Plain speaking

How charming Pope Francis sounds when he is trying to speak in English — dropping half the consonants and lisping half the vowels. I could listen to him for hours. Well, minutes at least.

I think he should make a recording of the text of Laudato Si’, especially for rightwing English-speaking people. In English. For I suddenly realize the whole text would be taken differently, pronounced in this way. On the one hand, it would sound so gentle. On the other, it would be easier to ignore the more charged political passages, as the musings of this sweet old man from Buenos Aires. Of course he does not mean anything like what appears on the page in our Anglo black and white. What was I thinking?

If a pope must resort to public speaking — and I see no reason why he should — it would, I suppose, be better if he stuck strictly to ecclesiastical Latin. That way, everyone would have an equal opportunity to misunderstand him. Or alternatively, we could all learn Latin, a language in which a wide range of post-modern abstractions and ambiguities are impossible to express.

The whole concept of “climate change” would, for instance, have to be abandoned. For the moment the mutatio were added, the situation would become clear. We have a pleonasm. The weather is something that is always changing. That is not something that needs to be explained. Short, medium, or long term, it is bound to continue changing. Men change, too, but to attribute changes in the weather to men? Anyone can see that is absurd!

No, it is the weather that is changing, and most likely we will change with it, dressing more lightly if it gets warmer. Perhaps take the woollies off. Or put them back on if it gets colder. The idea that if you do something, say put on a coat, the temperature outside will get colder, is quite mad. Instead, it will get warmer — but only inside the coat. Try it and see!

A clima is anyway a mathematical division of the earth. Let us not mix terms. Even in an extended usage, it is no use here. Sure, the weather may be more temperate at another location; in another clima perhaps. It often is. And true, it gets colder as you go north, warmer as you go south, in the balance of things. Or if you go up a mountain: cooler, I would say, in the Alps. And in some places it rains more than in others. But we’ve known that, for a long time; we needn’t get excited about it. Very well, it is all upside down in Argentina. But Argentina is far away. We’re still right side up, here.

As to sea levels: they rise and fall every day. We’re ready for that, don’t panic. And should the high tides begin to creep up, at some rate like half an inch a year, we’ll cope with it. I promise you, no one will drown. It’s not like a ship turning over.

There’s a woman from Naples down the hall from me. She may not speak Latin, but she does speak Italian, which is the next best thing. Age confers wisdom, sometimes, and she is among the wisest I know.

She looks at all these blue boxes, and brown boxes, and green boxes, and yellow boxes, with mysterious symbols on them; and knows the world is going mad. All of this, for garbage!

A gentleman from the city came to show how to sort her garbage; how you put some in this box, some in that, some in the other.

She did her best to humour him. Since he was speaking nonsense in English, she replied with nonsense in Italian — a little parody, or perhaps a translation. But with a strong Neapolitan accent, and plenty of slang, in case he caught on. She was patient with the strange little man, hearing out everything he said with at least a pretense of curiosity. Eventually, he went away.

Later, in her perfect English, she told me how these things should be done.

Back home in Naples, everything was simpler. If you lived in a flat, and you had some garbage, you’d know what to do. You’d toss it in the corridor, like everyone else does. That isn’t very hard to remember.

“It is the landlord’s problem,” she explained.

“Let the landlord deal with it. … We shouldn’t interfere with other people’s business.”