A friend of mine, Mauro, coming from Italy, tells me: “We are not longer the cowboys living in a frontier village, in some companies competing against the entire world or in some kind of fort bravely facing the wild import-hordes. We are not the rangers riding across an endless country, drinking coffees at the Autogrill, pulled by a vibrant enthusiasm that mixes with the astonishment of the landscape. Do you remember our trips from Milan to Florence, Ancona and Rome, down to Naples and Palermo? We were a band of professionals who deserved respect and were heard by the best European firms… Now, you see, we are the Apaches who fight for their daily survival, in a land that has been invaded and almost destroyed by foreign beings.”
“By the extra-EU community people?” I ask. Because, you know, the fault is always of the others, be they Romanians, Senegalese, Philippines, Chinese, etc.
“No, a lot worse. The truth is that we have been conquered by the aliens, by strange hungry beings who are refusing our Christian roots, our economic history, and are destroying our industrial background as well as our culture.”
“There is a strong economic crisis…” I insist, trying to understand.
“No doubt that in 2008 the crisis exploded,” he says, “but you cannot face a crisis destroying your house, garden and stocks, burning your assets and money, cancelling any chance of hope. What is the strategy to solve our problems, to find a good way-out? To improve our taxes day by day, to become just preys of a greedy and fat state, to forget the possibility to be entrepreneurs and so the future too, to spoil schools and universities? Is this strategy? What for?” He pauses for a while. “And, you know, now it is becoming difficult to communicate, yes, because the language is already different. The aliens speak another language; it is right: the colonialists use their language as a weapon and a barrier. And they pretend they don’t understand our speeches, shouts, and points of view…”
“Is the situation so serious?” Finally, I ask.
“Yes indeed, my friend. And do you know what is the worst aspect? That the best scientists, professionals, and managers, and students too, have gone. They have left. You look and suddenly they are not more around. Yes, they left…”
“Maybe the arts, the humanities, literature, music, I don’t know, have a hidden path and will grow,” I counter what he is saying. “You know the Middle Ages: in sheltered cloisters the monks kept alive culture and knowledge reading and copying thousands of ancient manuscripts, cultivating vineyards, and…”
“Maybe your similitude with the Middle Ages is correct, my friend. However, where is culture and knowledge nowadays? Literature, which one? Music, painting, philosophy, or education? C’mon! The good Italians disappeared; believe me. They left, I told you. And you too, my friend, chose to stay far away, here in Hong Kong!”
“My story is different…” I say, embarrassed.
“Each story is different. The truth is that Italy has been invaded, burnt and confiscated by a race of aliens. This is not the Middle Ages; unluckily this is our present and future. The few who remained lurk in the darkness just not to be seen.” He pauses again, drinking his Japanese beer. “Yes, we are Apache, believe me, and we have learnt how to be invisible, silent… We had to.”
“I’m so sorry,” I say, speechless. Mauro is a designer who created masterpieces in Paris, in New York, in Dubai… He brought the name of Italy high in the world. Creativity, innovation, beauty…. This evening, in this restaurant Isola facing Victoria Harbour and the skyline of Kowloon, these words, Italian style, Italian fashion, Italian way of life, seem anachronistic, drowned in a rhetoric speech of the political animal-in-office.
“Is there hope?” I ask.
He pauses for a while, and I see he is tired and disillusioned. We were young. He invented a line of furniture products, a real, exquisite “Made in Italy,” and I helped him to launch it. There was energy back then, the country was alive, full of ideas and opportunities. Milan was an industrial capital, and from Milan to Venice or Bologna thousands of enterprises lined the roads. Four million of companies crowded and fed that triangle. The entrepreneurs smiled – and the consultants too. How many kilometres I travelled; how many coffees and Panini Fattoria I had down the highways. How many good businesses I knew, extraordinary people across the peninsula, incredible stories of success.
That was a long time ago, in another land and epoch.
“Yes, my friend.” Eventually, he answers, “I think there is a hope.”
“Do tell me.”
“To be Apaches, this is the answer… I’m really proud to be an Apache, to speak my Apachean language, and to live in my land – even though hidden, silent, invisible. We Apaches are nomad, sniff out food and danger kilometres from our dens; prefer the spiritual tales where nature plays a central role and, with the help of some mushrooms, draws moment of absolute craziness; and especially love the journeys as if they were metaphors of life… I feel the weight of the impending destiny, sure, but also the dignity of my roots, the greatness of my past, the warm consciousness of my loneliness. You see, I don’t want to be homogenized; I refuse to become an accomplice in this historical murder…”
“I don’t know what it will happen. What I know is that I want to be an Apache, up to the end.”
“Augh, then!” I lift my draught beer, still uncertain.
Then, suddenly, I understand and I think there is a deeper meaning in his words. Yes, we’ll have to choose, soon or later.
And I am deeply tired of colonialism.