World Youth Orchestra. Fair use
World Youth Orchestra. Fair use

 

Young people sometimes hold in little account their wonderful life and give it away in the name of a cause without too much reflecting on the consequences of their actions. When I was a child my mother told me about this guy, one of her father’s best friends, a seven-generations Roman (romano di sette generazioni, used here to indicate a real Roman) who died as a volunteer in World War I leaving a young wife and four orphaned children, two girls and two boys, all of them extremely attractive, she said.

The girls and the youngest boy led a normal life (he was often sad and incidentally died too as a volunteer in World War II); the eldest boy went a bit on the wild side and became a hopeless lady-killer, apparently even more affected than his youngest brother by this deprivation of paternal counsel. His children and grandchildren suffered because of his bearing, my mother said, and many turned out to be a failure in their lives.

If what my mother said is true it seems that the price for a moment of thoughtless idealism was a high one to pay and all this badly affected the generations to come (which doesn’t mean at all that I am against idealism or against the idea of fighting for a right cause, this is not my point).

Corfu Island Channel. Public domain
Corfu Island Channel. Public domain

 

Young people are such radical idealists. During the 1968 student revolution a few youths burned themselves alive as a sign of protest.

10 years later approximately I was enjoying my August holidays on the enchanting Greek island of Corfu together with Flavia and a couple of friends (see picture above). There we met this Greek father of a young man who apparently was my age (I was between 27 and 30 at that time, don’t remember exactly, while my friends were younger than me).

This poor father was a tailor and being noon and terribly hot I really wanted my jeans to be cut Bermuda-like in order to better resist the heat. So we saw this tiny little workshop and entered it (the little street was similar to the one in the picture below). While bending to the ground in order to measure my pants and be able to cut them accordingly, the old man suddenly burst into tears, a bewildering behaviour that surprised us.

When he calmed down a bit he said that I was the age his son would have been if he didn’t burn himself alive for protest against the Greek colonels (namely the dictators that governed Greece with an iron hand one decade roughly before that summer, and who were supported by the US who were trying to prevent Greece from embracing communism).

I will never forget this poor man’s eyes, wet with tears and expressing such an infinite pain.

Corfu Town. Gnu Licence low res Fair Use
Corfu Town. Gnu Licence (low res Fair Use)

 

Italian version

8 thoughts on “Young People vs Life

  1. Hi, you are right…sometimes, young do make rash decisions…they leave behind their mourning elders…that burning alive incident reminds me of a similar incident….about 20 years ago…a young bright Indian college kid Rajeev Goswami, then not yet 20, burnt himself alive to oppose a government policy against reservation on basis of caste and religion. It was a good cause, but rash action. He became poster boy for the nation.

    Somehow, he survived, but you can imagine how he would look/survive with so many burns…In 2004, a journalist tracked him down..a broken, beaten man..who revealed he was egged on by then party members for whom he was campaigning, after he survived his burns, all of them disappeared..once a poster guy, lived in ignominy, and died unsung.

    That’s sad some young do not rethink their actions. But hey, some young may not, some do. 🙂

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  2. Hey..here is an image of self-immolation of that guy..this image has stayed with Indians..it is remembered when Indian government again brings up reservations….:

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  3. Dear Poonam, yes, these rash decisions can be terrible with their consequences. Of course I know many young people are not like that, I didn’t mean to make it a generational thing. Sometimes I believe youths are even wiser than many old people who, at the end of their life, can sometimes do even sillier things, not having much to lose and thinking they have the right to finally live their own way etc. This also can create consequences – on children or wives for instance.

    That image of self-immolation is really …. horrifying.

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  4. @Poonam
    You will probably never read this 9 months later, Poonam, but I think that the young man who burnt himself alive was Kostas Georgakis. From the linked Wikipedia article I learn he was exactly my age and that in Corfu main town there is a monument dedicated to him.

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