This afternoon we went for a walk around central Palermo. In Piazza Politeama we saw these fellows.
The man at the bottom was sitting cross-legged on a glass tumbler.
All along Via Ruggiero Settimo there were buskers playing drums and guitars, there were fire-breathers and jugglers, there were men on stilts making balloon animals for the children, and there were girls dressed as witches performing magic tricks and giving sweets to the children.
Today is the Epiphany, when the Magi arrived to give gifts to baby Jesus. For Italians, this festival is called La Befana. The Befana is a friendly old witch who brings gifts to the children: a stocking containing sweets, if they have been good, or a knob of coal, if they have been bad. Hence the witches on the prowl!
Lots of the performers were Asian and some were black. It is a very recent thing to see non-white foreigners in Palermo integrated into mainstream society in this way, and a very good thing. The isolated Sicilians desperately needed a bit of the outside world to reach their shores.
The thing I don’t like is that you see lots of these Asian men out and about, often with their children, but where are all the women? It seems they are never allowed out of the house. The Sicilians were this boring a few generations ago. Honestly, it’s as boring for the men as it is for the women. Hey, Asians, you can have whole family fun now you are in Italy!
It’s not as ridiculous as this, though. At my son’s school, the teacher and one of the mothers wanted to do an art activity before Christmas. The idea was to make a Christmas decoration in the form of a heart, with a toy baby Jesus at the centre. The headmistress banned this, saying “Sicily is multicultural now and it would offend multicultural elements in the class.”
The only multicultural element in my son’s class is, actually, my son.
This is the first step to ending up like Britain, where nurses and doctors are not allowed to wear cricifixes to work in case they offend non-Christians, and where Muslims are allowed to take jobs in shops that sell alcohol and then refuse to actually perform the sale of alcohol when a customer presents it to them at the till. The Red Cross in Britan actually banned Christmas in all their shops in 2010 as they thought it would “offend Muslims.”
I have a few ridiculous scenarios in my imagination. One is where I move to Amsterdam and take a job as a sales assistant in one of their marijuana shops. I strongly disapprove of marijuana use, so I refuse to sell any products to any customers, yet I admire and respect their outstanding human rights laws so I continue to get paid my salary, while doing nothing.
In another of my silly scenarios I have moved to Saudi Arabia. I find the sight of women wearing hijabs offensive so they all have to remove them while they are talking to me. Women are not legally allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, but of course I am, because otherwise I’ll get offended. Women and men have to eat in separate areas of restaurants in Saudi Arabia, including in McDonalds, Starbucks and Pizza Hut, but of course, the Saudis would not want to offend me, so they allow me to eat my Big Mac with pork meat in among the men.
In another silly scenario, I have moved to Catholic Sicily and I feel offended that my son is glueing glitter on a plastic baby Jesus at Christmas time. So the entire class of Catholics has to pretend to be atheists, for my sake.
Like I said, ridiculous.