Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Decline and Fall of Rome

It didn’t seem quite appropriate posting this story on or before Christmas, but, being as the holiday has passed it seems appropriate to notice what is going on in the once-great city of Rome. Formerly the seat of empire, currently, the seat of the Roman Catholic Church, Rome is disintegrating.

According to a New York Times report, Rome is in serious decline. It now counts among the world’s great cities that are falling apart at the seams. The decline is a disgrace, but no one seems to know what to do to stop it.

The Times Rome bureau chief Jason Horowitz wrote a story entitled, “Rome in Ruins.”

… the Rome that tourists often choose not to see: Empty beer bottles, cigarette packs, stained paper towels, soiled clothes and littered food were spread around like some grotesque picnic. Illegal souvenir sellers stashed their blue plastic bags full of tchotchkes in the tree limbs before ducking into bushes that they used as toilets.

In the neighborhoods around us, sidewalks were cluttered with soaked mattresses, refrigerators and armchairs. Garbage trucks covered in graffiti moved past walls scrawled with the city’s lament: “Roma Guasta” or “Broken Rome.”

Among the first responsibilities of local government is picking up the garbage. Not in Rome. Rome has become a garbage dump:

Rome now overwhelms the senses, not just with unrestrained beauty, but with overflowing dumpsters, like rancid coral reefs sprouting pink and blue and yellow garbage bags on seemingly every city street. Seagulls, protecting their trashy turf, caw in the air, and public buses — which often break down, sometimes explode, but rarely arrive on time — screech on the ground. Potholes rupture spinal discs. Dimly lighted streets force drivers to develop night vision. Uncurbed dogs render sidewalks treacherous. My son calls Rome “poop city.”

None of this is a secret. Il Messaggero, the Roman daily, may as well be called the Garbage Gazette, dedicating itself to documenting the city’s decline. (“No Heat in the Schools;” “Few and Broken Benches: Everyone Standing in the Park.”)

As for the local subway, it is even worse than the subway in New York City:

Escalators in the metro remained out of service for weeks after an October accident nearly amputated the feet of Russian tourists. This month, some central stations failed to open at all and a member of Parliament proposed bringing in the army to fill the potholes. In the meantime, fences in the streets guard sinkholes or workers perennially digging to fix leaking pipes, pushing motorists into oncoming traffic. The public villas, Rome’s green lungs, have become post-apocalyptic landscapes where vagabonds sleep on slides and yellow Roma Capitale tape sections off fallen trees like crime scenes. Vermin slink through the hip-high weeds in the land where wild boars now roam.

Who is responsible? Why, look first to the mayor Virginia Raggi. She has set a new standard for incompetence. Horowitz refrains from placing the entirety of the blame on her, but still, she wanted to promote recycling and ecologically correct diapers. A radical leftist has presided over the decline and fall of Rome:

Often the target of their ire, and not without reason, is the embattled mayor, Virginia Raggi. La Raggi, they call her. They say it like Seinfeld said Newman. Like bad guys say Bond. As in a comic book’s premise, Mr. Tonelli, 40, attended middle and high school with Ms. Raggi. I asked if they were friends. He told me she is suing him for defamation, in a class-action lawsuit joined by more than 25 members of her Five Star Movement party.

When I sat with Ms. Raggi before she took office in 2016, she talked a lot about recycling and finding a way to wrap Roman babies in more ecological diapers. Instead she has faced the mother of all garbage emergencies. Her administration blames the “underworld” for hampering its attempts to clean the streets, and said it suspects more foul play behind the burning this month of a garbage treatment center that handles a fifth of Rome’s trash. The acrid air choked the city and an ominous black cloud spread over the mayor’s new hope: plastic garbage bins. Introduced for door-to-door pickup, they line city streets like stout sentries. The other day, the owner of a stationery store on my block inspected one as if it were the monolith in “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Naturally, Raggi’s supporters have managed to shift the blame, but the story is clear enough: progressive politics is destroying Rome.


sestamibi said...

Just like Seattle and San Francisco, and what do all three cities have in common? Oh, wait . . .

Sam L. said...

Rome hits your eye like a big poopy pie, that's aRoma... (My apologies to Dean Martin.)

Doug Cranmer said...

When an eel lunges out
And it bites off your snout
That's a morray.