ISSUES,INSIGHTS AND COLOURFUL MOMENTS-FROM THE DESK OF AN ENGLISH AUTHOR.
Italy is getting stroppy! You might have noticed. Most of the English newspapers carry more than just a line or two these days, which seems to be breaking with a perverse tradition. Italy never used to be any trouble; a smiling happy go lucky sort of place, the sort of country that filled up the newspapers with culture for the art columns, lots of sunshine and gelati aimed at those looking for somewhere to go. The odd rumble of discontent never managed to disturb the compositor’s slumber. Some, of course, saw the trouble coming when Renzi was summarily put out to grass. Since then the Guardian has kept its head down desperate not to give any more traction to the idea about the EU, that there’s something very wrong in the ‘State of Denmark’. Even Mummy Telegraph, always resolutely trying to be non-committal, and impartial, can hardly afford to let Ambrose E.-P. loose every now and again to sound an intelligent warning note. Perhaps the only newspaper that takes evident delight in the rise of this nonconformist Latin government seems to be the Daily Express, having even moved its busty babes over to give all this political mayhem a little space. Italy, with its new aggressive anti-EU authoritarianism, and with a lot more spine, is coming to rival the Brexit pantomime now that it’s descended into a debacle. No one seems to have noticed that Mayday’s a distress signal!
By the by. Yours truly, having parked himself, not by accident, in one of only three Italian regions that voted for the eternally corrosive Socialist dream, you might consider my views on the rapidly changing political landscape either biased, or blighted, or a bit of both. Be reasonable. As a non-belligerent it can be viewed with the usual attitude of foreigners everywhere. The shaking of heads at the incognizable babble of voices. Still, having made a few tentative enquiries, and listened acutely to the usually specious arguments the Italians indulge in, you come to the conclusion that the views are of little moment, and resemble a squib. The Italian attitude always seems to be outrage, followed by acquiescence. They have learnt that life must go on despite a change that never changes, and that life tomorrow will be the mirror image of yesterday. Lo so. That might explain why in Italy, every, and any, sort of occasion is an excuse for a good night out! You might believe they are the happiest nation on earth with all the noisy community activity taking place in even the humblest village. Conversely, you might be inclined to believe that all Italians, well nearly all, seem to get very agitated when you mention that dirty word, 'governments'. They rarely manage a good word for them. Frequently, they accuse them of the most abusive actions, and are livid at their financial indulgences – one was accused of spending €2000 on ties – and the Defence Ministry of ordering nineteen armoured Maserati Quattroporte’s for ferrying ministers around Rome. So what’s new in governments, you might ask? Root causes you could argue. Someone seems to have let the cat out of the EU bag. Envy is not a characteristic to indulge in, but even the dead roll over in their coffins when they hear the pension pots are an average €40,000 for EU officials, and costs the tax payers €36bn. a year. Considering that their occupation in life is a pain in the proverbial to the man in the street, this hasn’t gone down too well in tax strapped nations. As one such in particular, Italy, whose outraged vox populi have had to bite on the bullet, having been told to tighten their belts until there were no notches left by these bossy Eurocrats, dissent is in the air. They obviously find it difficult to believe in such arguments, especially when they discover that the EU travelling circus migrates monthly from Brussels to Strasburg at a hefty €130mn a year, in a colossal waste of their taxes. You didn’t know that? Never mind. Go back to sleep.
You could say it’s all the fault of history. No advanced country on earth has seen such a myriad of change during its existence as Italy. Having started off as the most stable nation on the planet, from about the third century before Christ, it became a monument to the toxic effect of too much wealth, and an example of the effect of uncontrolled immigration. By 500 AD it no longer existed. There really are no true Italic people today, as the population took another thirteen hundred years of violence, rape, and pillaging to form a new club from an inharmonious medley of regions and genes. If that’s not a warning to modern sybaritic societies hooked on holidays, and idle consumption, nothing is.
However, from our detached mountain view, we can sense that perhaps, with a whiff of common sense, change is in the air. Of course, as normal, it may be of short duration, just long enough for the population to have a change of heart; perhaps two or three decades might do it. As Guiseppe di Lampedusa intimated, nothing changes in Italy. You might think that if the philosophers put their heads together, and invented a new system that didn’t have such a plethora of political party’s it would be a start. Only problem with that is any sort of polarization leads to trouble, given that such ideas generally lead to dictators. Something Italy is busily trying to forget, and the Unites States is about to learn. In a sense the larger the population the greater the sense of alienation, the reason China has to be such a rigidly controlled nation, and the new driving force behind the antithetical division in the United States. Their 500 AD moment is possibly, just around the corner. Hence also, the ultimate failure of the European Union. For the moment in Italy; however, the loss of 200,000 small businesses, a moribund housing market, 34% of its young people unemployed, and the realization that the country is stagnant, has left them bewildered, but for the first time, surprisingly, not complacent. As a nation they knew something was wrong, and looked round for someone to tell them what it was. At the last election it’s apparent that a majority of the nation listening to the siren voices that have always drawn them on to the rocks, decided like Odysseus to plug their ears with wax, and search for a safer haven. The result emerging from the caustic election indicated that Di Maio had benefited from Grillo’s mastery of the Internet, a forerunner of President Trump, and Salvini with his command of the northern regions, and his persuasively passionate dialogue, gave the centre right group a substantial edge. The leftist President, full of angst, tried to blight the result, by refusing an anti-Euro finance minister, but failed to stem the obviously populist parties wish to form a government. That Salvini grasped the merit of modern communication methods so quickly from his ally suggests he is a man in a hurry. He also has one commanding asset that he’s made his own. Italy First! The latest polls show a considerable increase in his popularity. The ditching of the obsequious Renzi Euro phonic bleating’s, has certainly done this northern matador no harm, and his red cape tactics with the EU seems to have pulled the Italian Europhobes, and the politically bewildered, together. He’ll have his work cut out keeping them there!
As the centre of Italy seems to have missed the boat, it’s worth a quick look at the aberration of Tuscany’s position. If anything, it’s a good example of the old malaise writ large. There is a local cliché that Tuscany was 90% Fascist before the Second World War, and 90% Communist after it. This, you might feel, suggests that Tuscany is adept at looking after its own interests, a particularly rich region that has benefited from the growing wealth of northern Europe. And you would not be wrong. We stranieri have been pouring money into Tuscany, as well as other parts, for four decades at least. Besides other reasons, it is one of the largest producers of quality wine and olive oil, has by far the largest tourist attractions thanks to the Renaissance, and an attractive coast line, that might not rival that of Campania, but is a bonus to dangle in front of the noses of car mobile tourists. It’s been made rich by a little hard work, and a lot of visual history. All this has benefited the local population, along with the agrarian reforms after the war, which practically gave the farm worker a house, and as much land on credit as they could afford, followed a decade later by a seemingly unlimited amount of Euro funds for the creation of Agriturismi apartments out of old barns and pig sties. The result seems to be that Tuscany must have the highest number of two-home, or more, owners in Europe. One can understand their reluctance to desert the hand that feeds them. As the Socialist PD is a staunch European party it explains why Tuscany voted the way it did. Whether the blossoming empty high street shops, and a moribund housing market, loaded with ramshackle country dwellings that need five figure numbers to renovate, will bring a change in their thinking, as it has in the south of Italy, we will have to wait and see. I’m not optimistic. The Tuscan’s are incredibly patient, and famously stubborn. Not to say, unfortunately, rather short sighted!
In other words, as the title implies: Everything changes but nothing changes