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14 December 2009

fear and hope

our prime minister was struck in the face yesterday by a man holding a small replica of milan's cathedral. since the statuette was made of heavy metal, it left berlusconi with two broken teeth, a fracture to his nose and sliced lips. it happened after a political rally in milan, as the premier was signing autographs. the suspect is a 42 years old man who doesn't appear to have any political affiliation and who wasn't among the group of protesters at the rally. he actually has a history of mental illness.

(statue used for the attack -yuck!)
pic taken from il corriere

this attack comes after a particularly tense time for berlusconi, who has been on the defensive since his wife announced last spring that she was divorcing him, citing his dalliances with young women, and since italy’s constitutional court struck down a law granting him immunity from prosecution, making him once again a defendant in several corruption trials. his popularity is beginning to erode becasue of italy's economic travails and concerns that his personal problems are affecting his ability to govern. early in december thousands people marched through rome in a peaceful protest to demand his resignation, citing conflicts of interest between his business empire and political career, as well as his efforts to pass custom-made justice reforms aimed at solidifying his own power.

to me, beyond economic uncertainity, berlusconi's decline reflects italy's condition: a vulnerable country who seems to enjoy life on the precipice. all the world loves italy because it's old but still glamorous. because it eats and drinks well being rarely fat or drunk. but the truth is that italy doesn't seem to love itself. despite the clime to have mastered the art of living, italians say they're the least happy people in western europe. it's a country that has lost its will for the future. there's no more economic parity with britain, internet use and commerce are among the lowest in europe, as well as wages, foreign investment and growth. pensions, public debt and the cost of government are among the highest. doubt clouds the family itself: 70 percent of italians between 20 and 30 still live at home, condemning the young to an extended and underproductive adolescence. many of the brightest, like the poorest a century ago, leave the country. there's more fear than hope. no one seems clear on how change can come, or if it's possible anymore at all.

thing is people don't seem to understand the gravity of the situation. when foreign media criticize us, the resentiment is high. when petitions for changes are organized, nobody signs. that's why i believe that getting rid of the center-right mr berlusconi would be no magic cure. we italians have our destiny in our hands but we don't know how to use it. 'the malaise is: i can see all that, but there is nothing i can do to change it', said beppe severgnini, my favorite columnist for corriere della sera. 'to change your ways means changing your individual ways: refusing certain compromises, to start paying your taxes, don’t ask for favors when you are looking for a job, not to cheat when your child is trying to reach admission to university. that’s the tricky part', he said. 'we have reached a point where hoping for some kind of white knight coming in saying, ‘we’ll sort you out,’ is over'.

our wrong attitude is also to think that, okay, there is no new fellini, rossellini or loren. cinema, television, art, literature and music are on the cutting edge but we have ferrari, vespa, armani, gucci - all symbols of style and prestige, and this seems enough to rank for greatness. i'm afraid 'made in italy' alone isn't enough, instead. and if italy does not shed its comforts for change, a similar fate to florida awaits it: it'll become a blocked by past greatness, with aging tourists as the questionable source of life. a place ruled by the same prime minister for over 15 years, whose popularity and increased power are overstated.'he has the support of the public', said bonaiuti, his spokesman 'so what's the problem?'

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