Walking through Italy, visiting cities and towns, I could not help but be impressed by the solid, sturdy construction of Italian roads and buildings. Like ancient Roman constructions, modern Italian constructions look like they are built to last....and last....and last. With thousands of years of practice, I guess they have had time to perfect the art of road building, and monument construction. :-)
I then got to thinking about other cultures. If Italians contribution to the global community is construction, (and who builds rock walls in Australia better than an Italian stonemason? )
Then what do other cultures contribute to the global community?
The obvious one that came to mind was the Germans. German engineering must lead the world. Look at German cars and German tools - none better. So Germans contribute engineering skills to the global village.
What then do the French contribute to the global community? Hmmm.. their food is good, but so is Italian and Spanish. In fact, I would say in my opinion, Italian and Spanish are equally good if not better - French cuisine, while delighful, is a little rich for my liking. French cheeses are wonderful, but so are Italian cheeses. French fashion is great, but so is Italian. Okay trying to define what the French uniquely contribute to the global community is a little too hard for tonights musings.
What then about the British? My ancestry is British, my parents were Brits, but trying to think through what the Brits contribute to the global community is even harder than trying to think through the French contribution. Sorry mum and dad. Well, I guess there is manners. The Brits do seem to be more polite than a lot of races. Italians barging onto ferries comes to mind. that would never happen in Britain. Spaniards, Indians and Italians queue jumping - that would never happen in Britain. Ok, I guess the Brits could teach the world some manners. Happy mum?
An area where us anglo-philes do fall down badly is in the sense of community. Italians, and indeed many other cultures, including South East Asian cultures, have a strong cohesive sense of community that is amazing to this Australian outsider.
I lived in Indonesia for several months. There, the whole community feels a sense of responsibility for each other. If a child misbehaves in the street, any member of the community that is nearby will chastise the child, and send it home with a few harsh words, or a clip over the ear. The parents will hear about the mischief often before the child even makes it home, and the parents will chastise the child again for being chastised. The result is that kids actually generally behave themselves. Why play up when there is no way they can get away with it?
The sense of community responsibility is so strong in Central Java, that I was unable to take my normal evening walking exercise. Why? Because women are not supposed to walk unaccompanied in the strongly Muslim country. I felt that as an obvious foreigner, I could get away with taking my exercise. Wrong! Each evening for the first few weeks I would set off at a brisk pace. Within 100 metres of home, one of the local gents, would pull up alongside me on his scooter, and invite me to get on the back of the scooter, saying "I will accompany you home sister Linda".
No amount of explanation on my part about customs in my country, or the need for exercise, would sway his gentle encouragement to get on his scooter so he could take me home. His intentions were to protect my honour. I tried for several weeks to win the argument to take some regular exercise. But I never made it more than 150 metres from home before he turned up saying "I will accompany you home sister Linda". I had to get on the scooter and he would take me to my door and bid my goodnight.
In the end I bought a bicycle. I got my exercise that way. So Indonesia, other South East Asian countries and some European countries, such as Italy, could constribute a sense of community to the global village.
What can other countries contribute to the global village I wonder?