Who Pays the Price?

When I arrived in Bologna, one of my first cultural experiences was on the city’s bus system.

After getting on a local bus and quickly realizing I was headed in the wrong direction, I lugged my bags off and wondered whether anyone would scream at me about the fare I never paid.  But no one did.  In fact, as I observed the locals, they rarely paid for their rides.

In my last blog post, I referenced Tobias Jones’ Dark Heart of Italy.  In the book, Jones states that, “Italy’s moral minority always complains…that no one in Italy is ever, ever punished for anything: ‘nobody pays’…(they) complain bitterly and incessantly about the furbi – the ‘cunning ones’ – who appear to bend and break the law at will, without ever facing consequences.”

The problem with this system, as Tobias alludes, is that because no one is ever punished for their offenses, it creates a vicious cycle of abuse that is apparent across Italian culture, from Berlusconi to the city streets.

When I finally arrived close to my apartment, I asked for directions from an elderly local man, who inevitably told me, “Just take the bus, no one pays.”

After nearly two weeks of riding the busses here, I’ve honestly rarely paid for a ride.  The ‘furbi’ might praise me, but this cycle of abuse comes with a price and I’m not convinced Italy can afford to pay it.

– James S.