Contempt of others

From the very same book (The Leopard, by Giuseppe di Lampedusa), but this time a serious part. This is a magnificent reflexion the Father Pirrone makes when he is asked about how the Prince of Salina sees the unification of Italy. Father Pirrone is paying a visit to his home village, so his interlocutors, his family and friends, are humble people, but Father Pirrone is quite prudent and nice at all times. It is only when Don Pietrino – who has stayed the last to speak with him – has fallen asleep that Father Pirrone takes the opportunity to talk aloud his true thoughts.


«[…]You, Don Pietrino, if you weren´t asleep at this moment, would be jumping up to tell me that the nobles are wrong to have this contempt of others, and that all of us, equally subject to the double slavery of love and death, are equal before the Creator; and I would have to agree with you. But I’d add that not only nobles are to be blamed for despising others, since that is quite a general vice. A university professor despises a parish schoolmaster even if he doesn’t show it, and since you’re asleep I can tell you without reticence that we clergy consider ourselves superior to the laity, we Jesuits superior to the other clergy, just as you herbalists despise tooth-pullers who in their turn deride you. Doctors on the other hand jeer at both tooth-pullers and herbalists, and are themselves treated as fools by their patients who expect to be kept alive with hearts or livers in a hopeless state; to magistrates lawyers are just bores who try to delay the course of law, and on the other hand literature is full of satires against the pomposity, indolence and often worse of those very judges. The only people who also despise themselves are labourers; when they’ve learnt to jeer at others the circle will be closed and we’ll start all over again.[…]»

(The Leopard, p. 161)

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