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Archive for January 2010

I Love Silvio

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I discovered today that I love Berlusconi.

It’s not that I asked myself “Do I love Berlusconi?” and replied “I do”. No: the revelation came upon discovering a book has just been published, in Italy, whose title is “Noi amiamo Silvio” (We love Silvio).

Probably meant to fill the vacuüm left by the death of JD Salinger, the book can be purchased, from today, in Italy’s “best bookshops”. It looks more or less like this:

The cover explains the book content:

 “The exclusive photobook with the best pictures, in colour, of the historical events that had as main character our Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi“. Printed by Peruzzo Publishing, a group named after Alberto Peruzzo who, in the book, claims that this is not a book about politics, but about a great friend of his.

The book has not been officially reviewed (but I have already sent a complaint to the New York Review of Books), so I leave comments about its content to later posts. I imagine Silvio must be quite upset about another celebration of his life and career. In fact, Berlusconi had pointed out that he does not want to look like a superior being: rather, he wants to look just like a member of his Party, the Freedom’s People.

That’s why he wanted that the anthem played at the Party conventions, “Meno Male che Silvio C’e'” (“Thank God Silvio Exists“), be changed to a more democratic “Meno male che noi ci siamo” (“Thank God We Exist”). He explained that, after the famous attempt to kill him in December, it was important to bridge the gap between him and the other human beings. But now, they do it again: they are back to celebrating him. Why don’t they stop? Who’s telling them to do it?? Idiots!! Let’s bridge the gap, for Silvio’s sake! I mean, for God’s sake!

Furthermore, this is not the first literary work about Berlusconi. A previous book, in 2006, was titled “Una Storia Italiana” (“An Italian Story”). On that occasion, the book was even delivered for free to each house in Italy. And the best thing was: you didn’t even have to ask for it! You would get it, willing or not!!

In that book, that celebrated Berlusconi’s life and achievements, a series of moving images of our Prime Minister were made immortal (sorry for the low quality):

The romantic Our Prime Minister

 

The father Our Prime Minister who does jogging with the son and the dog

 

Veronica, Our Prime  Minister’s great love (until she asked for divorce).

(Repubblica.it)

And that wasn’t the only one!! Even the Americans, last year, wanted to celebrate Silvio’s great achievements by writing his biography! That time, too, the authors had to apologise to our Prime Minister…

Two things are worth mentioning about this still-to-discover little treasure of book. First: we should notice that the three words on the cover, “Noi Amiamo Silvio”, are respectively green, white and red. Incidentally, those are the colours of the Italian flag. That’s why, as an Italian citizen, I feel I am part of this loving proclaim. I love Silvio.

Second: when I looked at the picture of my beloved Silvio, I couldn’t help feeling that I have seen it before: his greatness, his size, his smiling teeth, the people under him.. I had seen that before, though a long long time ago..

I eventually remembered what that picture reminds me of.

Written by TheItalianist

29/01/2010 at 06:01

Bamboccioni Are Among Us

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Among the various characteristics typical of Italy, there is that we are always labelled as “mammoni” or, as it is becoming more and more fashionable now, “bamboccioni”. Bamboccioni is an Italian expression which broadly refers to someone who stares at things with a not too-smart face and, most of all, not a very proactive attitude. Like a big ‘bambino’, a big baby. Applied to everyday life, it is now used to indicate Italians in their late 20s-early 30s, who are still living with their parents instead of building up their own, independent existence. 

This is a serious issue in Italy: I have to say I know no one of my friends who, before being 30, moved out of their houses. Some of them moved out to study at universities in different cities, but after their degree they all came back to their home town and to their family house. I am always surprised by seeing British kids fleeing from their houses as soon as they turn 18: I also always thought that that is partly because Italians have a healthier concept of family than the Anglo-Saxon do, yet Italy’s situation is definitely too much

Different explanations are offered for this peculiar Italian feature. Some say it is the laziness of the young generation, together with mothers’ over-protective attitude towards their ‘kids’. Others say it is rather because the economy does not allow a 30-year old to start an independent life: while the cost of life skyrocketed over the last 8 years, wages remained the same, and the welfare system is not really supporting young generations in search of a stable job.

Here comes Renato Brunetta, Minister of Public Administration:

 

Brunetta is one of the main responsibles for the rise in the use of the label bamboccioni. He definitely sides with the first of the two possible explanations mentioned above: Italian adults are lazy and unwilling to get to grips with the responsibilities of a mamma-less life. So, last week he shot the first arrow at the bamboccioni’s chest, proposing to force them to leave their family when they turn 18.

Yesterday, he went further. With the acumen that always characterizes Italian key politicians, he claimed (during the famous gossip-Tv-program-with-lots-of -dancers-in-bikini Domenica In) that the Government should detract 500euros per month from the pension of over 55-year old parents, to be fed into a fund to support the bamboccioni’s take off towards independence.

Brunetta, who openly claim he wasn’t able to make his bed when he was 30 for he was still living with his mother who would make it for him, confessed that “ the blanket is small and there is no room for everyone under it”. And that “Italy is full of good guys, who take risk and want freedom. It’s their parents’ fault if their wings are cut”.

The Government has clarified that this idea is “absolutely personal of Brunetta, and it does not have anything to do with this Government’s plans”.

Knowing what this Government’s plans are, the bamboccioni can keeping sleeping (un)happily under the blanket of their parents’ bed for a long time yet.

More on mammoni here.

Written by TheItalianist

25/01/2010 at 13:06

Throwing Things at Democracy

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A month has gone since the day the Italian PM Berlusconi was hit by a statuette of the Duomo in Milan, thrown at his face by a mentally ill person, Massimo Tartaglia. The world still remembers, and will for a long time, the shocking images of Berlusconi’s face covered in blood, his eyes staring blankly at the cameras.. That was really a scary episode, and it has been described as the result of the “climate of hatred” that anti-democratic individuals had fostered against the PM in the months leading to the attack.

Sadly, the Government had to (temporarily..) give up some of the most urgent and necessary measures to prevent further spreading of hatred.  Hence, the enemies of democracy have been able to come back on track, and use the internet to keep the fire of hatred going. Now, some of these emenies of democracy are even claiming that Berlusconi had not been injured at all, and that the attack was set up by the PM’s entourage. How could they say so? I am going to mention a few anti-democratic points about the accident.

Here is, once more, a video of what happened:

One main anti-democratic question has to do with the PM’s security service. In a case like that, it is expected they protect the PM’s safety, by taking him away immediately from the place of the attack. There could be other attackers ready to strike again. Instead, Berlusconi was taken into the car, which remained there. After a while, he came out again. His security guys even helping him to stand up and show himself to the public! I can see two explanations for this (apart, of course, from the anti-democratic one): a) Security did not know of the climate of hatred ; b) Berlusconi was showing Italians that a further increase in the tax load will be justified by the cost of re-making his face.

The infamous statuette of the Duomo was never found. We know that it is what Tartaglia used to hit Berlusconi. But how do we know that, since it’s never been found? Also, some point out, undemocratically, the strange trajectory the object has when it hit the PM, and his very unnatural reaction when hit by it. He covers his face with a coat, or a bag, or whatever black he has in his hands. A Youtube video highlights the strange fact that, before throwing the object at Berlusconi, Tartaglia is standing just between two journalists, one holding a TV camera, another holding a microphone. According to an anti-democratic theory, the man with the microphone says something to Tartaglia, before the latter carries out his evil act.

In an undemocratic frame, it appears quite clearly that there is no blood on Berlusconi’s face when he enters the car. That frame refers to a moment in which Tartaglia has been already identified and immobilized by the security service: which means, some 20seconds (or more) after the object hit Berlusconi’s face. No sign  of blood. Then Silvio goes into the car, and when he gets out, blood everywhere.

Not really everywhere, actually. After the promenade, Berlusconi is taken to the hospital. His personal doctor, Alberto Zagrillo, informs the journalists of the PM conditions: the impact with the little sculpture of Milan’s Duomo had caused a fractured nose, two broken teeth, a facial trauma. Berlusconi had also lost half-a litre of blood.

Yet there is no trace of this bloodshed on his face: his shirt is perfectly white. No blood running from his nose.

The anti-democrats say this was all set up to get Berlusconi out of the fire, after months of accusations for sex scandals, corruption, anti-constitutional laws and mafia links. This is all impossible, of course: Berlusconi entered politics SIXTEEN years ago, promising a “New Italian Miracle”.

He has clearly fulfilled his promise:

13th December 2009

6th January 2010

Written by TheItalianist

13/01/2010 at 09:48

A Cap on Multiculturalism

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Further performances of the Italian Government as regards immigration policy. Today it is about reforming the school system.

The Minister of Education, Mariastella Gelmini, has announced new policies regulating the number of foreigners which will be allowed in each class in primary and secondary italian schools from the next academic year (2010-11).

This is Gelmini:

 

I have to admit it is the first time I don’t manage to find a picture of a female minister who is not being portrayed naked (see previous posts on this blog).. Anyway, the elegant Mariastella has made public that the Italian Government has planned to introduce a cap on the number of foreign students who will be allowed to attend Italian schools next year: no more than 3 every 10 students, that is, no more than 30% per each italian class. A fuller account of the story can be found here.

Now, I don’t think this is a completely unreasonable thing, or at least I think it is below the average madness of this Government’s proposals. But still, there are lots of things that make little sense to me.

To begin with: Gelmini says that this policy has nothing to do with racism, rather it is a plan to favour multicultural integration. Her reasoning goes as follows:

some people exist in Italy which are not Italian; they don’t speak Italian nor do they know our culture; if we let them free to enrol in school, they will all go together and, therefore, will create fully foreign classes; this will cause “ghettoes”; this will stop an (already flourishing..) process of integration. The 30% cap is accompanied by a requirement that foreign students pass a test of Italian culture, by which they will have to demonstrate a not-clearly specified knowledge of Italian language and culture.

What will they have to do to pass this test, I wonder.. Will they have to sing the national anthem? Will they have to quote the Divine Comedy? Will they have to cook polenta taragna? Perhaps they will have to prove they know how to become a Minister in Italy; how the university system is structured; how to deal with different sexual orientations; how the role of the modern woman impacts on Italian society; or other peculiar elements of the Italian culture.

Gelmini was keen to specify that, where this requirement is fulfilled, schools have the autonomy to accept more than 30%; likewise, if less than 30% shows proper knowledge of Italian culture, that will be as much as it is ‘allowed’ per class.

But why putting a cap? Why not simply saying “those who don’t pass the test, don’t go to our schools!” It is not clear why, even if one qualifies as Italian connoisseur, s/he cannot have access to a class because s/he is out of the 30%. Faced with the idea of a ‘limit’, one can’t help thinking that the message is that “there is a limit to our tolerance! Fine, you three come in, you 7 bugger off… Oh, look, she’s handing me a blank cheque…. You come in too, my little would-be Italian. You 6 go back to your countries and be ashamed.” And why 30%? Why not 50%?

Not that I like the idea of the test either. True, to go to the US or UK as an exchange student, one of the main requirements is to pass the infamous TOEFL test. However, that is higher education, whereas in the case of Italy we are talking of primary and secondary schools.. Mah.

What happens to those who do not fall in that 30%? Mariastella promises that transports will be provided to take those disadvantage kids to a special school everyday, and back home. She does not mention where the money to afford these expenses will arrive from. Nor is it clear what these schools will look like. Like ghettos, maybe?.. Given the level of openmindedness of the average Northern League voter, it is not hard to imagine what will happen to the 70% of foreign kids.

The main problem with this Government’s approach is that it is dramatically one-way: it is the Italians who are taking the foreigners on, and the latter ones are simply a burden. Once again, the idea of a “cap” seems to convey exactly this message: integration is still equated with grudging acceptance. No one mentions that a foreign student is also a resource, not just someone to whom we have to teach how to be a good Italian. It is undoubtedly true that multiculturalism faces (especially) Western countries with new demands: however, this process also has its rewards. How enriched would “our” kids be by sharing their desk at school with someone from a completely different background culture (and viceversa)?

But then, maybe, the Northern League would risk losing part of its supporters in the future. That might be one real cost of multicultural integration: would they be willing to pay it?

I wonder what their leader would reply..

 

Written by TheItalianist

10/01/2010 at 12:39

Too Much Tolerance?

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The New Year starts for The Italianist in the same way in which 2009 ended, that is, with issues of colour. Today’s news report violent clashes in southern Italy among immigrant workers and the local population, in Rosarno, an anonymous village in Calabria with a population of about 15,000. It is interesting to see the way in which the italian media are covering the story, showing black men throwing stones at police, people screaming, white people saying ‘look what the Africans are doing to our town’, a white woman having a miscarriage because of the violence, and the usual articulated comments by italian politicians.

All the media seem quite keen to show what’s happening, but not so much to explain why it’s happening. Unsurprisingly, what we are offered is the government’s umpteenth lecture about the evils of immigration: we’ve let them in, they  don’t want to work and only bring problems. Let’s focus on colours: white is good, black is bad. And now, some hot girls dancing in a bikini. (This has been a brief tour into the mind of the average italian tv news director).

It doesn’t take a big effort, though, to understand a bit more about what the events in Calabria reveals. Yet, often even a small effort seems too big, and it’s easier to go back to the “white=good, black=bad, we’re white, we’re good, they’re black, they’re bad”.

It wouldn’t take much to find out that these black workers work 12 hours a day picking up oranges in the field, and are paid 20 euros per day. It wouldn’t take much to discover that they live in conditions which would be unbearable to anyone. This is how they sleep, where they wash, where they live sharing tiny barracks among 10-15 people:

It wouldn’t take too much to realise that these black workers live in conditions of slavery. Their bosses keep from their wages the costs of transport of goods, of the (scarce) food they offer, of accessing fresh drinkable water (see here, in italian). These immigrants receive no support for learning italian language, which leaves them unable to integrate with the local communities. Nonetheless, it is impressive to see that many of them are able to articulate their thoughts in a better italian than the locals.. The business they work for is run by local criminal organisations, which in Calabria is the ‘Ndrangheta, whose pockets get the profits of this enormous exploitation. The ‘Ndrangheta enjoys this overly cheap working force, keeping them in the dark, unregulated, with no hope for future integration, and with the constant threat of being sent back home, of losing even this miserable wage. Or simply being killed.

It wouldn’t even take a great effort to see that the riots in Rosarno did not start out of the blue: the night before, two immigrants had been knee-capped by some people from a car; other two had been hit with bars and are now in hospital in serious conditions. No one knows who did this, but rumours have it that  the good whites, not the bad blacks, did it. During the riots, an immigrant has been run over (not by accident) by a car guided by a local. The locals can be rightly upset by havin their town, windows, cars smashed by this angry mob. But who is to be blamed for all this violence?

It wouldn’t take a big effort to realise that what’s happening in Calabria is the result of a more complicated reality than the simple “black=bad” equation. Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, the Italian Government does not help making things clearer. Roberto Maroni, the Minister of Home Affairs, has ben prompt to condemn the violence taking place in Rosarno. Let’s remember his face, and his wonderful red glasses:

For Maroni, the problem is clear: we have shown too much tolerance towards the immigrants. Weve been overly generous in accepting these people, and now it’s time for a clampdown (again?) against illegal immigration. I wonder whether Maroni eats oranges, and asks himself where they come from. I wonder if his brain is crowded with images of arian people picking up oranges behind the corner of his house in Northern Italy, waving the italian flag.

But I have to admit that it takes some courage to say Italy has been too tolerant towards immigrants. See this.

Similar comments about the riots in Rosarno have been made by the famous Italian diplomats, the Minister of Defence, Ignazio La Russa (who looks quite happy with the clampdown)

and Maurizio Gasparri (who yet remains focused on thinking about women’s tits)

Once again, according to the italian media it turns out that the blacks are to be blamed. There’s no Ndrangheta, in Italy; there’s no slavery; there’s no racism. Last week, the Inter FC striker Mario Balotelli, who apart from being a great scorer, also happens to be black, expressed publicly his disgust for being constantly targeted by racist insults from the public when playing in Verona. The next day, the major of Verona (a member of the Northern League) hit back at Balotelli, labeling him “immature”.

Don’t abuse their tolerance, Mario.

Written by TheItalianist

09/01/2010 at 05:09