I remember the fear I felt. That's why I learned how to smile, boy. That's why I learned how to smile. I remember the meat trains coming. I saw the chain gangs pass. I remember winners and losers all wear the same masque. I remember a Babylon burning.Carmine woke up at one o'clock in the afternoon, as he usually did. He rolled out of bed, and went half-awake, half-sleeping into the small, wearied kitchen where his mother had prepared breakfast for him. The noon heat of Naples made the food taste stale and unappetizing. Another bloody day, he thought, another bloody unemployed day. He would as always walk down to the employment office and ask for a job, and as always he wouldn't get one. Carmine had half-heartedly graduated as an electrician but there were no jobs as electricians in Naples. He slowly showered and shaved in his parents' filthy bathroom and then dressed. The hangover from yesterday hadn't passed completely but so had most of his unemployment dole. This wasn't of much concern to Carmine, since he knew that in Europe no one was left to starve, and if they were, the family would always take care of you. Carmine didn't really reason about this, he only relied on what he had been told in school and in the information he received from the authorities. Sometimes he felt bad about being unemployed, but he had no means of really understanding what his situation was and on what that situation depended.
Peace, Love & Pitbulls, Youth
The streets were getting crowded again, and the traffic ground to a halt for nearly two hours, which he spent reading "la Gazzetta dello Sport" at a nearby café. There weren't so many cafés around these days as there used to be, but Carmine didn't think about that. Instead he got upset when he read that his favorite football team, Napoli, had sold one of its best players to a northern Italian club, since they were unable to pay him a decent salary for his services. Transfers should be banned, thought Carmine; players should play for the loyalty to their fans. Angry and irritated he finally boarded the bus. It was an old and uncomfortable bus, but at least it was cheap since the city of Naples provided it. A private entrepreneur wouldn't care about the customers, he thought, especially those that couldn't pay the fares, like him. And after all, everyone had the right to transportation.
He got to the unemployment office, about three hours late. But that was OK of course, it depended on circumstances that he couldn't control. He passed through long corridors in the old edifice that were covered with posters from the EU. "Don't give up hope", they said, "everyone has the right to an employment", "working without paying taxes is a punishable crime". He didn't particularly sympathize with the posters. After all, his uncle Alfredo had let him work at his company for two months, and old Alfredo hadn't paid any taxes for sure. But they were right in a way, since they indicated the only views that were possible. The only views that a man could have. Who was he to disagree with the democratically elected government?
Signor Morelli's office was a small room with two desks (his secretary worked in the same room) and signor Morelli wasn't a too impressive man himself. Morelli reminded Carmine of a rat, one of the big rats scurrying on the streets of Naples. Dressed in a gray, cheap suit that could need some mending he didn't convey an air of trustworthiness. Signor Morelli was the man that decided over his life in all relevant aspects, since he decided which jobs Carmine would take and if he should receive his unemployment dole. Carmine greeted Morelli with feigned respect and Morelli greeted him with feigned interest of his well being. Something was different today, though; Morelli seemed joyful about something.
"This EU project will solve the unemployment problem of Europe, Carmine! The work brigades will unite all unemployed workers, give them education and let them work with projects that are useful to society. I have chosen you to go to Poland to work on the new highway from Warsaw to Brussels".
OH NO, HOLY MOTHER OF GOD! Carmine thought. Not the work brigade! He would be sent to a foreign land far away from his home and friends, working for meager pay. His friend Giuseppe had been sent to a work brigade in France, and he had told him that it was pure hell. The education had been lousy too.
"Signor Morelli, I'm not a road worker, I am an electrician", he said in a terrified and cowed voice. "I must take care of my parents, and I'm sure uncle Alfredo will give me a job if I really need it. Isn't there some way we can discuss this? How's your sister, Signor Morelli? Maybe I could repair some of the wiring in her house, like we did last time?"
Morelli's face changed from a feigned smile to a sneer. His voice changed into a menacing hissing, similar to the one used by the Mafia goons that came demanding protection money from uncle Alfredo. "No Carmine. It is time that you show some spirit for the community. The government pays you a very generous unemployment dole, doesn't it? Citizenship is about taking advantage of the welfare that society must provide to all its citizens, but it is also about accepting one's duties without questioning! You will go to Poland, otherwise I will recommend that your unemployment dole will be withdrawn".
Damn, Carmine thought. He should have done a better job at Morelli's sister's house. What gave this man the power to decide these things? Destiny, he thought, one must accept one's destiny. Perhaps he could be sent home earlier if he did a bad job in Poland. Perhaps Morelli would change his mind, he vainly hoped. He went home, feeling a more accentuated pain and hopelessness than usual. Tonight he would party it away with some of his friends, it would return the next morning, but at least he didn't have to think about it tonight.
What he definitively never thought about was the extent that his own choices had put him in this horrible situation. But Carmine had never bother to learn anything about philosophy or economics. Neither had millions of other lemmings.