On Thursday morning at 8:30, my friend called me from the bar where she was having her morning cappuccino. She was so shocked at the racist joke that she had just heard, and the fact that she had heard it on national radio, that she felt the need to share. The joke went like this: "There are 2 black guys and 2 moroccans in a car. Who's driving? The police officer". ON NATIONAL RADIO!!! The scariest part was when I repeated it in the office in an attempt to shock and horrify my colleagues. One of them found it so funny, he called a friend to pass it on, and the friend found it so funny, he told it to all of his colleagues - who apparently found it funny too.
When I think about the hyper-sensitive, politically-correct atmosphere which prevails where I come from, I can hardly believe that we are a mere 1000 miles away on the same continent. Last Christmas, a town in the north of England banned the local shops from putting up decorations, in order to not offend the large immigrant community. This to me is complete madness, and provokes pretty much the same reaction as the joke, but in a different way. Living here in Italy, I am often struck by some surprisingly racist attitudes - like the friend of a friend yesterday who said he doesn't frequent a certain bar because the staff all have "brown faces". This is the sort of thing people just don't say in England. Not any more, anyway. Here, a popular prime-time comedy show on one of the main terrestrial channels recently featured a sketch in which two guys painted their faces black, and pretended to be Indian. Luca genuinely couldn't understand why I made a fuss. I often find myself equally annoyed at stories I hear from both ends of the scale. A DJ telling a racist joke on national radio in the UK would probably lose his job, or at least be reprimanded in the press. However, I can't imagine an Italian town cancelling Christmas in order not to offend those who don't celebrate it. So where's the happy medium? Where's the place which doesn't go too far in either direction? Does it exist?