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Silence, PLEASE

May 5, 2010

Theodore Dalrymple  for In Character:

An Italian writer who had moved from Italy to the west coast of Scotland was asked why he had exchanged his glorious, sunny native land for those melancholy, rainy parts.

“It is simple,” he replied. “In Italy, silence is very expensive. In Scotland, it is very cheap.”

That silence should be viewed as a commodity of such rarity that it should be affordable only by the rich or the geographically isolated is a commentary on the noisiness of modern life. Italy, it is true, is exceptionally noisy; there is nothing young men there like to do more than roar down a narrow mediaeval street on a motorbike with the muffler removed, the ancient stone walls acting as an echo-chamber. I roar, therefore I am – and you had better acknowledge it!

But other countries are not quiet because Italy is noisy. In large modern cities almost everywhere, the fall of night does not extinguish the wail of the siren, the bass thump of rock music, the shriek of the domestic dispute. And there is no better way to damn a provincial town in the eyes of a modern sophisticate than to call it “quiet.” It is not only in public noise that modern life abounds; increasingly, people seem intent on enclosing themselves in a bubble of private noise.[More]

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