This morning I was working in the garden and quite for some time I could hear an amplified voice somewhere far away that slowly made me aware of what was going on today. Normally I hear sounds from the sporting facility nearby, but this was different. A long monotone stream of words slowly produced a picture in my mind connecting this sound with a memory (fascinating mind process if you are aware of it). It was a procession with priests carrying a microphone and amplifier saying our loud one prayer after the other, meaningless, automatically spoken words with very little intonation. Not much later the wind carried these words spoken by a child: “…let’s pray”.
The church is a perfect example of how you can manipulate people with fear. For many centuries the church manages to do this fear management in an excellent way and today, as a culminating moment of traditions and power of fear we had the “Cresima” or Confirmation for all young people (age 14) in town. Especially in Italy, but I guess it is the same in many other Catholic countries, the Cresima is seen as an important step in a person’s life, but why? Just because parents see it as a necessary preparation to marriage (since a Catholic is not supposed to get married if he is not Confirmed)?
In the last couple of weeks the kids of my daughter’s age where quite tense. They were preparing for the big day and already anticipating on what this day would bring them. The only thing they needed to do was performing a ritual and as a reward they would get huge presents from not only their parents but also grand parents, aunts and uncles. Modern Italy uses this occasion to confirm these kids into the next religious step: consumerism! Since everybody does it (and I always wonder who started the trend) people tend to buy all kind of gadgets for these youngsters like cell-phones, music players, game consoles, laptops. If that is not enough consumer stimulation there is a trend in purchasing expensive clothes, shoes or sunglasses.
To make the consumer party even better the presents are just a small portion of the whole picture. For the ceremony you need to get dressed in a perfect way, new clothes of course! You need also to buy a present for the “Padrino” and “Madrina” (Godparents) who, as with the baptism, play an important role in the ceremony. Needless to say you need also the “Bomboniera“, or better many of them to give to family and friends attending the ceremony. It does not stop here, since it is a Sunday, in Italy… and around noon, you are as a parent supposed to invite everybody for a traditional lunch, or should I say LUNCH?
Searching the internet I find very little critical notes about this tradition. I know however that there are several people in a difficult situation. They have to spend huge amounts of money and sometimes they need to lend money in order to be able to comply with the expectations society is imposing to them. I also know that not everybody is happy (to say the least) about this kind of traditions. But only few people dare to stop it by not participating anymore. Especially in small villages as the one I am living in this is a huge issue. Not only you are supposed to participate, you are also valued on the presents you give, the food you supply, etc. Not participating in this tradition might cause others to exclude you from their social network, the priest will come over to convince you to reconsider your decision, your family will not be pleased at all.
Apparently there is no choice if you are not really prepared to stand and to say “stop” to all of this. Not participating in this tradition means not being in fear anymore. It means not fearing to be ejected by the society you are living in, not fearing for the consequences of leaving the church since we might get punished by God if we are not faithful anymore. But it is fear driving us to act against ourselves, against our own real interests and the interest of all. In fear we have no common sense and we cannot act in the interest for all.
How can we stop this abuse of ourselves? How can we become aware of what we allow to happen to ourselves and how can we change our own life and the life of all on earth into a better world for all of us? The answer is there but only if you dare!