Walking through the streets on Sunday



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On Sunday, taking advantage of a glorious day and since I still had to go out to vote, I went with my life’s companion for a walk on the seafront in Ostia. On the pier in front of the central Ravennati Square there was a quite old busker, I think of Greek origin. He had a guitar and a speaker, an open case at his feet, in which curious passers-by were occasionally throwing a coin. He started playing, first slowly, then faster and faster, in a well-known frenetic rhythm: a Sirtaki.

He was using a backing track, of course, but he did most of the work, easily sliding his fingers on the keyboard with familiar and unfailing movements. He was very good, so good that a young girl, first, and a couple of passers-by, later, began to dance. Here and there some guys and even a gentleman of a certain age, less brave but obviously too mesmerized by the rapid succession of those brilliant notes, had started to sway in time too, tapping their foot to keep the rhythm.

In Rome there are many buskers, mostly gypsies, some South American, occasionally some guy or girl who scrapes together some euro to pay the holidays in Italy. Most are pretty bad, especially the nomads, but a couple of weeks ago, while I was going to a customer by the subway line B, I had the pleasure of listening to a couple of really good musicians. They were South Americans, perhaps Peruvians, one with a guitar and one with a beautiful violin whose polished wood shone under the neon lights on the ceiling of the car.

I had soon the impression that they were professionals, those who play in spots, maybe just in a restaurant. They did not use backing tracks: only their instruments and voice. The violinist, in particular, was not only really good at playing, but he had a beautiful voice, low, rich and full of nuances, well tuned and modulated. Even the pieces they played were not the usual ones: all known pieces, of course, but not trivial and certainly not easy to play. I gladly listened to them and, as I did for the Greek at Ostia, I gave them a couple of euro for a truly appreciated show.

Sometimes it happens: street artists, buskers, but also workers: the gardener who comes to cure the lemon tree that has fallen ill or the mason who repairs the wall crumbled because of the rain. People who work well, with commitment, with expertise, people who work hard from morning to night, to earn little money, just to keep going another day, to take home lunch and dinner for themselves and their loved ones; mostly foreigners, but also some Italian to whom the crisis has taken away almost everything.

And then you see on television many presumed artists, presenters and singers, dancers and even cooks and other odd fellows that, maybe thanks to the acquaintance with this or that politician, got a not always deserved reputation, in any case not proportional to their actual value. You see alleged professionals to earn a hundred, a thousand times as much, with performances that are certainly not superior to those of artists and workers that you meet every day on the street, and you become aware of how unjust is our society. Not the merit, not the competence, and least of all the honesty are rewarded, but the acquaintance with those who have power, the corrupt business deal, the exchange of favors. It bothers you, indeed, it makes you angry, not so much because it happens — you rationally know that it always happened, since ancient times — but because you can do nothing to change. You would you like to do something, but you do not even know what you could realistically do.

In fact, when I say that you do not know what you could do, I’m not talking so much about all those good people who do not see their work recognized as it should: appreciating their expertise, recognizing them their due, and maybe even adding a word of appreciation can be sufficient. The problem is about the others, those who are recognized of a reputation they did not merit and above all a compensation that they did not deserve, often paid with our money. About that we are all really completely powerless. We can only watch this shame and shake our heads, because our society is unjust, unfair, a society where often those in power do not deserve it and who deserves it has no power. And the anger grows …

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