Friday, June 17, 2011

A Day in Rome: Visting Ruins

One thing I realized about Italy, within the first 24 hours, that time is a relative concept here. It didn't matter to the clerk at the ticket counter at the airport: The train to Termini in three minutes and I was trying to get a ticket, but he needed to take two calls on my mobile and made me wait. It didn't matter at the Ticket Collector at the gate of the Termini station, who wanted to do a deal with a waiting cabbie and tried to sell me a cab ride of less than 500 meters for 20 Euros, because it was nearly midnight. But the hotel manager didn't think it was too late to send me temporarily, for one night, to another place because they sold the pre-booked room to someone for that night. Night is still young, he said.

The other thing about Rome is the conversation is mostly about the past. Indeed, Italy's future seems a bit Bunga-Bunga with Berlusconi and the present, it is indeed one of the countries IMF is warning about when it talks about the Greek disease spreading to Europe, seemed unsettling. Besides, as a timely review in The Economist reminded everyone, it is a deeply divided country. The rich north does not want its southern brethren, and the economic gap between the states are huge. In fact, it is an unsurprising fact that some Italians today question the justification of Italy's unification, a project of great significance in the history of modern nationhood, and indeed, it is in Italy where one comes to face to face with some of the parallel ideas that undermines the nation-state.

Like empire, indeed. I spent the first half of the day walking around the ruins of Roman Forum, in a way the birthplace of modern legal system, and Collesseum, the great exhibition center of Roman power over the world. The second half, which was spent in Churches, Spanish Steps and Trevi, was about 'soft' power of the Church, the institution that continued undermining nationhood after the imperial power was dead and gone. I am still new and still looking around to see any Tescos or Wall-Marts, because that's the third variety of transnational institution that works against nationhood.

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