The Man Turning Left

His name isn’t Furbo but it may as well be.

We are in the car behind his car, on a two lane highway, with one direction of traffic each way.  We have stopped behind him because he has stopped, and we have other cars behind us. 

It appears that the man that should have been named Furbo wants to turn left. 

Heck, let’s just rename him Furbo now for easy reference.

Currently there are three problems with the situation. 

Problem number 1: It appears Furbo wants to turn left, so we must wait for him to do so. Also, we must deduce this desire to turn left, because he does not have his left blinker flashing. We can deduce this because Furbo is stopped next to a road that arrives from the left. 

Problem number 2: The road that arrives from the left, the one it appears Furbo wants to turn onto, is actually a one way road coming the opposite direction. In other words, Furbo wants to turn the wrong way on a one way road. So to recap, we have Problem number 1, no left hand blinker but a clear desire to turn left, and Problem number 2, this desire would put him on a one way road going the opposite direction.

Problem number 3: Furbo knows what he wants to do is illegal. There is a street sign stating this, plus everyone in town knows this road and this rule. So Furbo has no excuse. Which leads us back to problem number 1, he doesn’t put his blinker on because he doesn’t want to outright state that he wants to do this illegal thing. If he didn’t know that it were illegal and wanted to turn there, it’s likely, or at least, in Italy, within the realm of the possible, that Furbo would turn his blinker on. 

Phew, it’s exhausting really. These three problems illustrate a classic Italian mentality. ‘What do you expect me to do, go around the block?’

Well, yes, in America we would go around the block. Yes. 

Problem number 4: Furbo’s car is a Panda, but only Italians will get that joke. 

image credit: Wikipedia

Why doesn’t Furbo just go around the block?

Because in Italy, there is an absolutely dizzying number of rules and laws, many of them even contradictory and most of them incredibly burdensome. Compared with America there is a lack of opportunity in starting new businesses. Taxes are high, in large part because many people evade them. 

And as a result, many, many people spend a huge amount of time and effort trying to get around the rules, trying to weave through the laws instead of following them. They try to be sneakier than everyone else, so as not to have to do what’s prescribe, because so many times what is prescribed is so absolutely absurd that you can’t even fathom having to do it.

In Italian the word for this sneakiness to get around a dizzyingly complicated net of rules is FURBO.

Now, especially if you are not Italian, you are going to say, but my friend Marco is so nice, my cousin Giovanni is lovely, my neighbor Maria is so much fun, we love them. 

I’m not talking about your friend Marco, or your cousin Giovanni, or your neighbor Maria specifically. I’m sure they are nice and lovely and fun. I get it.

I’m saying that a huge portion of Italians, an overwhelming majority are furbo in some percentage of their life activities. And a plurality are furbo in a majority of their life activities.

Think about that for a moment.

Non-Italians, even those in Italy, by the way, tend to be forgiving or have blinders over their eyes about this. But Italians know very well what I’m talking about. 

Italy is not pro business, which I think surprises a lot of people. The average Joe, the average Giuseppe, is going to have a really hard time starting something creative and new, and remember most businesses in Italy are family businesses because the government wants it that way. 

Italy wants the classic panem et circensis, bread and circuses concept from Roman times, giving the people the basic fun and games for free so they don’t think about or see the problems in society, so they don’t desire more out of life. Remember, the professional soccer games have been running for most of the pandemic.

And sadly there is also a lot of corruption, people who get jobs because their uncle’s friend can give him something where he doesn’t actually have to work. Where he can reap the pay, not pay taxes, and slide by smooth and easy without doing much work. 

So getting back to Furbo, the man turning left, without a blinker, on a one way street, fully cognizant of the fact that technically it is illegal. 

For him it is just a normal part of life. 

Could he just go around the block? Technically yes, but he is so wired in every action of every day of his life to avoid the rules and avoid the laws, that he doesn’t.

And how are you going to change that mentality?

A country can limp along with this pervasive mentality in normal times, because there are enough people who spend enough of their time actually following the rules.

But when you have a once in a century crisis, and the people charged with creating solutions and then implementing them are largely unqualified, it doesn’t work. 

Don’t get me wrong. I love Italy. I love the idea of la dolce vita, of not worrying about things, of not stressing out, of not working more than you have to, of four hour dinners and fresh air and beautiful places and dreamy meals. 

But things need to work, too. And right now, in this time of crisis, they are not working. 

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