In a discussion of the Pope’s upcoming visit to England, one of the commenters, “Fabio P”, at Damien Thompson’s Telegraph weblog makes the following point
I am serious. The seething malevolence and hatred against the Pope which every lunatic in this country seems to share may not surprise those of you who have no term of comparison, but I can tell you that it has so stunned Italian observers that I have had people seriously telling me that the Pope should never set foot in so hate-ridden and dangerous a country. I heard from people who told me that they were less worried by Papal visits to Turkey or the Holy Land than to this island nest of vipers. And I could say little to reassure them, except to say that all British Catholics who can make it will certainly be there.
Another commenter, “Mundabor”, agrees:
As in “Italian Observer”, the biggest differences between I and UK I notice are:
1) the militant fanatic atheism.
2) the obsession with political correctness.
3) the global warming maniacs
4) the animal rights terrorists
5) the compulsive nannies.
6) the vegetarians, vegans and other “ans” brigade.
7) the chariteeee activists
Whilst some of these are present in Italy too, they are the reserve of a small and ridiculed minority and are never a mainstream issue.
Italians get mad for lesser things (football, mainly) and are unable of being serious in many others (list is too long); but they have a remarkable middle of the way attitude, such that none of the issue above would ever become “life defining”.
The idea of going around trying to arrest Popes or otherwise making an ass of oneself is so stupid to them that no one would do it for fear of the ridicule alone.
I’m sure many would compare such a fanatical behaviour to the man who at the wedding lunch tells the bridegroom in front of everyone all that he doesn’t like in him. Embarrassingly stupid, unnecessarily exaggerated and index of a disturbed personality. Even if they don’t like the bridegroom themselves.
To the typical Italian, looking with some mistrust even at a vegetarian, an animal rights activist or one who wants to arrest the Pope are people from another planet.
This doesn’t surprise me. Upon the vast reprobate continent of modern Europe, England strikes me as the most malevolent presence. This is a feeling I have, rather than a rational conclusion. Even among the best of Englishmen–such as Burke, Coleridge, or Dawson–there’s still a stench of Whiggery about them. Since they lost their empire, it’s gotten far worse. Every English mind is immersed in Whiggish bigotry and superstition; each is filled with an unshakable conviction that he is riding a millenia-long wave of progress and freedom. (An English Spengler is unimaginable.) Russell Kirk and other traditionalist Anglophiles tend to see the English as a characteristically nonideological and practical people. My impression is the opposite–that the English tend to be far more ideological than most of the Continentals. The French and Italians may have (or had) large communist parties, but it seems to me that even their communists never took their Marxism as seriously as Englishmen take their feminism, anti-racism, and environmentalism.
For example, Italy, like the rest of Europe, is officially feminist. No one but the Pope would publicly question androgynist doctrine. On the other hand, it’s considered shameful if a man fails to carry his lady’s bags. (Once, on a trip to Italy, my father-in-law had to tell my wife that she was making me look bad by refusing to let me carry things.) Here’s another example: An American physicist once told me about a conference he attended in Italy. One day, he went out to lunch with a female colleague. The waiter handed them each a menu, but the menus were different colors. Intrigued, they compared what was inside the menus. It turned out the two were identical, except that only the man’s menu had prices listed. To avoid scandalizing the waiter, the man paid the bill for both their meals, and the lady paid him back her share after they left. When I first heard this story, I was not yet the committed patriarchist that I am today. Nevertheless, even then the Italian custom stuck me as classy and civilized, while our rigid egalitarianism seemed boorish. One feels that the Italians have accepted feminism reluctantly, and that they don’t draw any more conclusions from this unnatural doctrine than they’re forced to at any one time. The English, on the other hand, are in deadly earnest about their feminism. They’re always on the watch to find some harmless and pleasant custom to denounce so that they can feel morally superior to their ancestors. This is the effect of Whiggery on the brain: a man’s worth is measured by his contempt for his parents.