I am, at times, beset by a state of being, with accompanying behaviour, which is best described by an Italian word – Menefreghismo. When under the influence of such a state of being, which could be blamed on genetics, family, nurturing, and other human conceptual whatnot, I am a – Menefreghista.
What is a menefreghista?
The answer to that is a click away to – Word of the week- menefreghismo by The Smiling Eggplant – where you will find a quick explanation, as well as the source of the title of my post – I knicked a sentence, hope they will menefregarsene.
If you can’t be bothered to click on the link, don’t care what a menefreghista is… that’s what it is!
It is a descriptive term for those who don’t care. They’re past the point of caring.
However it’s not just that… not the way I came to know it anyway.
The way I was introduced to it was more like an initiation into a philosophy. A philosophy which was a part of a cosa nostra of sorts, a quirk of attitude and way of life which goes with being Italian, being a part of the Italian family (or famiglia).
I’m talking Italian… really Italian… not travel brochure, film style, novel ideal or romantic fantasy version of Italian.
“Un viaggiatore americano ha scritto: “Italy is the land of human nature”.”
― Beppe Severgnini
The other day I read a post wherein someone was recounting their attempts to live in Italy. Apparently Italy kept rebuffing their desire to live there with bureaucracy.
I was tempted to comment on that post with a very Italian suggestion – Just move there and then deal with the bureaucracy after the deed is done. That’s how an Italian would do it!
Veni, vidi, vici!
“o la va o la spacca” – an Italian saying which can be translated several ways, as most Italian-isms can be. The most common English-ified version of this is – all or nothing. My father liked using this one when trying to ‘fix’ something by bashing it repeatedly.
But then I… had a case of menefreghismo.
This was partly due to my view of the person to whom the post belonged – they come across to me as someone who doesn’t tend to give a frego about what others think or feel unless they get something out of it, can benefit from it a bit like an Italian on a motorino who has just snatched your purse.
What do I care if they get to live in Italy or not. May they get what they wish for and want what they get. I get nothing out of helping them in their quest – Italians like to get things out of doing things, otherwise what’s the point of doing anything?
Their generosity of spirit comes at a price. That includes flirting – if they flirt with you, they’re doing you a favour which they want repaid – you didn’t think it was for free, did you?
“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
― Mario Puzo
Outsiders, foreigners, often mistake the menefrighismo of Italians as a laid back attitude to life. They’re so chill, man! It does come across that way, but there is nothing laid back about Italians. Underneath there is a seething mass of passion and ambition. And a multitude of ways to express their passion and ambition, especially when thwarted.
If they seem laid back it’s because there’s nothing to be gained from something. No point in caring, no reason to be on time, turn up to a meeting at all, do anything for anyone, even for themselves (che stronzata). Or there’s something to be gained by appearing to not care – other people tend to offer you a better deal when you don’t seem to care about it.
Treat ’em mean (with friendly indifference), keep ’em keen.
Pretend it doesn’t matter… and you’ll find out how much it matters to others, what price they’re really willing to pay for it, how high they will go and how much they will give to get it.
“There are things that have to be done and you do them and you never talk about them. You don’t try to justify them. They can’t be justified. You just do them. Then you forget it.”
― Mario Puzo
Today I perused a psychological article where the author wandered in shadows, at the end of which they added a sentence, a snippet of thought, about an Italian word which they had just learned – Dimenticare (to forget). This new word in their lexicon seemed to perplex them, they asked – Does that sound severe, or is it just me?
It’s just you, mate.
Italians have lots of words for forgetting, perhaps as many as there are for snow in Eskimo.
And they do forgetting really well…
But Italians never forget, they just sometimes say – non me ne frega niente – as though all is forgotten because it doesn’t matter anyway. Don’t you believe it!
“L’Italia pero’ non e’ un’inferno… Diciamo che e’ un purgatorio insolito… Un posto capace di mandarci in bestia e in estasi nel raggio di cento metri e nel giro di dieci minuti.”
― Beppe Severgnini
(translated loosely and lazily this means – Dante may have been writing about Italy rather than hell, heaven and stuff)
I’m only partly Italian, but there’s enough of it in me to confuse people who don’t know that about me. I wave my hands about a lot, make funny faces… some of which would make sense to an Italian, speak volumes, but I am only partly Italian and these things… have mutated due to the other parts of me.
When I say – fuhgeddaboudit – I’m not forgetting about it, I’m just telling you that I’m past the point of caring. I am in the menefreghista zone. I’ve used up my fregarsene quota and I haven’t got anything left to give you. I know you want it, but it’s out of stock.
It’s a problem. But is it my problem or yours?
We all want others to care about what we care about. But how much care do we give to what others care about?
What’s in it for them to care about us and what we care about, and vice versa?
Answering such questions may make menefreghistas out of all of us, even if we fight it and try to keep caring about everyone and everything in equal measure to maintain our identity as a caring soul.
I do care… but that care has a limit, when the limit is reached a safety valve switches caring off for a while. Perhaps it does that to keep such a thing alive, rather than used up until there is nothing left but a memory of an ability which eventually also dissipates.
Someone said to me yesterday – There’s so much dust here, it confuses – and I thought – that be veritas!
“If the present world goes astray, the cause is in you, in you it is to be sought.”
― Dante Alighieri
If someone isn’t caring about you and your cares as much as you need them to or at all, and it’s making you frustrated with them, worried to the point of over-caring about how much you care about what their seeming uncaring attitude means about you and such… maybe they’re just running on empty. And you need to care a bit less about their caring…
Is it their problem that you have a problem with them?
I’m sure you know what that feels like, to run on empty, to no longer be able to muster a care, remember those times… understand that others have them too.
Caring isn’t easy for any of us… so cut people slack, as you would want them to cut slack for you. Sometimes we all need to be careless for a while…
“And just as he who, with exhausted breath,
having escaped from the sea to shore,
turns to the perilous waters and gazes.”
― Dante Alighieri