Actually, it isn’t, but that is the stereotype which affects Italy’s southern island. Some would blame the Godfather movies for engraving this image on Sicily.
It is true that organized crime is a problem in Sicily, but that does not make all Sicilians criminals. The problem for Sicilians is that the criminals which inhabit their island are a ruthless and murderous lot which means going up against them is something that is likely to get one killed. As well as threatening the lives of honest Sicilian citizens, the mafia will not worry too much about harming children, relatives and almost anyone else whose loss may cause distress. Fear is the goal of mafia criminals and they have no qualms about shooting unarmed people in the back, including priests.
Slowly, though, Sicilians are trying to overcome the fear and are standing up for themselves even if some are dying for their pains. Journalists and businessmen have lost their lives, and some require round the clock protection from the ever present mafia threat. But not everyone in Sicily is linked to organized crime.
Our world seems to be ruled by stereotypes and drawing attention to them via scurrilous articles, as the web site Blottr did last week, can be a great way of sparking controversy and page views. The trouble is that such articles tend to reinforce the stereotypes and this is not good.
Another worrying aspect is that the writers of such scurrilous articles often have no direct knowledge of the people they are writing about. Or maybe they had a bad experience on holiday once and decided to tar everyone of the same nationality with the same brush.
To make things clear, I live in Italy and have done so for coming up to two decades. I work with lots Italians and meet many more. Yes, one or two might fit the stereotypes, but in the great scheme of things, the number who fall into a stereotypical category have been few and far between.
There are lots of silly stereotypes, some of which are here:
- All French people smell of garlic. French women have hairy armpits and legs.
- Greek men are inherently bisexual.
- Russians are always drunk on vodka.
- All English people are football hooligans and binge drink.
- All Americans are fat and arrogant.
- All Italians are cowards and mafia.
The recent Costa Concordia disaster, alas, was something a Blottr writer picked up on as an example of the last stereotype in an article entitled Why are Italians so Cowardly? This implies that the actions of one man, the Costa Concordia Captain, make all Italians cowards. What a load of rot.
The writer of the article has a Greek sounding name, but did not indicate whether he knows any Italians or has ever even been to Italy.
One gem was:
Come off it, love. Jokes about chicken-shi**ed grape-stompers abound because at the slightest whiff of trouble they head for the hills faster than you can say arrivederci.
Obviously Milo Yiannopoulos had not heard about the heroic activities of a crewman who stayed aboard to ensure all those around him made it off the ship, or of the young Italian musician who lost his life trying to save the lives of passengers on the Concordia.
Then there were the people of the island of Giglio who rallied in support of the passengers of the Costa Concordia and did their level best to make the survivors feel comfortable.
And Mr Milo conveniently forgot to mention the, Italian, harbor commander who, several times, ordered Captain Schettino to get back aboard his ship and coordinate the evacuation.
One could also mention the rescue services who have been working more or less round the clock ever since the disaster in perilous conditions to try to save people. I would not like to be one of the divers who has been called into comb every centimeter of the slowly sliding ship in order to ensure everybody is accounted for.
Other Courageous Italians
While we are on about it, Milo Yiannopoulos forgets entirely the men and women of Italy’s anti-mafia organizations who risk their lives daily to try to save others from being cruelly murdered by the mafia.
Last year, the idyllic Cinque Terre area of Italy was hit by serious floods and people turned up from all over Italy to help out the stricken population of these five seaside villages in northern Italy. Not exactly the act of a bunch of cowards who run for the hills, quite the opposite, in fact.
Yiannopoulos had read the part of Wikipedia, or wherever, which says three Italians pushed past women and children to get to lifeboats on the fabled Titanic. But what Yiannopoulos forgot to research and read, conveniently, was stories which refute tales of Italians cowardice during World War Two.
It was British propaganda which apparently spread rumors of Italians being cowards, however when one looks as the facts, tales of hard fighting Italians abound. The truth is that Italian soldiers, despite sub-standard equipment, were tough fighters who were not in the least bit cowardly. Down to earth German Rommel was impressed by Italy’s soldiers, as were others. For those interested, and Milo Yiannopoulos, perhaps, this Wikipedia entry: Reputation of Italian fighting efficiency during World War II, makes for interesting reading.
Stereotyping tends to promote ignorance and those most prone to lapping up such ludicrous claims are, alas, the uninformed, as, it could be claimed, are the people who write such articles. Hey Milo, I’m looking at you. I’m also looking at Blottr for running an article full of generalizations. One person I know, an Englishman who has a house in Italy incidentally, is no longer a Blottr fan.
Blottr blotted its copybook.
Still, one should not be too hard on Blottr writer Milo, for all he was doing was exploiting the gentle art of link baiting – and it worked too – I’ve linked to the article he wrote.
Oh, by the way, did you know that all Blottr writers are liars and cheats who’ve been rejected by other publications? No? Good, because it’s not true.