I’m no expert on Italian people or their culture. I understand that they enjoy neverending salad bowls and detest Koopa Troopas, but that’s about it. On a trip to Rome, I thought about exploring the ruins–touching history, immersing myself in the world. But the big-ass Coca-Cola I’d purchased on the train was stolen from my hand by a roving soccer hooligan almost immediately after I first set foot on the platform. It was all downhill from there. Well, except for the part where I bought a Pope John Paul II snow globe from the Vatican gift shop. But then, that’s not really Italy. It’s holy ground.

Perhaps my trip would have been more enjoyable if I’d taken the advice of morons and did as the Romans do, but I’m no fan of selling overpriced ice cream and sleeping on a cot outside my mother’s bedroom well into my 30s. (I understand this is a tired stereotype, but as a non-expert on Italian culture, I can tell you it’s true. Those men love their mothers. Which might even be understandable in an Oedipal, underground Russian pornography kind of way. But this love is more like codependency, which is neither healthy nor erotic.)

As I’ve recently learned from the Italian anti-Berlusconi watchdog group Telefono Antiplagio, doing as the Romans do might also include consulting with sorcerers. Now, I can’t speak to the efficacy of this group, as Google’s website translation service has a hard time picking out political nuance, but I’m all for anti-Berlusconiism. If you didn’t already know, Silvio Berlusconi is a former media mogul and current Italian prime minister.  While his flagrant criminal activity, whoring, and hosting of sex parties for geriatric former Eastern Bloc governmental officials is fairly wonderful in a general sense, he’s probably not the best choice for a head of state. His public comments also give the impression that he sees women as little more than furniture you can put your dick inside. He also hates gypsies.

As part of their anti-Berlusconi campaign, Telefono Antiplagio looks into the negative influences of Italian media, which is largely controlled by the prime minister’s companies. They believe Berlusconian misinformation has led to the dumbing down of Italian society. I can’t find the Italian box office returns for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, so I can’t speak to the current health of their national intelligence. But T.A. has discovered that 18% of Italians consult with sorcerers for help with personal and professional problems.

The good news here is that there’s at least one part of the world where sorcery is still a viable occupation. Sure, you’ll occasionally run into the odd American or Canadian sorcerer, but these people often work pro bono and are usually on some kind of government assistance. Which is a shame, since sorcery is important work, especially in these times of greater ecological awareness. Rather than tossing your old eyes of newt and locks of freshly scrubbed virgin’s hair into a landfill, better to recycle them through donations to your local sorcerer.

The bad news is that sorcery isn’t real. Or at least, it isn’t real in the sense that it actually works to accomplish any sort of goal. Yank on a sorcerer’s beard, and there’s a 60/30 chance it’s genuine, with a 10% chance he or she has no beard at all. But yank on a sorcerer’s staff, and you won’t be struck by lightning or even transformed into an animated broom forced to joyfully clean someone’s cottage.

Furthermore, belief in sorcery indicates a stunning lack of education. I’m not talking book learning here, though reading a book never hurts unless it’s about teenage vampires or something. No, I’m talking about education through experience. The school of hard knocks, Chinatown, and the like. Who among us hasn’t bought a remainder copy of the Necronomicon from Books-a-Million and tried to summon a Were-creature to rip out the entrails of our enemies and bed the objects of our desires as we mentally see through their eyes, Beastmaster-like? And have any of us ever succeeded? Of course not. While we’re sitting crosslegged in our salt circles causing irreversible damage to our Pixies posters, our enemies are being eviscerated and our paramours are being bedded by Benicio del Toro, who is a creature of science, not magic.

T.A. seems to include astrologers and simple fortune tellers among the sorcerers mentioned in their study. This is taxonomically nonsensical, but that doesn’t mean astrology and fortune telling are any less bullshitty. Still, it rubs me the wrong way, since every velvet-clad astrologer or palm reader working your local ren fair would fucking kill to be called a sorcerer. Seriously, they are fully capable of murder.

So these numbers may be a tad diluted, but they’re no less alarming. 46% of sorcery enthusiasts consult professional liars over matters of the heart. No, not Michael Jackson/Billy Mays matters of the heart.  The Righteous Brothers kind. Meanwhile, a quarter are interested in health problems, 22% are seeking guidance in matters of violence (the specifics are unclear, but I believe this means they’re looking to hire magic-wielding hitmen, which is a Dimension Films pitch waiting to happen), and 7% look to the criminally deluded for help with problems at work.

So, what can we do as rationalists to help the Italian people break the bonds of superstition and enter the Age of Enlightenment? How can we encourage them to give up on useless magic and instead turn to the scientific wonders of emotionally crippling antidepressants and non-magic-wielding hitmen?

Well, why not go straight to the top?  You may write to Italian prime minister and media gatekeeper Silvio Berlusconi at this address:

Silvio Berlusconi
Premier’s Office
Palazzo Chigi
Piazza Colonna
Rome 00187

I’ve already done so and have received this response:

Dear Mr. Thompson,

You-a so beautiful! I want to rub-a my body against your juicy thighs! Be with me, and let me spread-a my cock butter all over your-a face!

Silvio Berlusconi
Prime Minister of Italy

Granted, I included a doctored photo of myself with my face pasted on what I’ve been told is Miley Cyrus’ naked body. I did this for the sake of expediency. I don’t know if it really is Miley Cyrus’ naked body, but I do know one thing: Italy is a strange place.