i Editor's Letter: The true voice of Italy


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The Independent Online


"Schettino" sounded like an Italian insult even before the tragic Costa Concordia's hapless captain came to our attention. Pausing to note the unlikeliness of him receiving a fair trial, having been condemned by media and Costa bosses alike, it should be remembered that many victims' families have had lives destroyed. Not being British, they have been all-but forgotten here.

The UK media has instead fallen into stereotyping one of the few ethnic groups it appears to be still OK to mock: Italians. After days of "Captain Coward" and the "swarthy looks" of this "lothario", the headline on the Mail website as I type is: "Schettino's a braggart, a show-off and drove Costa Concordia like a Ferrari," claims his ex-captain. A Ferrari!

And yet ... there is something so uniquely Italian about the (let's remember) alleged background to the accident. That a captain of a giant ship might steer away from its route, to sail closer to the shore so that the head waiter might be able to salute relatives or friends on land all plays into our notion of show-off Italians, who are obsessed with friends and family.

Of course, the Schettino who is alleged to have abandoned ship before his passengers plays into a notion of Italians as cowards that I fail to recognise; knowing how indescribably brave my relatives were as German soldiers invaded their home during the War. See too our story about the brave divers who have risked their lives in the quest for survivors.

To me, the true voice of Italy was heard in the tongue-lashing given to Schettino by the horrified coast guard. It is now immortalised as a T-shirt with a typically Italian dose of black humour: "Vada a Bordo, Cazzo". I will leave you to translate it as you wish. Auguri.