ISSUES,INSIGHTS AND COLOURFUL MOMENTS-FROM THE DESK OF AN ENGLISH AUTHOR.
In the last few years Italy has taken to rugby. Not the town in Warwickshire, which the locals in Tuscany would pronounce with both w’s, considering it a phonetic liability; nor Thomas Arnold’s old place, but the bullish sport he happily foisted upon us. In a sense the game has come home – at least in Florence, where since the sixteenth century they have knocked each other about in the ‘Calcio fiorentino’. The Five Nations Final is a tame affair by comparison. Anyway, this could prove handy. ‘War’ might yet be the operative word
Rome has come out of the scrum fighting, announcing new laws that require the pasta producers to list where the ingredients come from. An innocuous piece of legislation you might say. Apparently not. Would be emperor, Juncker, has got in a tizzy over this blatant breach of EU law. The commission is adamant that Italian’s should eschew their local products, and put up with dodgy wheat from who knows where. Undermines the Single Market, you see. More importantly, it suggests a free nation, capable of putting its own people first, and to hell with the ‘ten metre’ law. For some time we have had ‘100% Italian’ olive oil and tinned tomatoes, but yet to be seen on pasta labels, as everyone assumes, if it’s pasta, it must be 100% Italian. Someone’s obviously been sullying the countries I Primi. (First courses.) I ask you, who would want a Stilton made in Częstochowa? Same with Spaghetti et al. Genetically modified anything raises the hackles on this side of the Alps, and the Italians have begun to ask questions about who’s running their lives; besides what they eat, and thus Canadian wheat. There was an earlier skirmish over the presentation of restaurant olive oil, where the EU got a bloody nose. Brussels will likely have another fight on their hands over pasta, with the Italian general election before May 2018, only a few months away. Any solidarity between the Eurosceptic Five Star Movement, Lega Nord, and Forza Italia will blow a lot more than ‘made in the EU’ legislation away. And they know it.
The Italians are notorious for agreeing with you when they actually don’t, but the younger ‘40 some things’ are becoming seriously disenchanted with their countries lot. They now ask you what you think of Brexit, in case it’s a viable answer for Italy. This is a nation after all, that was a mere twenty years ago something of an industrial powerhouse. To see empty factories, and closed shops across the land, with 33% of their younger siblings without a job, has given them a wake up call. They want to know what’s happened; how they came to be paying ninety billion euros a year, or 2.84 euros a second, of interest on a debt that’s in trillions. More importantly, why the time’s been arbitrarily stretched before they get their pension! It’s no good blaming the Italians. They don’t run the show. If you think this is a lot of old cobblers, you should address our young Italian shoe mender who, so enamoured of British irredentism, acquired a Union Jack for his shop window. He’s waving the flag while his British contemporaries play la politica dello struzzo – the politics of the ostrich! The Five Star Movement is chock-a-block with young voters, and Virginia Raggi, a young lawyer, has given them control of Rome. UK’s youth, derogatorily called ‘snowflakes’ everywhere, does appear to have its head in the sand, if not in the potty. Italy is where it’s all happening. It won’t be long before there’s an Italian women’s rugby team, mark my words. This is all serious stuff. Venice and Lombardy have been gearing up for a fight with the government for some time. Now they are to have a referendum of their own seeking greater autonomy, and the state, smelling tinderbox mischief afoot, has given it the nod.
Catalonia may turn out to be a damp squib, but the die is cast, and Italy’s Federica Mogherin, with just a whiff of fascism, is champing at the bit to get a European army in there to support Spain. She’s got some catching up to do. The EU, behind everyone’s back, illegally gave large sums of the readies to Spain to bolster its military potential. Just in time, apparently. No wonder there’s an evanescent four billion euros the EU auditors can’t account for. How many hospitals or schools can that maintain? It doesn’t get better. The European army is a German obsession, so there’ll be plenty of würstels on the home front, if nothing much else for a miserable 1.26% of their GDP. An army is a good thing for defence, but sending one in to beat up another countries citizens seems short sighted, as Merkel’s Germany seems to have overlooked. Spain also has form, and Rajoy appears oblivious to the fact that Catalonia is a Basque region where ETA has a long history of nasty intervention, and might be quietly biding its time. Talk about stirring up trouble.
Russia is a poor excuse for all this narcissistic posturing as they’re not threatening anyone, unless you wave anything more than interceptor missiles at them. Economically perhaps, which might be the real reason the EU’s in a fret, and trying to keep a lid on trade. You can smell American angst at the back of it all. Russia has twice as much land as anywhere else on earth, enough to grow non-OGM wheat to satisfy all the world’s bakers; more minerals, including gold, than anyone can dig, and timber reserves the size of Australia. We’re never going to run out of matches, for sure. Nor railway tracks either, with nearly six thousand miles of Trans Siberian railway from Vladivostok to St Petersburg, a trip that takes two weeks, and quarters the globe. The EU doesn’t want them in their club, European or not. Albania’s as much as they can handle. That’s put Italy in a sulk, having worked their socks off to forge links with Russia. It landed them a good gas deal, of which the Old Bear has oodles. Now the EU wants to slap sanctions on them. Italy’s not happy. Wasn’t one Romano Prodi made a director of Gazprom? Can’t be the same person.
Back in the real world, referendums are personal, national things, in which you can get egg on your face, as Cameron and Sturgeon have learnt to their cost. Serves him right for bowling for Europe instead of batting for Britain. Meanwhile the Scots are sensibly putting locks on their sporrans. Plebiscites have a history of clearing the air, as well as the closet of failed wannabees. Democracy is a humbling thing, and we’re seeing less of it. The Italian, Marsilio of Padua, a long way before our time, considered that the prevailing part of the community should be weighed for quality as well as quantity, a sentiment that can only be determined by ‘the proof of the pudding’! No one appears to agree that a majority is only a temporary ‘last word’ until you see how things work out. Tomorrow is always another day – though sometimes it may be years! France, pre Mini Macron, gave the thumbs down to a European Constitution, and Holland, in 2016, overwhelmingly rejected closer EU links, but no one in their governments, let alone the EU, was listening. They didn’t want to hear the sirens call. Democracy is for dreamers. Scotland, it appears, will have to wait as well, now that viragoes are falling out of fashion, and in the UK, we’re waiting for a Mayday distress signal. The red lights are flashing all over. In the volatile United States they elected an outsider to the Presidency. The insiders missed the point. They only needed to look in a mirror, distorted by the crack, to see where they went wrong.
Italy is naturally off to a bad start. An inquisitive Italian asked me about the European Commission. When I told him it was an unelected body, and the only one in the European Union that can propose legislation, he thought about it for a moment, and said, “Oh, something like Italy, then.” The Italian demoi never really managed to carve them selves out a system that represented their interests. Ask them, who their man in the Chamber of Deputies is, and you’ll get a blank stare. There isn’t one! The Senate isn’t much better, stuffed with party appointees selected by the Prime Minister, and the President. They’re on a jolly for life, meaning they’re pensioned for life! How does 12,000 euros a month sound? About the same as the Deputies! The poor plebs, on an average 1800 euros, vote for a party, not a person, and if it gets 40% of the vote the party gets 340 seats to shuffle among its chums. No citizen votes for these senators or deputies. They’re just appointed. They don’t represent anyone in particular, just the party. Never mind, they’re preparing for the elections with a new set of rules that would allow parties to form coalitions before the vote. Despite 5-Stars objection to this tinkering, the other major right wing parties are all for it. Together they’ll likely muster that 40%, and 340 seats! To the Italians, it will be just another stalemate, and like the EU, another layer of bureaucracy they’ll have to bear. It would go down a bomb in Westminster.
Don’t laugh. Ask yourself what the European Council actually does? No peeping now. Running the place has become a nuisance with all these people disagreeing with the powers to be. Surely Italians just want a quiet life, a job with plenty of holidays, and a pension by the time they’re fifty. Who doesn’t? Only problem is, Europe is running out of money, and babies. The five plus sibling families in Italy are an anachronism. They want to be the same as their northern cousins, and immigrants are seen by Brussels as the only way to ward off the demographic short fall. The non-nuclear family can’t even take care of gran any more. Just give her an immigrant. There doesn’t seem to be a country that can meet its pension obligations in the foreseeable future, so immigration is it, and to hell with the citizens. Who asked them anyway? Schengen is in their interests. Brussels said so. Two million new souls for Germany. Mercedes Benz will need them all when they’re the only motor manufacturer left. Merkel will see to it, even if she oscillates like a Helmholtz resonator, which all A level physicists will know, is a near spherical container of gas. But push leads to shove. It also means emigration. One hundred thousand young people left Italy recently, a third of them with degrees. If the country ever gets itself back on its feet there’ll be no shoes for them to fill when they return. No modern European country can afford such a loss of human resources. Mussolini’s idea of payment per baby was given short shrift in his time. After all, who needs them today, when there aren’t enough jobs to go round. But the citizens consider immigration short sighted. They’re beginning to think that governments should try finding some honest work for Italians to begin with. If not, it won’t be long before they get a taste for cordite.
We’re all in the same boat. No one has any idea what to do about this influx of bodies, even when some of them save us money by having their own Kalashnikovs along with a cell phone. What can you expect when such a problem has been sitting right under their noses for decades; bombed out of North Africa by NATO. Naples has been sitting on a time bomb of its own, for a lot longer, and it’s home grown. The Phlegraean Fields is on a count down for a massive eruption in the near future, and the Government, faced with the possibility, has no official plan to evacuate the people. Three million of them! Now that’s a migration problem. Not softly, softly, bobbing around in the Mediterranean, but like three million, right here, feet on the ground, tomorrow! One can guarantee it’s a future job for a committee.
But politicians never listen, for the sole reason they haven’t a clue on how to mend the broken motor, and are merely a box of excuses. Great at kicking cans down the road, and fiddling the books. Read up on Zero Hedge - Gustavo Piga’s ‘Italy’s Libor Minus 16.77% Swap’, that got Italy into the Euro; or Golem’s ‘Train of Debt’, to see how things haven’t changed for the better in the last decade. Makes your hair stand on end. Not that governments aren’t sneakily creative about shoring up the countries debt, camouflaging the fact that we’re broke. Printing money doesn’t fool anyone, so they’ve learnt to be much more devious than that. Climate Change is now a non sequitur since NASA and other climate bigwigs said so. Apparently, Al Gore using 30,000 dollars a month on lighting his home didn’t help the cause either. No matter, diesels were damaging the planet, and had to go. The lot by 2040, and who said the place would still be here anyway? If it is, they stand to make a packet. If you assume Diesels have an advantage of, say, ten miles per gallon more than its petrol powered brother, 30/40 mpg, and the average driver travels ten thousand miles a year, that’s approximately eighty gallons less a year consumed, and with the duty and tax at sixty one per cent they’re losing a fortune. With diesel vehicles reaching nearly fifty per cent of UK new car sales they’re looking at a big dent in the twenty seven billion pounds revenue they collect. Diesels have to go. It’s the same tortuous logic they applied to the big banger brigade in days of yore, doing one hundred and thirty miles per hour on only fifteen miles to the gallon. Instead of restricting the power of such behemoths, they gave us the seventy miles per hour speed limit, which did little to discourage the boy racers while they were keeping the pumps busy.
Never mind, I hear you say, motorcars will all be electric by then. I hope not. Have you actually had a look at your electricity bill lately? The Italians are oblivious to the matter, betting it won’t be in their lifetime. ‘Domani’ isn’t it! God help the place when they wake up, and realize, for good reasons, they haven’t even got one nuclear power station, and they’ll need a viable alternative, fast. No one’s told them about clean and safe Thorium reactors, and Mogherin won’t like that because its fuel isn’t a weapons grade material. Bring on the windmills. Her EU mates can make a bomb out of them instead, before the lights go out!