By MICHAEL KIMMELMAN
Europe, for all its diversity, can be remarkably provincial.
Ponder that for a moment.
Italian culture certainly isn’t diverse now. It subsists on an all-white, all-native, monoethnic diet of Italian game shows, Italian television mini-series, Italian advertisements on cable stations for improbable vibrating contraptions that promise to jiggle fat away, and Italian pop music. Even Roman schoolchildren no longer stray far from a spaghetti-with-ragú diet now that an intercultural city program to serve one international-themed lunch a month has been abandoned by the new center-right government, heeding some Italian mothers, who doubted the nutritional value of falafel and curry.
Italian children in Italy eat Italian food? The horror, the horror ...
And isn't it about time they tore down the Florence Cathedral and put up a Frank Gehry building made out of sheet metal? How come there's not a Hello Kitty logo anywhere on Michelangelo's "David"? Shouldn't La Scala dump Verdi and stage a tribute to the Spice Girls?
All across Europe attitudes are stiffening toward immigration, nowhere more so than here. …
Rome, an ancient magnet for foreigners, is naturally more integrated than most Italian cities and, unlike most of the country, it has taken at least a few steps in recent years to come to terms with its multicultural reality, among them instituting a public library program to reach immigrants and provide Romans with books and lectures about foreign cultures. The question now is whether such efforts will continue.
“We always thought of ourselves as a monoculture, but immigration is our present and future,” said Franco Pittau, an official of Caritas, a Roman Catholic social service and development association that, among other things, monitors immigration here.
Franca Eckert Coen echoed that remark. An Italian Jew in an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic city who lives in an apartment filled with Jewish art, she was in charge of multicultural policy under the former mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni. Ms. Coen recalled a year when Chinese celebrated their New Year with dragons around the Day of Epiphany.
“The newspapers said the Chinese were against Christianity,” she said. “So we held a public event on the Campidoglio about Chinese culture and the New Year celebration, and now we have a Chinese parade each year.”
“It was the same with the Sikhs,” she added. “We had a public event after 2001. We also organized tours of the Capitoline Museums for immigrants. Then we asked them to do something. The Poles, for example, had someone play Polish music at the museum.”
“Little things,” she called them. “They can overcome big fears. I saw all these immigrants become a little bit Italian citizens. Culture is crucial to give people here a chance to see that to be foreign is to bring a different ethnic life to the city, that diversity is a positive.”
Do you ever get the impression that Kevin MacDonald has secretly bought a controlling interest in the New York Times and is rewriting its articles to make them prove his theories correct?