TORONTO - International Diplomacy can bring about the most sophisticated and nuanced language and behaviour human beings can master.
Students of diplomacy examine the minutest of detail to understand or confound their adversaries.
Last Saturday, June 16, 2018, in the midst of a European and World crisis on Immigration and International trade, Italy’s premier daily newspaper – La Repubblica – ran a video and a brief story on … Rats.
The filthy, disease-ridden rodents were taking over Paris. Yes, the capital of France.
Swarms of them rushing from one public place to another, in broad daylight, searching for their next meal or their next shelter.
What a public relations disaster, I thought; would I go there, much less take a loved one, despite Edith Piaf’s famous and enchanting Sous le Ciel de Paris?
What would prompt a serious paper to do this?
I sent a link to Lily, one of the most thorough researchers anywhere. Like me, she’d been to Paris years ago.
I quipped that, while Italy and other serious countries were coping with human migrations, France was being invaded by vermin.
Chuckle, chuckle, I added, barely able to contain my mirth at what must have been an embarrassing moment for President Macron’s subjects.
What irony, I mused to her, while the mainstream [Canadian] press was responding to Italy’s “protectionist concerns” about agri-food certification under the CETA as mere reflections of their “food obsession”, Rats were “voting with their feet and their stomachs”.
Clearly, they prefer French cuisine. Or maybe Parisians are such “fat-cats” that they throw most of their food away.
Or maybe they are rebelling against the “banal creativity” – there’s an oxymoron – of French chefs. “Les maestros de Sauce or ketchup”.
Wait, the latter are Americans. No matter, both products can make any cardboard box taste edible; ask a Rat.
Or Rats had seen the movie Ratatouille and had become convinced that one of their own is the true mâitre de la cuisine française.
Oh where, oh where is an Italian grandmother when you need one?
Within thirty minutes, Lily responded with a video link of her own, from an online publication, the Local, dating to January of 2018.
It seems that La Repubblica must have kept this story “under wraps” for months at least.
It is a truly disgusting video. Evidently, Paris has been trying to get the Rat population under control.
Last year it dedicated approximately $2.25 million to rat eradication programs, including, it would seem, trying to convince restauranteurs of the importance of cleanliness and good hygiene.
To little avail. Rats breed like … well … rodents, especially if the “food supply is plentiful” and predators – cats are virtually non-existent.
Les Parisiens are outnumbered by rodents, wailed one sanitation worker.
For those who don’t know, Paris proper has a human population of 2.25 million, and its suburbs – les arrondissements – a further 10.5 million.
Whether the worker referred the smaller, larger or combined figure, there are millions of reasons to avoid Paris.
So why the timing of La Repubblica’s journalistic offering?
Earlier in the week, President Macron, taking advantage of Italy’s new Prime Minister’s precarious domestic position, outraged the Italian people with his intemperate, conveniently ill-informed, condescending criticism of Italy’s “we’ve had enough of the [African] people-smugglers’ contempt for our sovereignty” statements uttered by populist leadership.
So much so that Italy was prepared to provoke an international incident by cancelling an official state visit to Paris, were Macron not immediately be prepared to issue an official apology.
He did, but the apology lacked the sincerity Italians expected and demanded.
When their Prime Minister relented and decided to go to Paris anyway, the Press looked for ways to heap scorn on the event and on Macron.
The reposting of, and reporting on, the video was designed to mock the quality of the hosts Giuseppe Conte, Italy’s Prime Minister was about to visit.
So many Rats in our city, the most beautiful in the world, it’s a shame, cried that sanitation worker. I suppose he should be allowed the hyperbole under the circumstances.
However, I can think of several that are vastly superior – even if they don’t have the rodents for extra appeal: Toronto, where I live; Monteleone where I was born; Rome, the Eternal City comes a close 3rd, followed by Naples, Matera and another 400 towns and cities in Central-South Italy.
Oh, and their cuisine is prepared by real people for those with discriminating tastes.