Mar 30:

You know how, like, global warming might be threatening the existence of our very civilization, yet no one seems to act any differently, except maybe Bon Jovi? Well, it would be easy to blame our terrible times, what with the Nintendos and the Entertainment Tonights and the Powermax Starting Lineup Presented By The Military-Industrial Complex -- but it turns out it's human nature. Today's reading from I Promessi Spozi covers the 1630 plague in Milan. Given my prejudice about turn-of-the-20th-century WASP prejudice -- where philosophy is left for Northern Europeans (the French technically count), and Italians are there for emotion and waving their garlic-scented hands in the air -- I was thinking it would be another ripping yarn like the one they gave us two weeks ago. But instead it's journalism:
And, to say the truth, it is not only our object, in this narrative, to represent the state of things in which our characters will shortly be placed; but at the same time to develop, as far as may be in so limited a space, and from our pen, an event in the history of our country more celebrated than well known.
Or, "see, I only made up this story and characters so I could get a chance to talk about something really interesting -- to wit, on what day did the first plague victim enter Milan in 1630?"

But the thing that's resonant is the universal human drive for denying anything bad is going on.
But that which, leaving censure, diminishes our wonder at his [the Bush-like leader who thinks his war is more important than anything else -- ed.] behaviour, which even creates another and greater feeling of wonder, is the behaviour of the people themselves; of those, I mean, who, unreached as yet by the contagion, had so much reason to fear it...who would not have thought that a general stir would have been created, that they would have been diligent in taking precautions, whether well or ill selected, or at least have felt a barren disquietude? Nevertheless... if any one had attempted, in the streets, shops, and houses, to throw out a hint of danger, and mention the plague, it would have been received with incredulous scoffs, or angry contempt. The same incredulity, or, to speak more correctly, the same blindness and perversity, prevailed in the senate, in the Council of the Decurioni, and in all the magistrates.
You just can't get people to feel a barren disquietude when they don't want to. Then the plague actually reaches Milan and no one gives a shit -- the band played on, to reference the famous AIDS history:
Many physicians, too, echoing the voice of the people, (was it, in this instance also, the voice of Heaven?) derided the ominous predictions and threatening warnings of the few; and always had at hand the names of common diseases to qualify every case of pestilence which they were summoned to cure, with what symptom or token soever it evinced itself.... Dread of sequestration and the Lazzaretto sharpened every one’s wits; they concealed the sick, they corrupted the grave-diggers and elders, and obtained false certificates, by means of bribes, from subalterns of the Board itself.
It ends disastrously, of course, and on March 30 (why else would we be assigned this passage if not for the anniversary-mania that characterizes the Daily Reading Guide?) the Capuchin monks have to step in and run things. It was not for this that they named the cappucino after them, but it's something for the Capuchins to be proud of nevertheless.

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