About a year ago an Italian judge ordered me, as a condemned criminal, to perform 166 hours of unpaid “lavoro socialmente utile” (socially useful work). I kept putting it off until three weeks ago when I could put it off no more, and now I have to finish it by Christmas—or else.
So I spend large chunks of my life being “socially useful.” In my case this means not being a priest or a gigolo, which is what I had suggested to the woman in charge of me. Instead I’m sweeping the streets and the piazzas in the old center of the small provincial city of Forlì, which has been run by the Partito Comunista—now calling itself the Partito Democratico—since World War II.
Seeing me thus reduced amuses those among the local “ex” communist majority who do not care for my articles in which I point out that it is thanks to them that Italy has gone to the dogs. I once received a bullet in the post, which according to the anonymous covering letter was for the eldest of my five small children, Caterina, who is now nine.
It is all the fault of a man called Mussolini—not the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, but the traffic cop Marco Mussolini, who is (and I am not joking) a comunista. I know, I know, Mussolini though an infamous name is a rare one, and I couldn’t believe it either.
This Maresciallo (sergeant) Mussolini as opposed to Il Duce Mussolini spotted me late one night a couple of years ago. I was at the wheel of my black, seven-seater, long-axle, Land Rover Defender which flies the Union Jack from its radio antenna and is nicknamed “Che Guevara” as I passed his roadblock on my way home at a perfectly reasonable speed and doing nothing untoward. This Mussolini nonetheless abandoned his roadblock and another vehicle he had already stopped to take off after me in his little patrol car with his blue lights flashing hysterically. When he stopped me less than half a mile from my home, he offered no reason for his extraordinary behavior and simply whipped out his truncheon-like Breathalyzer. As I had drunk more than the two glasses of red wine permitted by the law in this supposedly civilized country, that was that.
The judge banned me from driving for two years and sentenced me to a couple of months in jail plus a whacking great fine. And if my beloved Defender had been in my name rather than my wife’s, Mussolini would have seized it at the scene of my horrific crime and then sold it at auction, with the money used to pay some parasite’s welfare entitlement claim for a week or two. If however I were prepared to do 166 hours of “socially useful” work, I would lose the driving license for one year only, not two, the jail sentence would be annulled, and the crime would be taken off my record. So I agreed.
As all normal Europeans know, the “drunk”-driving law is unjust in all European countries and is yet another example of tyranny creep. It is even more so in Italy. I am 54 and have driven for 37 years, more often than not well over the two-glasses-of-wine limit. Yet not once in all those years have I been involved in a traffic accident, not even a minor one.
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