come and the unending verbal battles between the phony rightrnand the phony left. The woods were thick with chestnut trees,rnand in their shade, the locals could pick the funghi that grew inrnabundance—porcini, boletus, and others whose names I hadrnnot so much as heard.rnThe shock was Consonno itself. Somehme in the 1960’s, therncity fathers of Olginate had decided to construct a model townrncomplete with hotel, disco, and shops. This little commercialrncommunity was constructed in the best nightmare Moorishrnstyle, complete with a tower that looked something like arnminaret designed bv Disney.rnThe place flopped immediately; the shops closed; and thernyoung people who had not gone to the disco came on weekendsrnto trash the place — not that it could have been made worse. Ever)’rnthing had been built of such shoddy construction that, afterrnonly 30 years, the sidewalks looked like an earthquake had hit.rnOnly a mile or two away, you could find farm buildings andrnchurches that had lasted for centuries. This tribute to Americarnhad not survived the end of the Cold War.rnWe were taken to Consonno by our old friend Elvio Conti,rnone of the four founders of the Lega Lombarda. Elvio’s motherrnhad been born there, and her parents were buried in the smallrncemetery which we could not enter because the city fathers ofrnOlginate had decided —contrary to tradition and probablyrnagainst the law—to keep it padlocked. Elvio is a sound businessmanrnwho believes in the free market, but he wonders whyrnhis mother’s village had to be ruined, why the entire area had tornbe flooded with welfare cases from the South, and why all ofrnItaly has to be transformed into a hybrid of Albania and NorthrnAfrica whose fitting symbol is the commercial minaret of Consonno.rnI tell the story of Consonno to friends at dinner, and EugeniornCorti informs me that Consonno is proverbial for being a villagernof idiots and retells the story (which exists in many languages)rnof the villagers who wanted to feed a hungry donkey.rnWhen they find some grass growing out of the bell tower, insteadrnof pulling up the grass and taking it to the donkey in thernpiazza, they put a rope around the donkey’s neck and hoist himrnto the top of the campanile. Seeing the death rictus on the animal’srnface, they exclaim: “See how happy he is to have therngrass.” Later, an outsider comments that the dead donkey wasrnthe only creature in Consonno that had any sense.rnAll of Italy is Consonno now, and, confronted with ThirdrnWorld poverty, instead of doing the sensible thing—which isrnsending the grass to 1 unisia or Albania—they are bringing thernTunisiairs and Albanians to their own campanile. I’his time, itrnis not going to be the doirkey that perishes, but Italy.rnLike most people, Italians are hypocrites who like to attackrnthe LJnited States for its “racisf immigration policies, but whenrnthe time came to ship the Albanians back where they camernfrom several years ago, most Italians breathed a sigh of reliefrnThis bold initiative of the Polo-Lega alliance may be the firstrnstep toward the creation of a genuine rightist political coalitionrnin Italy, one that will transcend Berlusconi’s puerile fascinationrnwith American consumerism and the Cerman electoral system.rnNearly ten years ago, the alliance of Bossi, Berlusconi, andrnFini offered hope to millions of Italians who wanted a decentrngovernment and a decentralized constitution. For reasonsrnknown only to himself, Umberto Bossi destroyed that coalition.rnAfter nearly ten years of Marxist misrule, Bossi seems to knowrnwho the enemies are. Let us hope the Italian people havernlearned the same lesson. crnDICTATIONSrnLightening Uprn^ ^ r ~ | Iwo D’s on your report card? Wliat have you beenrnI doing all semester? From now on, you are a ,stii-rnJL dent: no phone, no friends, no dates…. It’s timernyou started growing up, started accepting responsibility.”rn”Yeah, Dad, whatever.”rnIt’s the familiar conclusion to many conversations herernin America: One side appeals to standards of excellence, traditionsrnof morality, a code of behavior; the other asserts thernright to lump all of the aboe into the category of “whatever.”rnComplain about the expression to one of vour loutishrnchildren or one of their aunts and uncles who try to keep uprnwith the times, and you’ll be told, “Lighten up, it’s only anrnexpression, a little slang.”rn”Lighten up” is another one of those conversation finishersrnthat dismiss eer’ serious enterprise or intention as a relicrnof Victorianism. I’m almost certain that when the motherrnof one of his ictims vented her rage at the trial, JeffreyrnDahmer must have been thinking, “l..igliten up.”rnBut are these expressions really slang? ‘[‘raditionallvrn(pardon the expression), slang is a rac form of everydayrnspeech, used cither as a secret language to confuse the authoritiesrnor simply for the i nerc joy of creating vivid expressions.rnThere must be some other way of describing a wornoutrncliche whose only function is to deaden speech and endrnconversation.rnYeah right, whatever, lighten up, chill out, take a pill, getrnreal. What do they mean by “real”? Apparently, only thernmost basic physical functions we sliare with other mammals:rneating, copulating, and playing games. Reality, apparently,rndoes not include writing a sonnet or learning MandarinrnChinese.rnThere has been much talk of the “dumbing down ofrnAmerica,” mostly by the victims of the process, hut dimibingrndown is only a part of the larger process of proletarianization,rnthe reduction of all human life to the level of a deracinated,rndenatured employee whose perceptions and character havernbeen stunted by pop culhire. 1 o be a “teen”—at least sincernthe 1940’s—has meant being the slave of a commercial culturernthat has dumbed the human character to a level lowerrnthan our nearest relatives on the scala naturae. Being stupidrnand servile—being a tool — is then equated with being reallyrnfree, firee from the burden of being human. What is the answer?rn”Get a life.”rnBut I have a life of sods, of the muddled old-f;ishionedrnhuman variety. This pop-prole life, realih-, chilled-out enlightenmentrnis something else, as dilfereut from life as softrnice cream from gelato.rn—Humpty Dumptyrn12/CHRONICLESrnrnrn