The number of daily fires that afflict our capital reaches those of a real war bulletin. The city is completely invaded by the residual fumes of forest fires, as well as brushwood, which repeatedly break out in the various quadrants of Rome.
The chemistry of fire
We know from the chemistry of fire that in order for a fire to originate, three fundamental elements are needed (fire triangle), a fuel, a comburent and a primer. When we talk about fuel we refer to everything that can catch fire in nature. But to have a flame there must be a specific comburent which is the oxygen of the air. However, these two dimensions are usually present in all environmental contexts.
What is needed to start a fire is the so-called trigger: the spark, the cigarette butt, the piece of devil or even that particular, how rare natural condition defined as self-combustion. In a particularly man-made territory, almost looted and not at all maintained and in a seasonal condition of extreme heat like the one we are experiencing, the mixture becomes highly explosive.
The trigger for the flame
But what is missing is always that unknown factor of the trigger. We are used to looking for the causes deriving from the effects, for a logic of thought and unfortunately also in this context, given the very high number of fires, it is inevitable to ask ourselves if they are all attributable to occasional events, of a natural nature, or otherwise deliberately triggered. Doubt in this case is legitimate, as is asking whether personal, political or even economic interests are behind all these fires.
However, we must not forget a very frequent psychic condition that is defined pyromania that is “that set of conditions that involve problems of self-control of emotions and behaviors through the violation of the rights of others, such as aggression and destruction of property, which place the individual in significant contrast with social norms or figures representing authority“.
Pyromania, identikit of one of the most serious pathologies
Pyromania – from the Greek πῦρ (pyrfire) and μανία (mania) that is a real one obsession with fire and flames – is often associated with some of the more serious personality disorders. Like the narcissistic (in its malignant side), antisocial and psychopathic ones which, however, do not invalidate the reality test, that is the full capacity to intend to want. Often the arsonist with malignant narcissistic traits also feeds on the contempt of others in order to be the center of attention.
Through fire and devastation, the arsonist nurtures his sense of power and domination, which has nothing to do with revenge, but with a grandiosity of the self. And it is precisely for this reason that they feel the irrepressible urge to try that gratification again, reducing the time interval between one fire and another.
Generally the arsonist feels tension or emotional arousal before setting the fire, to then unload all that dysfunctional excitatory component once the criminal act has been perpetrated; for this reason, we can consider the arsonist as a serial offender. He often keeps the so-called trophies (lighters, scrub etc) as a substitute gratification in order to relive the excitement and euphoria of that moment, helping to increase the sense of self-efficacy.
However, not all arsonists adhere to this pattern, as it is possible that they decide to return to the place where they started the fire to fuel their own fantasies. Arsonists are not born but become one and also gradually. The human being does not come into the world with an innate empathic capacity, but it is necessary that this be developed by recognizing others as carriers of needs and thoughts, experiencing love through a mirroring with the attachment figures and internalizing the good idea of ’ other.
The arsonist and his apparent mental health
The arsonist, despite being severely disturbedshows a mask of apparent mental health, thanks to his natural coldness and the ability to simulate the emotional reactions of others, thus managing to hide his own social and emotional impairment, therefore difficult to identify.
From the historical point of view, the clinic tells us of a standardized presence of these individuals well distributed on the territory. Consequently, we must necessarily ask ourselves about the extreme emergency situation that sees above all the territory of Rome at this moment affected by the fire emergency.
Why so many fires in Rome
Not being able to believe in the theory of a concentration exclusively condensed in the Capital, the cause-effect link must necessarily move beyond the confines of the pathological perspective. It is here that the fertile ground offered by the other two conditions of fire chemistry returns overwhelmingly. It becomes decisive the abandonment to which the Roman territory is subjectboth in the peripheral areas and in the more central ones.
Other contributing causes for the fires in Rome
The mowing of land, which was once carried out by those who worked the land, suddenly disappears in this new post-industrial dimension which local policies are unable to cope with. To aggravate the whole scenario there is not only the burning of the undergrowth, so defined, as much as the mountains of waste which are located within the same areas and which become responsible for the toxicity of the fires.
Rome is today more like a war outpost in a war scenario than a capital of the Western world. An entirely home-grown paradox where efforts to improve air quality are met with an unprecedented devastation of places and entire areas.
With the collaboration of Chiara Sartori, Doctor in Clinical and Forensic Psychology
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