Some day, presumably,
the government will wake up to the fact that Italy is not an industrial
country, and that its farmers might profitably be taken into account again.
But a change is upon the land. Types like this old man are becoming
extinct; for the patriarchal system of Coriolanus, the glory of southern
Italy, is breaking up.
This is not the fault of conscription which, though it destroys old
dialects, beliefs and customs, widens the horizon by bringing fresh
ideas into the family, and generally sound ones. It does even more; it
teaches the conscripts to read and write, so that it is no longer as
dangerous to have dealings with a man who possesses these
accomplishments as in the days when they were the prerogative of
avvocati and other questionable characters. A countryman, nowadays,
may read and write and yet be honest.
What is shattering family life is the speculative spirit born of
emigration. A continual coming and going; two-thirds of the adolescent
and adult male population are at this moment in Argentina or the United
States - some as far afield as New Zealand. Men who formerly reckoned in
sous now talk of thousands of francs; parental authority over boys is
relaxed, and the girls, ever quick to grasp the advantages of money,
lose all discipline and steadiness.