First report on the Earth by “Special Reporter” from the Moon: a novella by Alberto Moravia (Racconti Surrealistici e Satirici)
Primo rapporto sulla Terra dell' “Inviato Speciale” della Luna
Strange country. It is inhabited by two distinct races, both morally and, to some extent, physically: the race of the so-called poor and that of the so-called rich. These two words, rich and poor, are obscure to us, and due to our inadequate knowledge of the language of this country, we were not able to verify their meaning. However, our information mostly comes from the rich, far more approachable, talkative and hospitable than the poor.
The rich say that the poor have come from nobody knows where, have settled in this country from time immemorial and, since then, have done nothing but reproduce, always maintaining unchanged their unpleasant character. Nobody, after having familiarized with their character, could not deplore it and disagree with the rich. First of all, the poor don't like cleanliness and beauty. Their clothes are filthy and ragged, their houses squalid, their furniture worn-out and ugly. But due to their strange and perverse tastes, they seem to prefer rags to new clothes, poor houses to villas and palaces, inexpensive furnishings to designer items.
Who in fact, the rich ask, has ever seen a poor person dressed nicely and living in a beautiful house with luxury decorations?
What is more, the poor don't like culture. You hardly ever see a poor person reading a book and going to a museum or a concert. The poor know nothing of the arts and they easily take an imitative painting for a masterpiece, a statuette from Lucca for one of Praxiteles' works, a vulgar popular song for a prelude of Bach. If it were for them, the Muses, who offer some sort of consolation to men, would have long abandoned the world.
As far as entertainment is concerned, the rich explain that the poor engage in the most unsophisticated activities one could imagine: drinks, popular dances, bocce or ball games, boxing matches and other similar pastimes. As a matter of fact, the rich affirm, the poor prefer ignorance to culture.
Furthermore, the poor hate nature. During the warm season, the rich travel, go to the beach, the countryside, the mountains. They find it rejuvenating for the body and the mind. They enjoy the nice blue water, the pure air and the mountain tranquillity. The poor, on the other hand, utterly refuse to leave their squalid neighbourhoods. They don't care about seasonal changes, nor do they feel the need to mitigate the cold weather with the warm, and the warm with the cold. They prefer the municipal pools to the sea, the dirty suburban fields to the countryside, and their own balconies to the mountains. Now, the rich wonder, how can you not love nature?
At least, while remaining in town, the poor could lead a social life. Not at all. The only gathering place that they seem to know are the so-called factories. And these factories are the gloomiest place imaginable: sinister vessels made of cement and glass, populated by deafening machines, smoky and dirty, ice-cold in the winter and burning hot in the summer.
There are even some poor people who don't live in the city but in the loneliness of the countryside. Their only occupation, as well as pastime apparently, is to turn over soil by means of primitive and heavy iron tools, from dawn to dusk, during all seasons, rain or shine. And to think, the rich say, that there would be plenty of other things to do in this world, much more intelligent and pleasant.
There are likewise even more extravagant poor people who prefer darkness to sunlight, and the bowels of the earth to the sky. They sink into very deep tunnels, and down there, in the darkness, they derive pleasure from extracting rocks. These underground places are called mines. The thought of going down into a mine would never even enter the mind of a rich person.
All this is described by the poor as “work”, another term whose meaning is obscure and incomprehensible to us. The poor are so fond of this work that, for some reason that we were not able to verify, when the factories are closed and the mines inactive, they protest, scream and threaten to start riots and violent actions. As the rich say, how can anyone understand such behaviour? And wouldn't it be easier, more desirable and comfortable to participate in some social gathering or respectable circle?
Furthermore, as far as food is concerned, the poor don't know about delicious dishes, aged wines and delicate desserts. They prefer by far plain food, such as beans, onions, turnips, potatoes, garlic and stale bread. When they occasionally adapt to eat meat and fish, you can guarantee it will be the most unpalatable fish and the toughest meat. As for wine, they only like it sour and watered-down. They don't like early produce, and they wait to have green peas when they are powdery, artichokes stringy and asparagus fibrous. In other words, it is impossible for the poor to appreciate the joys of good food.
With respect to tobacco, these poor fools disdain both the fine products of the Orient and the more savoury ones from America, and they smoke this black, bitter and completely unpleasant garbage that makes you cough. They dislike a nice Cuban cigar or a delicate Turkish cigarette.
Another peculiar fact about the poor: they don't care about their health. One couldn't think otherwise considering the carelessness with which they expose themselves to adverse weather and their negligence in taking care of themselves when they are ill. They don't buy medicines, don't go to the hospital and even refuse to stay in bed when necessary.
The rich explain that the poor neglect their own health due to the fact that they wouldn't want to miss a single day in the factories, the mines and the fields, for which they have an absurd passion. Bizarre as it may seem, this is the reason.
One could go on and on talking about the poor and their attachment to such rough, harmful and extravagant habits. Hence, we shall now examine something more interesting, namely the reasons behind such a preposterous behaviour.
The rich inform us that in-depth studies on the poor have always been conducted, during all times. There are primarily two groups of scholars: those who attribute the character of the poor to some sort of deliberate perversity, and who think they could be corrected and changed; and those who think that no remedy is possible, being the character of the poor innate. The former suggest an active predication and persuasion; the latter, more skeptical, only police action, and they seem to be right, since all that preaching on the advantages of cleanliness, beauty, luxury, culture and leisure has produced no results so far. Quite the opposite in fact: despite the care and concerns shown by the rich, the poor, extremely ungrateful, don't like the rich. It must be acknowledged, however, that the rich are not always able to hide their disgust for the lifestyle of the poor.
As we customarily do during our voyages, we wanted to hear the other side of the story as well. We therefore asked the poor. It was not easy, as they ignore any language different from that of their country. However, we were finally able to obtain this extraordinary answer: the difference between them and the rich is that the rich have something called money, which the poor almost always lack.
We wanted to find out more about this money, able to produce such enormous differences. We discovered that it mostly consists of little pieces of coloured paper or round pieces of metal.
Considering the well-known inclination of the poor to hide the truth, we doubt that this so-called money could be the main source of such peculiar effects.
A strange country indeed, we must conclude.
- The End -