thing I did however notice, is how dirty the outside of almost all the buildings are, no doubt due to the dust and smoke of a few centuries. Nobody is apparently interested in cleaning them up to make them really attractive and pleasant looking, as most other cities in Europe do. I only saw one place where they tried to paint over some walls quite amateurishly. But then, nowhere else in the world have I seen graffiti being painted all over expensive marble of classical and antique buildings of magnificent architectural design. Maybe nobody really cares, just like their Prime Minsters over decades have set the example. It is said that it is not difficult to rule Italy, it is just useless and a waste of time. I am quite sure these grafiti specialists hold civilisation, and its manifestation in terms of architecture and art in disdain, whilst I hold this fragile phenomenon called civilisation in veneration.

How they will ever escape the financial meltdown, I would not know. They will need a heck of a lot of protection money for that one. Or is nobody noticing that Rome is burning. According to the abundance of the sounds of fiddles and operatic songs I heard in the streets, I think Nero is back.