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From "Security Exit", by Ignazio Silone

In 1915 a violent earthquake had destroyed much of our surroundings and in thirty seconds killed approximately thirty thousand people. What surprised me most was to see how naturally our people accepted the awful catastrophe.
In such an area as ours was, where so many injustices were unpunished, earthquake frequency seemed an acceptable fact that did not require further explanation. There was indeed to wonder that earthquakes did not occur more often. In the earthquake the rich and poor died, educated and illiterate, authorities and subjects alike. Through earthquakes nature achieved what the law promised in words and did not maintain in facts: equality. An ephemeral equality.

After the fear, collective misfortune turned into a chance for wider injustice.

It is not therefore surprising if what happened after the earthquake, namely the reconstruction of buildings by the state, because of the way as it was done, the numerous fraud, thefts, camorra of every kind, appeared to the poor people a much more painful calamity than natural disaster. To that time the origin of the popular belief dates back that if mankind is to perish once and for all, it will not be an earthquake or a war, but the aftermath of an earthquake or a war.

My friend, fired from one of those government offices in charge of reconstruction, one day uncovered to me a number of precise data which actually represented so many crimes of engineers, his former fellow colleagues. Greatly impressed, I hurried to talk to some influential people, whom I knew for their honesty, so that they would denounce the crimes. Not only those gentlemen I spoke to did not doubt the authenticity, but they were able to confirm it; however, they advised me not to "meddle with those facts," and added affectionately: "You have to finish your studies, you must create a position for yourself, do not get compromised in matters that do not concern you," "Willingly" I replied. "Of course it is better that a denunciation does not start from a 17-year-old boy, but from grownups and authorities." "We are certainly not crazy" they replied to me with indignation. "We intend to take care only of our own business and nothing else."

Then I spoke to some people of the clergy, and also with some more courageous relatives, and all, admitting they were more or less aware of those misdeeds, begged me to not get into that wasp nest, to think about my studies, career, future. 'With pleasure," I replied "but are any of you willing to denounce the thieves?" " We're not crazy" they replied as if shocked. "It is not our business no."

Then I began to meditate seriously on whether to promote, with some other kids, a new "revolution" that would end in setting fire to those offices, but the acquaintance who had provided me the documents of the engineers' misdeeds persuaded me not to pursue that course, which would have resulted in destroying evidence of those very crimes. He was older and more experienced than I, and suggested I could send my complaint to a newspaper. But which newspaper? "There's one" my acquaintance explained to me "that might have an interest in hosting such denunciation, is the newspaper of the Socialists." And so I wrote three articles (the first articles in my life) to expose and thoroughly document the shady business of state engineers in my area, and sent them to the to the "Avanti!". The first two articles were published and immediately aroused great sensation among the public of readers, but none with the relevant authorities. The third article never appeared, as I learned later, since an authoritative socialist lawyer contacted the newspaper's management. That's how I learned that the deceitful, fraud system oppressing us was much larger than it seemed, and had unseen branches even among socialist notables. The partial denunciation, which took place by surprise, however, contained material for various lawsuits, or at least for a governments inquiry; but nothing happened. The engineers, whom I denounced as thieves and accused of the explicit facts, did not even attempt a correction or a general denial. After a short wait, everyone came back to mind their own business.

The student who had dared to launch the challenge was considered, by the most benevolent, an impulsive weird kid. We must take into account that the economic poverty of the southern provinces offered little chance of progress to the young people who left schools in thousands every year. Our only industry then was state employment. This did not require exceptional intelligence qualities but a meek character and political conformism. Young southerners grown in such an environment, if they happened to have a minimum pride and some human sensitivity, naturally tended to anarchy and rebellion. Access to state employment, therefore, implied for them, still on the threshold of youth, a resignation, a surrender, and the mortification of their souls. So we used to say, and it was the true foundation of southern society: anarchists at twenty, conservatives at thirty.

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