Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Opinions of an Exile

What follows is the English translation (mostly done by Google Translator, so don't blame me too much) of this post written by an Italian researcher living in NYC. I found it quite apt to describe the feeling of various compatriots abroad when they look at our country.

My name is Luca Cassetta, 32, from Milan , married, two cats, I am living in New York for almost three years and I am a scientific researcher.
Yes, I admit , I'm part of the brain drain!
I belong to that group of young (and not so young) people who have decided to leave Italy to seek their fortune abroad!

I thought these days about what to write on Ornitorinko [his blog]; as an example of Italian abroad, the temptation to talk about all the things that I like here (and that instead do not work in Italy) was really strong .

I might as well fill the rows of this post describing what I'm good here in the United States and how much everything sucks in Italy, in fact I made more money, the work is stimulating, I'm surely not short in new things to do, and I'm living a fantastic experience.

Instead I won't, I'm a "strange animal" , in perfect harmony with this blog!

I want to talk good of Italy, just 'cause I'm out here and I know what I miss about my country and my culture.
You may say, "That 's crazy! How do you speak well of a country that did not give you the opportunity to work , which is falling apart, where politicians are corrupt and bla bla bla??"
Well, when we live in Italy we do not realize how lucky we are to live in a country that the whole world envies us !
From a geographical perspective, we have everything (sea, mountains, hills , plains) , we have a long history, one of the most estimated culinary traditions in the world, the design, architecture, crafts, science, literature...
In short, we have the Made in Italy !

Living in the USA and seeing as they maximize the potential of this country, I'm kicking myself thinking about what we could do  in Italy if we were just a little more willing: we could revitalize our economy with tourism , with high-level manufacture, with good food, with our rational and imaginative minds...

And you know what I think is the only real major flaw that we Italians have? Self-pity.
Think about it, look inside you and you will find that it's true: we like to complain about everything in Italy. And above all, we do not have any boost that entice us to change things!

However, abroad Italians are well-considered and successful...
Have you ever thought about that? How come?
Are we perhaps better of those who stay in Italy? I don't think so!
It happens, though, that abroad we find out the qualities that make us, as Italians, unique, like:

- heart;
- passion;
- determination to achieve a goal;
- ability to get by in unfavorable conditions;
- genius;
- a pinch of cleverness;
- generosity;
- altruism;
- an innate sympathy (for instance in the gestures and language) .

These things can be found individually in many other cultures , but we (some people more than others, of course)e are lucky to embody them all together.
Then why are we doing so bad in Italy if we are potentially so "cool"? 'Cause we are immersed in a microenvironment that clips the wings, that kills our dreams and give us no way out.
This means that, when an Italian leaves the depressing and demotivating context that is now in place in Italy, (s)he somehow revives, finding the drive he had lost and (s)he finally does not miss the opportunities that arise. (S)he works harder, observing the rules and, most importantly, (s)he acquires a pro-active and nondestructive attitude, precisely what is now lacking in Italy. So, what is the take-home message I want to convey? It is that we need to find the "little Italian abroad" living -dormant- in each of us!

I would recommend anyone to leave Italy for a while, to look around , to understand how others live and how other countries are organized; because only comparing our current situation with that of other countries can we acquire a critical awareness and can we understand what really has to be changed in our country.

But then I would also recommend to find the desire to return, but maintaining the same spirit that we found while living abroad . Also, as Italians abroad we also feels the responsibility to do something to make things better, even with small contributions. In our small way, we are trying so.

Indeed , together with my friend Lorenzo Agoni, we founded AIRI, an association which aims to bring Italian researcher worldwide together under the same "virtual roof" . We aim at networking, at giving useful information to young researchers who want to gain experience abroad, we want to exchange opinions, ideas and discuss issues of great importance to us. Among the various objectives that the association aims to achieve, I would like to mention that of outreach.

We are trying to create a platform in tight contact with society, which can upgrade the figure - sometimes mistreated - of the researcher and reassess his work. We want to somehow fill the void that exists between the researcher -considered by the collective imagination as a mad scientist or as an unapproachable luminary- and society, and that is exposed to a myriad of information about our work, which is very often misleading if not blatantly inaccurate.

Why are we aiming so much at public science?

'Cause we want to convey to the community our view of the world, the beauty of the research in its own, the "healthy" madness that, for better or for worse,  surrounds every researcher constantly striving for the truth.
We want to provide a service to the society , that is, correct information based on the "fact check" , rather than on hearsay.
By using the more common social media we wish somehow to reach people and make them understand that the revolution in Italy is necessary, but not the "armed revolution" (very popular in bar conversations) but the most important revolution that Italy really needs: the cultural one.

As you could see from these lines I am an idealist, an incorrigible optimist. It is very easy -sometimes too easy - to be cosmic pessimistic, it is way more difficult to get involved and try to change things we don't like. Honestly, I still believe that the determination, enthusiasm, proactive attitude and curiosity may represent the keywords for restarting the engine of Italy .

I close with a phrase from one of the best scientists of the millennium, which I hope will inspire even just a single person reading this post : "Think of the future that awaits you , think about what you can d , do not fear anything." [Rita Levi Montalcini].

an idealistic greeting,

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