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"... the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain."
- Khalil Gibran
I was fortunate to have spent this week in Rome, en route to Switzerland. During this Italian sojourn, I visited numerous prominent historical attractions that many only read about in school books, view in movies or see in tourist brochures. During my entire stay in the Italian capital, I was frequently reminded of Khalil Gibran's observation that often we more deeply appreciate our own environment from a distance. Accordingly this week, we would like to Consider This... what are some of our reflections from Rome that help us to more fully appreciate the small country that we call The Bahamas?
Europe is very different from North America. And like the United States, the countries within Europe are as different from each other as are the different cultures, ethnicities, conventions and idiosyncrasies of the individual states that form the American union or even the different islands of The Bahamas.
Immediately upon arriving in Rome, the often expected difficulties that one could anticipate with border control were non-existent. There was no sense of immigration paranoia about foreigners that one sometimes encounters when traveling abroad. It was refreshing to experience such a welcoming and relaxed, almost nonchalant, vetting by immigration officers at the airport.
One of the earliest observations was that virtually all automobiles in Rome are very small - best characterized as either compact, mini or miniscule. The absence of large vehicles was extremely noticeable, as urban residents either use scooters as a primary means of transportation around the capital or the fairly reliable public transportation system of buses and trains. It is said that there are more scooters in Rome than automobiles, the result of both skyrocketing fuel costs combined with the ease of parking in public places.
One quickly appreciates that Italians are Euro-centric, with little concern about what's going on in the Americas. The majority of people I engaged about the state of affairs in Italy expressed a disappointment with the quality of Italian life since joining the European Union, primarily because of the adverse impact on the level of salary and wages and the replacement of the Italian lira with the euro in 2002.
Watching the news on television offered another perspective of and discernible difference in Italian life. Apart from the limited number of English-speaking channels in my hotel, it was obvious from the channels that were available that Italians are not inundated with CNN or other American media as we are in the Americas. Rather, Al Jazeera, Euronews and BBC World are viewed with greater regularity with those news services presenting a more balanced reporting of world news, again with greater interest and focus of what is taking place in Europe, Africa and Asia. For example, while scrolling the news channels, the latter broadcasts focused more on diverse international developments whereas CNN International, while reporting on selected international developments, provided more American news.
Notwithstanding claims about Italians' apathy to politics, I got the distinct impression that this is not a completely accurate assertion. The Italian Parliament, which is comprised of more than 600 deputies in the lower house of Parliament (the Camera of Deputies) and more than 300 senators, seems to be very active and engaged. While visiting the Italian Parliament, I observed several organized, albeit rancorous, demonstrations in front of the Camera of Deputies. I was also advised that this is a common occurrence, that Parliament meets regularly and that there are always organized demonstrations outside by Italian activists.
The church and history
There are certain realities that transcend national boundaries. Citizens here express disappointment about the level of taxes imposed by the Italian government, including personal and corporate taxes. There is also a value added tax (VAT) rate of 21 percent on goods and services (10 percent in restaurants), which some observe has significantly contributed to the high level of domestic prices. Another common feature of this society is the number of people seeking alms, although it appeared that more women engage in this activity than we are accustomed to seeing.
During a visit to Vatican City, one could only marvel at the enormous impact that the Catholic Church has always had on Italian culture. Historically, more than 16,000 people visit Vatican City daily, although since the election of Pope Francis in March, the level of daily visitors has increased to 25,000.
Although Rome has a population of four million, the streets of this city felt safe for walking, both day and night. Security in Rome is provided by a ubiquitous police force particularly in the city center, including regular uniformed officers, and the elite Carabineri. The regular army is even present in some places. Of course, the Swiss Guard protects Vatican City.
I visited the usual tourist attractions, including the Trevi Fountain, Piazza di Spagna (the Seven Steps), the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Castel St. Angelo, the Forum, the Coliseum, the Church of St. Peter and Paul in Chains, and the Vittoriano Monument - a large white marble edifice in Piazza Venezia, which was erected to commemorate the unification of Italy in 1861. Wherever you go, you will find that residents of Rome have a tremendous sense of national pride about the role that Rome has played in the history of civilization.
Italians have every reason to possess such pride, having regard for the enormously incalculable contributions that Rome has made to the development of politics, academics, culture, the arts, jurisprudence and civil society.
The resurgence of the appreciation for the importance of the Roman Empire and the Italian Renaissance is visible on an international scale as well. These time periods were recently featured in films beginning with the movie "Gladiator", other Hollywood productions of Dan Brown's "DaVinci Code" and "Angels and Demons" and recent TV series such as "Spartacus", "The Borgias" and DaVinci's "Demons".
Rome is a city of contradictions and ironies. During the Roman Empire, Rome led in the persecution of Christians, including the crucifixion and beheading of Sts. Peter and Paul, respectively, along with many other Christian martyrs, but it is also the city which ultimately became the center of the Christian church and the establishment of the Vatican as a separate and autonomous state and the seat of Catholicism.
It is also ironic that the some of the most beautiful churches in Rome were built with stones that were taken from the Coliseum, where Christians were executed, and from the pagan temples of the Forum where the early polytheistic Romans worshipped. It is equally ironic how many previously taboo pagan practices, rituals and customs were amalgamated or absorbed into the Christian church, particularly during the reign of Constantine, the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity.
Although we do not enjoy the millennia-long historical perspective of all that Rome has to offer the world, we in The Bahamas should also be proud of our accomplishments as a young country. From its earliest days, settlers both black and white demonstrated a robust resilience against great odds. They were able to survive by coaxing crops from the barren rocks of our islands. They withstood storms and starvation for centuries and created the vibrant society we call The Bahamas, complete with a rich culture, vigorous democracy and promising future. Certainly there are many exemplary episodes in Bahamian history that we can be as proud of as any Roman. All we have to do is make more of an effort to learn our own stories.
My recent visit to Rome provided not only a deeper understanding of the city that I visited nearly 20 years ago and of its contribution to humanity, but also a richer appreciation of Gibran's observation that "... the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain."
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two paramedics have been suspended following claims that they forced injured tourists to pay for treatment and transport to hospital.
The actions of the two-member crew are now being investigated by bosses at Emergency Medical Services.
It is alleged that two visitors injured in a traffic accident were the victims of extortion - having been told they would have to pay up-front for treatment and transport.
The tourists were said to be riding a scooter at the time of the accident, but it is not
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Charles Maynard reminded student-athletes who competed in the 26th Annual Father Marcian Peters Basketball Tournament, yesterday, just how great they are, calling them “the best of the best in the entire Bahamas.”
Maynard’s words of inspiration rang through the Kendal G.L.?Isaacs national Gymnasium during the awards presentation for the New Providence based schools, which competed in the annual tournament held in December, 2010. Family Islands schools and athletes that won awards were the first to receive their hardware when Minister Maynard, Director of Sports Timothy Munnings and ministry official Michael ‘Scooter&rsqu ...
"I'm vex at people who complain about traffic, completely failing to see the irony. They're the reason traffic exists, because they're the ones driving the cars. One would think that a tiny, flyspeck island such as New Providence would welcome two wheeled transportation such as bicycles, scooters and motorcycles with open arms, but Bahamians are so ignorant that we stick to the old tradition of 'only 'Hyshins' is ride bicycle!' And we all know how Bahamians view 'Hyshins'."
- Concerned citizen
"I vex an' sad that all dem stores on Bay Street get burn down and happy dat at least one left mostly saved intact is da well known 'Bat' ...
No date has been set as yet for the awards presentation for the New Providence based schools which competed in the Father Marcian Peters Basketball Classic last December.
The ‘red carpet’ was rolled out for teams from Harbour Island and San Salvador, as both schools had extravagant ceremonies which were attended by the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Charles Maynard, Director of Sports Tim Munnings and Michael ‘Scooter’ Reid, an official from the ministry, but so far, it has been pretty much quiet in the capital.
The celebration in Harbour Island was for their junior girls and primary school boys. The festivities were held two weeks ago, and it was Maynard ...
EDITOR, The Tribune.
We just returned home to Minnesota from a cruise to your beautiful island. I want to thank you so much for the wonderful experience we had.
We rented a scooter (yes! we are dumb Americans who actually did that) and had an absolutely wonderful time exploring New Providence Island. Everyone on the road was very accommodating and helpful - many laughing at us and several drivers and pedestrians asked us if we were OK - obviously not used to the left side of the road. From the moment we left the ship everyone in the Bahamas that we met and talked to was very friendly, very helpful.
I love your home and hope to return someday.
January 11, ...
Tourists and Bahamians looked on in horror as a police officer allegedly beat a woman before hauling her off to jail yesterday in the area just behind the downtown straw market.
Eyewitnesses told The Nassau Guardian that the woman - identified by family members as Edena Farah - was conducting a segway tour when she was stopped by an off-duty officer and subsequently beaten for reasons that are still unknown.
“The lady (Farah) was on the scooter with about 12 tourists following her,” said woodcarver James Rolle, who reportedly watched as the situation unfolded.
“She stopped and was talking to the tourists, and the police woman, who wasn’t even in uniform, ...
By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
THE country's biggest tournament, featuring teams from the primary to the high school level, is scheduled for December 9-17 at the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium.
The 27th version of the Father Marcian Peters Basketball Classic, organised by the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, is all set for teams in the private, public schools and Family Islands.
Tournament coordinator Michael 'Scooter' Reid said the classic promises to be another exciting one. "We really want to stress to the teams to send in their entry forms as soon as possible so that we can formulate the schedule in time," said Reid, a senior sports ...
An Andros native is the country's latest traffic fatality victim.
Police believe the 25-year-old lost control of his moped scooter and crashed into a lamp pole.
The body of the Little Harbour, Mangrove Cay, Andros resident was discovered by police officers lying on the side of a main thoroughfare.
According to police press liaison officer Sergeant Chrislyn Skippings officers were on patrol in the area of Pete's, Mangrove Cay, when they
discovered the lifeless body of a male clad in dark jeans pants and a white shirt laying on the western side of Queen's Highway.
"It is reported the victim was riding a motor bike when he lost control and collided with a utility ...