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My town is called Messina

by Mario Valentini last modified 2008-10-21 16:01

Half-finished houses, dormant trams and disappearing landscapes. A voice in anger against the everyday abandon and dereliction that is Messina.

My town is called MessinaMy town is full of rivers which dry up for most of the year. Roads climb up from the rivers' edges. One year they're dirt tracks, the next they've been surfaced. As each year passes houses are built on the rivers' banks, then blocks of flats, then housing estates. At this stage the river is covered over and a road is built where the water once flowed. And you ask yourself: "but where did all the rainwater go? where does it flow now?" And again: "is there a leak underneath the surface?" And: "it's hardly flowing up here, along the road?"
Beyond the banks, where once there were mountains and hills and a patchwork of vegetable gardens, now there are buildings. Through the years the mountainside has disappeared. The vegetable gardens, which about these parts are beautiful, fragrant, evergreen plots, have disappeared leaving space for shopping centres and houses. Sometimes an estate is built halfway up the mountain, then some years later another is built at the bottom. Then they have to build more roads to improve communications and another beautiful piece of the mountain disappears for ever. Then another month or year or two pass and the top estate, the one halfway up the mountain, starts to crumble. Cracks appear in the houses and the whole area is evacuated. Whole families are left homeless. It goes to court and the families accuse the bottom estate of unsafe building practices and say they literally took the ground from under them, houses and all. But the court says that the construction firm used shoddy materials and rules that it should pay all damages. However the construction firm that has to pay the damages went bankrupt a few years ago and there's no one to pay up. The people who lived on the estate have to move to rented accommodation and get no compensation.
This really happened, you can check if you wish. My town is called Messina, this happened recently and one of my friends lived on that estate.

Then, along the banks of another river, the remains of an ancient Roman town are found when digging the foundations for some important public building. All this is normal enough, all Italian cities are built on some ancient town, which in its turn was built on another older site, each one piled on top of the other. That's just the way Italian cities are, one piled on top of the other. The remains are then carefully dug out and brought to the local museum where they are put into storage, piled on top of older remains. "Fine" you think and wait for the builders to start work again anxious to see that magnificent public building, so essential - as the letter had said - for the town's development, appear next to your house. Months go by and nothing happens. The months turn into years. You were ten when the building started. Now, at thirty, you walk past the corrugated iron hoarding, where that key cultural centre - meant for conferences or whatever - was to be built, and all you see is a huge hole dug out in the middle of your town.

Then one day you come back from abroad, where you've been living for a while, and in the middle of one of the town's busiest streets, this time it's not a river, you find a building site and ask your father "what's that? What are they doing in the middle of Viale San Martino?" (That's the name of the busy street). And you find out that they're building an ultra-modern tram system, which there's probably no real use for. Your holiday's over and you go back abroad. In six month's time you come home again and expect to see a brand new tram cutting through the centre of town, running for kilometres with views of the sea, and all things imaginable. At long last you'll be able to get around quickly. And, in this optimistic mood you're looking forward to your homecoming. You ask your father, who collects you from the station: "is the tram finished?". No, he replies, they ran out of money and abandoned it halfway through. So you go for a walk to the busy street to see what effect a half-finished tram, abandoned for months- nearly a year at this stage - by a bunch of idiots in the council, would have on the centre of town. Thinking to yourself: "idiots! How can people be such idiots!" And you think it would be of little use, probably none, but at the same time you'd like to be able to tell everyone about those people, who for years and years, more or less since you were born, have run this town, and who are nothing but incompetent idiots and money-grabbing thieves. Just say, because even saying it would make you feel better, that this town is being run by idiots and has been since you were born. Even if you know that they couldn't care less if you called them idiots. It would run off them, like water off a duck's back, because they're not really idiots but money-grabbing thieves. But while you're on the subject, and can say what you like you say "idiots" and repeat it a few times because it makes you feel better "Idiots! Idiots! Idiots! Idiots!" That's enough. You calm down, that will do.

Messina - - A non-commercial site full of historical information and news on Messina. There are also English, French and German versions and you can write to the author. - - A webcam on the straits of Messina
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