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“Nothing in this world is harder than speaking the truth, nothing easier than flattery”

Çağıl Günalp-cakilgunalp@gmail.com

Italian director Vittorio de Sica’s masterpiece, Umberto D, is being regarded as one of the most outstanding examples of Italian Neorealism movement… It is fairly known that “Neorealism, as a term, can mean several things; it often refers to films of working class life and of the struggles and social conditions of people set in the culture of poverty. Italian Neorealism was a revolutionary breakthrough, not just for its technical style and raw film-making, but for the gritty realism of its story and poignant naturalism of its characters”. Umberto D can also be accepted as a moralistic journey which reveals how a person’s character can be altered in community… Umberto D is a sociological evident of difficult economic and moral conditions of post-World War II Italy as well. In the movie, the leading actor Carlo Battisti plays the role of Umberto Domenico Ferrari who is an old man living in Rome… The story of Umberto Domenico Ferrari, who lost his family at war, can be considered a thorny ‘odyssey’: journey to a sorrowful dignity… Furthermore, an old man seeking a virtuous life, demonstrates why people should keep honour superior to vice despite extraordinary adversities they encounter…

At first glance, it can be indicated that, at movie, director sought to dramatize invincible relationship between Umberto Domenico Ferrari and his dog, Flike… But philosophy of the movie goes beyond that: Despite the corruption, poverty and ambiguity that dominate post-war Italy, movie displays how hope makes people free. Moreover, at movie, subliminally it is being underlined that fear can chain people… Due to its elegant narration, cinematography and performance of headliners; Umberto D can be admitted as such a document revealing the political climate, role of religion and social pattern of the period concerned. Sincerity, quotidian life of oppressed class in post-war countries, dilemma of petit bourgeois class were hitherto ignored by post-war cinematic movement but Vittorio de Sica ruined this understanding. Not to mention, Italian director Vittorio de Sica’s remarkable movie, unveils duality among people caused by corruption…

Questioning the role of modernism on society, role of material possession on happiness are disguised as dialogue, and sequence… Situation of those, who can sacrifice honour and every ethical code to earn more money, to build a career is assessed elaborately in the movie and those moral assessments are what make Umberto D such a masterpiece. The leading character Umberto Domenico Ferrari’s story can be regarded as a rebellion against the corrupted human relations and Machiavellianism that justify every nastiness… It is also a tale about disappearance of solidarity and modernist principles that paved the way of selfishness and eradication of common good… As it was mentioned by Michael Walfordin in his blog, “Rather than being a society welded together around notions of social solidarity Umberto D can be read as being about a society at war with itself.”

It is crystal clear to claim that, in Cyprus we are facing almost the same ethical dilemmas that Umberto Domenico Ferrari encountered… Day by day we are sinking into the ethical corruption and we are transforming into dissatisfied creatures… Due to our endless desires, we are being enslaved to the artificial needs that characterize ‘modern society’. It can be tremendously asserted that in Cyprus, for decades we have been facing destructive dimensions of moral corruption almost at every aspect of life… This ethical corruption resembles the ethical corruption that dominates the post-war Italy…

After 1974, separation of the Island gave rise to physical, sociological and psychological destruction for both communities… After 1974, Turkish Cypriot community set-up their ‘new order’ by occupying Greek Cypriot’s property, money, territory, home… Such an “invasion” paved the way of ethical dilemmas and led Turkish Cypriot community to sink into an undeserved prosperity… It could be underlined that, due to undeserved wealth, they have been indifferent to empathy, virtue and wise thoughts… Instead of being diligent and fair; we have expected to have everything handed to us on a silver platter. Corruption and ethical ‘downfall’ had paralyzed the mind-set of community and given rise to hysterical and selfish desires and protracted social problems…

To rephrase all mentioned above, due to paralyzed mind set of people after post-separation condition in Northern Cyprus, phenomenon that strengthen bonds of community such as common good and common benefit were ruined and selfishness, money, vanity, arrogance became superior to honour, virtue, solidarity, ethical guidance and just… This pursuit led us to be sunk into amnesia and for years Turkish Cypriot community have been deaf, senseless and blind to reality because of illusion of exorbitant and undeserved wealth… Whereas, exorbitant and undeserved wealth were root of our heartaches and endless hysteria… As Immanuel Kant, one of the most eminent names of enlightenment period of Europe, indicated; “Everything good that is not based on a morally good disposition, however, is nothing but pretence and glittering misery…”

Corruption, which has dominated northern Cyprus, paved the way of fetishism of consumption… What is more to the point, role of intellectual thinking, education, and qualification have been avoided… Not to mention, ignoring the role of vital issues strengthening bonds of community, led people to be conservative and devoid of critical thinking… During decades we have been fetish of the phenomenon named so called “Cypriot Culture” and under every colonial attack we have endeavoured to use this phenomenon as a shelter for being survived. What we have done was misinterpreting the meaning of culture… But in fact, education and seeking virtue were our only ways to be free… In order to figure it out more comprehensively, it might be beneficial to quote: “Although some behaviour is unique to individual, the vast majority of activities are generated by cultural knowledge shared by members of the society. Cultural knowledge is like a recipe for producing behaviour and artifacts. Culture consists of instructions for generating the whole range of appropriate behaviour. Every culture is used by people to interpret experience and to generate behaviour. And every culture is a complex system of meaning. Every system of cultural knowledge is made up of categories. A category is any group of objects, persons or events that people treat as if they were equivalent.  All of us make use of what we know to make sense out of what happens (to interpret experience) and to act appropriately (to generate behaviour) – we make continual use of our culture for these purposes. Both uses of culture-to interpret experience and generate behaviour-occur together in actual situations. We are constantly making interpretations and using them to guide our actions. Although they occur simultaneously, we want to consider them separately for purposes only…” Because of corruption and conservatism most of us became dogmatic… We have been engaged in dogmatic truths and absolute obedience… Despite our immigration in 1963 and 1974, we have become xenophobic… We were trapped in “inconsistency” and became slave of micro-identities. For decades we have been chained due to unspoken and unwritten agreements and norms of society. In this system our identities have been divided, our priorities have been determined by others… At the end of the day, most of us turned into “modern slaves”… In social media we act as if we were environmental activist, a day later we upload selfie in front of fire place and make judgments about traffic without any hesitation… The following day we can be proud of our expensive car and soon we can dare to talk about equality, social justice and labour rights… Amnesia of being privileged made us senseless and rendered us to ignore its negative effect on community…

In a nutshell, in Northern Cyprus every single day we are being trapped into the vicious circle and we are desperate to find a remedy to our sickness. If majority of community seeks to satisfy their own individual selfish interests, corruption becomes inevitable… Of course there are still some few people who are resisting degeneration but despite that, corruption can be seen almost in every aspect of life: politics, education, media… Moreover, neo liberal policies are safeguarding corruption and promoting selfishness/individualism and paralyzing the minds of younger generations… Instead of taking responsibility, for decades we have accused others for degeneration. Because taking responsibility had required courage and we were not brave enough to walk in that thorny path… Now we have only two options: Either we will run after appetite of honesty, virtue, wisdom and empathy… Or we will be manipulated by instant pleasures of selfishness… As John Locke underlined centuries ago, it should not be forgotten that “virtue is harder to be got than knowledge of the world; and, if lost in a young man, is seldom recovered” Hence we should love truth for truth’s sake and we should act according to guidance of ethics… Despite Neoliberalism’s promotion of selfishness, to be just and ethical are the principal parts of human perfection and happiness resides where one can harmonize his wise thoughts with virtue and justice!

References

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment, 1866

http://www.classicartfilms.com/umberto-d-1952

http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/michaelwalford/entry/umberto_d_1952/

John Locke, Some Thoughts Concerning Education

The Cultural Perspective by James P.Spradley & David. W.McCurdy

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