Saviano's Pen

This morning El País publishes a translation of an essay by Roberto Saviano, the Italian journalist who lives under a death threat from the Neapolitan mafia because of his book Camorra (Gomorrah in English). But Saviano is not writing about the Camorra today; rather, he reflects on the case of Eluana Englaro and pays homage to her father, Beppino. (See recent entry, "Natural declines".) It's a wonderful article in which he reminds us that the father's determination to act within the bounds of the legal system sets a heroic example for Italian society, so accustomed to resolving things a la italiana. Berlusconi's last minute attempt to undo the Italian Supreme Court's ruling in the case, and the the Vatican hierarchy's shameful support for that crude tactic, will live in infamy. Saviano reminds his readers that Eluana's father, in his desire to fulfill his daughter's explicit and reiterated wishes regarding end of life issues, refused to take easier, more efficient actions to achieve his goal. How easy it would have been, for example, to pay off a skilled nurse. Or he could have taken his daughter to another country. And in spite of the horrible manipulation the fanatics made of Eluano's image, using photos of the attractive young woman before her accident to create the false impression that her father wanted to kill a beautiful, healthy woman, Beppino refused to compromise his daughter's dignity by publishing iamges of the crude reality: the inert body of a disfigured woman being artificially kept alive through a feeding tube in spite of seventeen years in a persistent vegetative state. It's interesting, because the essay's positive outlook, it's belief in the exemplary force of individual actions contrasts sharply with the pessimistic attitude expressed by Saviano in a recent interview, in which he rues the day he wrote Camorra. The book's success and the subsequent death threats have turned his life upside down and in the interview he seems to lament ever having gone down this path. But he makes an important point: that without readers his efforts would truly have been in vain, because that's what the Camorra cares about, that's what can really do them harm. So, as it seems with just about everything, it always comes back to education. The power of the word is for naught if there's not an educated audience ready to be moved to action.