The past few weeks have been tumultuous. We have witnessed volcanic eruptions that have disrupted international travel, the loss of workers’ lives in mines here and abroad, wall street jitters, a debt crisis in Greece, a terrorist attempt in our beloved city, an oil rig spill in the Gulf, and continuous political and sports leaders’ criminal activity. It is difficult not to be anxious. Our social and economic life is in peril.
At the same time, we are told that our economy will be whole again in the near future. Job growth and consumer spending is improving. As we are told this we also know that many workers are still losing employment and civil servants are being furloughed and many of their benefits decreased all across the nation. Many Americans are finding it difficult to pay their bills. Young people are finding it especially difficult securing employment. Older Americans not ready for retirement are forced prematurely to leave the job market. Social conditions have not been this bad since the Great Depression. As these events unfold, I have rediscovered the Italian neo-realistic school of cinema. After the Second World War, Italy, a defeated nation, suffered indignities that were barbaric in scope. Hunger, poverty, and despair were daily mementoes of the folly of war and racism. Italian masters of cinema took to the streets and used common citizens instead of actors to portray a poetic vision of reality and humanity. Although the films generated tears the films also have a message of joy and hope. It may be appropriate for all of us to view for the first time or view again “Open City,” “Shoeshine,” “La Strada,” “Umberto D” and “Miracle in Milan.”