Saturday, September 8, 2007

Pavarotti, life and death

I was just reading the forum of La Repubblica about the passing of Luciano Pavarotti. It reminded me of an amusing proverb that says quando nascono sono tutti belli, quando muoiono son tutti buoni. When they're born, they're all beautiful, when they die they're all good. Well, we know that just ain't so. Most newborns (with the exception of the little tyke in the photo) are pretty bad. They look like Mr. Magoo when they're brand new. My niece Marsha looked just like comedian Buddy Hackett for the first six months of her life. Even her mother admitted this (but she wasn't Italian, she was Korean).

As for the other part, we know that most people aren't good when they're alive, so there's no reason to believe that the situation changes at the end. This is certainly true of the maxi-tenor. On the above-mentioned forum, an uproar ensued when one of the posters dared to mention his massive tax evasion. Some other posters, outraged, even went so far as to suggest that the newspaper censor these little matters and that, as their ancestors the Romans liked to say, de mortuis nil nisi bonum (say only good things about the dead). One maintained that the paper was "shameful" to publish these criticisms (which happen to be true) and that people were taking undue advantage of freedom of speech. Undue advantage of freedom of speech happens a lot when you don't want to hear certain things, which are often those most needful of being said. Mind you, La Repubblica is a left-of-center paper which regularly (including today) comes down on tax cheats.

What is the upshot of all this? That Italians are morally ambiguous, even more so than most people. And that's saying something.