Italy’s Cultural Decay
If Nero was fiddling when Rome was burning, Premier Silvio Berlusconi seems to be flirting and partying when most of ancient Rome is crumbling.
While Nero’s fiddling was passive neglect at its worst Berlusconi’s acts of slashing 300 million Euro from Italy’s cultural budget and neglect of its priceless heritage seem to be an active onslaught on the country’s glorious past. Here is a quick list of prominent historic structures and vestiges of the glorious Roman Empire which succumbed to ‘active’ neglect and apathy in the recent past 1. Collapse of the famed Aurelian wall built by the Roman emperors to keep the barbarians out 2. A piece of wall from the Colloseum the most impressive Roman building 3. The roof of Emperor Nero’s house 4. House of wrestlers. 5. The garden wall around the house of the Moralist and 6. The Schola Armanturam Iventos Pompeiani the famous school where the gladiators were trained. If this continues Rome would have nothing Roman left except perhaps its name.
What is disturbing is the mercenary attitude of the Berlusconi government which is keen on raking in the tourism dollars while turning a blind eye to the upkeep of what makes people come over to Italy. The government has sidelined the views of experts and art lovers and has gone on a crass commercialisation of it cultural heritage which could be disastrous in the long run. A nation which is home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations with an unparalleled art heritage spends only a quarter of what France or Germany spend on the upkeep of their past glory.
When criticized for slashing down the culture budget, Economics Minister Guilio Trenonti is believed to have snapped ‘You can’t eat culture’, true words indeed but a Rome sans the collosseum and other ancient monuments will fail to be a draw with tourists and the drain in tourism income would only make the Minister eat his words.
Nothing illustrates the callous attitude of the Italian government more than the appointment of an ex-Macdonald’s manager as the right hand man to the Culture Minister responsible for carrying out measures to safeguard and protect the country’s priceless historic buildings. Luig Necco a journalist and archaeological expert summed up the current situation in Italy aptly as a collective disdain for culture, disdain for the past and disdain for history.