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United in Apathy
May 13, 2011 5:05 AM   Subscribe

What really ails Italy?
posted by beisny (26 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
The New Yorker has abstracts longer then other magazine's articles. One of the many reasons I love them. However, that one is pretty confusing :) But I'm gonna have to track down that issue and read that article now, dammit.
posted by Bovine Love at 5:20 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


And the answer is:
We are arriving at the core of the problem. As a nation, Italians will strike temporary bargains among themselves, but they don’t seek genuine conflict resolution. They seek to win, or at least not to lose, and so prefer to keep the conflict open, much as if they were involved in a soccer league, with matches to be won or lost each year by fair means or foul. The identity that counts for them is not national; it’s one constructed around arguments with other sections of Italian society. As early as 1824, Giacomo Leopardi, in “Discourse on the Present State of the Customs of the Italians,” concluded that society in Italy was above all “a vehicle of hatred and disunity.” Vivacious by nature, but brought, through a series of historical accidents, to a state of skepticism about anything and everything, the Italians, as Leopardi saw it, did nothing but “deride and torment each other.”
posted by pracowity at 5:25 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


So the answer is, "Italians"?
posted by Eideteker at 5:29 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


The governor of South Tyrol, a German-speaking province ceded to Italy after the First World War, said that it was unreasonable to expect his people to celebrate their subjugation to an alien culture

Italy suffers in many ways the same north south problem as does Belgium. The industrial, hard-working north of Italy is really a foreign country when compared to the lazy, socialist south.
posted by three blind mice at 5:30 AM on May 13, 2011


It's hard to be anything other than apathetic when your last decent leader was Marcus Aurelius.
posted by spaltavian at 5:40 AM on May 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


Perhaps it's all that hand-waving.
posted by bwg at 5:52 AM on May 13, 2011


Italy is a pretty good picture of what the Trump Administration would be like.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:05 AM on May 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


Trump Administration

That phrase makes me shudder.

Somehow, I suspect a Trump administration would make eight years of Bush look like a pizza party. With powerful prescription opiates on the pizza. And a talking giraffe that grants wishes.
posted by ixohoxi at 6:10 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


To be frank I don't think anything much ails Italy. Whatever happens to the official economy or their ludicrous governments, they seem to go on living at a standard and in a civilised style that looks pretty good from where I'm sitting.
posted by Segundus at 6:28 AM on May 13, 2011


That phrase makes me shudder.

Personally, I'm partial to "Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Black."
posted by schmod at 6:32 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fascinating. An interesting paradigm from which to understand what it is to be Italian.

Thanks for sharing, beisny.
posted by En0rm0 at 7:01 AM on May 13, 2011


And in other news, this. It's still the same, AFAIK. I just don't understand how that can last for so long...

The Belgian situation is fascinating to watch. They use an electoral system very similar to the Dutch (which I am), and it's interesting to see it fail so utterly in those impossible circumstances, and how painful it is to have a monarch with so much electoral power in a situation like this.

I think they're only one month away from a year without government now, and only 10 weeks away from parliamentary recess, and there's no solution at all. You'd think they need either some kind of national government with just public servants or just give up on Belgium as a nation.
posted by Harry at 7:24 AM on May 13, 2011


I don't know what to think. Tim Parks lives there, I have lived in the US since 1969. He should know better, but...

My brother, sister, and their spouses (a nurse, a school principal, a psychologist, a school teacher) are all doing financially better than my husband and I (a medical technologist and a researcher at a major University.) My other brother, who started a used books business, is doing better than the rest. All my nieces, nephews, cousins, second cousins are employed, except for my youngest nephew still in middle school.

They seem a lot less stressed, they get a lot more vacation days, they enjoy life more. Their opinion of their government (my relatives range from Berlusconi's fans to anybody but "quel mona" fans) is always a meh. They all seem to take the long view:
1. In 500 yearns it will not make any difference
2. Let's have fun watching the craziness
3. Life is to be lived
posted by francesca too at 7:54 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Belgian situation is fascinating to watch.

I know two "Belgians", one is French and one is Flemish. I use quotes because there is so little in common between the two that they have to tell you they're from Belgium lest you think otherwise. It should be interesting to see how the EU responds if Belgium decides to split.
posted by tommasz at 7:58 AM on May 13, 2011


An estimated 97.5 per cent of the population didn’t speak the national language. (Most spoke one of scores of local dialects.)

This was my first WTF moment in reading the abstract. It is not as if I could not understand Sicilians, even if I was born in Trentino.
posted by francesca too at 7:59 AM on May 13, 2011


I guess the question -- and this applies to Belgium also -- is whether there's really an advantage to holding the country together anymore. This is particularly true given the presence of the EU, which would ensure a unified currency, trade policy, and backstop the legal systems of the various states that might emerge.

I mean, the largest reason why "Italy" exists today as a unified country was as a way to defend themselves against other European powers, particularly the Austrians. It looks rather like a devil's bargain to me, with various regions and city-states joining up because they figured it was better than becoming an Austrian or Habsburg puppet.

That doesn't seem like much of a risk anymore, so maybe the entire reason for a unified Italian state should be rethought? Rather than a bunch of regions inside Italy, itself inside the EU, get rid of the intermediate level and just go back to quasi-independent states inside the EU. The northern ones and the southern ones could go their own way in terms of policies (within the framework of the EU), and perhaps everyone would get along a bit better.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:13 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Personally, I'm partial to "Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Black."

6th amendment in my right hand,
8th amendment in my left hand,
So many amendments,
Which one did we break?

It's Guantanamo, Guantanamo,
Can't detain without Guantanamo,
Everyone's looking forward to torture, torture.
posted by dflemingecon at 8:24 AM on May 13, 2011


That doesn't seem like much of a risk anymore, so maybe the entire reason for a unified Italian state should be rethought? Rather than a bunch of regions inside Italy, itself inside the EU, get rid of the intermediate level and just go back to quasi-independent states inside the EU. The northern ones and the southern ones could go their own way in terms of policies (within the framework of the EU), and perhaps everyone would get along a bit better.

The rest of Italy, from Rome downwards, would separate and join with Sicily to form a new country, officially called the Kingdom of Two Sicilies (but nicknamed Bordello). It could form a currency union with Greece, but nobody else..
posted by acb at 8:27 AM on May 13, 2011


If Italy splits up, does this mean that the Catholic Church gets back the papal states? That, along with some good Guelph and Ghibelline factions would make Italy all the more interesting.
posted by dgran at 8:50 AM on May 13, 2011


How is Berlusconi not in prison?
posted by empath at 9:05 AM on May 13, 2011


If Italy splits up, does this mean that the Catholic Church gets back the papal states? That, along with some good Guelph and Ghibelline factions would make Italy all the more interesting.
posted by dgran


I imagine a few smug Luccans standing out on top of their walls, rubbing their hands and saying "we told you it was a good idea to keep these."
posted by COBRA! at 9:08 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


"It is common for the media to deny that objectivity is possible, a cynicism that was reinforced by the decision, in the nineteen-eighties, to allow the three major political parties to control one each of the three public TV channels."

I saw that and went, "MSNBC, Fox News, and uh, CNN." The article, while certainly primarily about Italy and its many, many woes, also has some elements that smack of the route the US is tracing.

Ever-fragmenting politically, uniting on anything other than a national level, the Us vs. Them elements of religion and politics brought out by the Jesusland map, the lack of political will to fix long-term financial problems, the bread and circuses (a term which originated in what we now call Italy) all over television and movies...no, not everything is about the United States, but I see in Italy issues that are arising as well in the United States.

Then again, bread and circuses arose at the end of the Roman Empire and the people who would become Italians survived that and a hundred other major crises between then and now. Even if "Italy, the united country" doesn't survive, Italians (well, Sicilians, Neapolitans, Romans, Genovese, etc) will.
posted by librarylis at 9:44 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


> Personally, I'm partial to "Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Black."

Car radio autosearch stopped on a talk station and as I reached over to poke the button again the caller-in said "What we need is Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann on the same ticket." Good times, good times.

> along with some good Guelph and Ghibelline factions

What's "Balkanize" in Italian? I'm ready, I already belong to the partito politico tini-wini.
posted by jfuller at 9:51 AM on May 13, 2011


Ooh oh oh mondieu, les Italiens *adjusts monocle*

Indeed what a laughable incoherent stock we are. Luckly, almost the same could be said of many nations if one starts comparing and constrasting popular or popularized categories

For instance, it is rather well known that the U.S. is divided in at least three geographical regions: the liberal west and east coast, who are the most productive and whose GDPs both run the nation and ruin the nation (ala Wall Street Paper Credit Economy) , and the abysmal republican void "hic sunt rednecks" in between the two coasts.

In France, some french people see Paris as the center of the world and the rest of the country is an immense Provence, that is, rural, retrograde and surviving.

But only Italy provides so many colourful differences: the corrupted political parties, once divided in a handful of miniparties, now reunited into the Christian-Democrat alike monolithic Party of Freedom with extreme right wing tendencies, the barely existing center and the utterly divided Left; then you can also contrast the Northern productive regions, forever criticizing immigrants, quickly forgetting they mostly are sons of immigrants (from Southern Italy), the Southern lazy mafioso regions (forgetting that mafia has moved north)...and so on and so on.

What is new exactly? These superficial sociological characterization are quite old and never have provided some real insight into the social dinamics of any country; they of course contain a grain of truth, some historical facts, but they never reach into the behavioral, economical and educational drivers which arguably shape populations.

The advent of television, for instance: some argue that the Italian language was effectively taught to the italian masses by the TV, possibily forgetting that in the meanwhile the population was lifted from mass ignorance (to another lesser lever of ignorace) by compulsory education.

It then follows that TV may be still shaping the country perception of reality, hence the influece of Berlusconi on italian politics through his virtual monopoly on advertising - yet they forgot that Berlusconi didn't invent modern day generalistic TV, he copied most of it from the U.S. generalistic TV (and even to the present days, most "formats" are bought and sold), so one could probably argue that the most pernicious influence on culture isn't Berlusconi per se, but rather the Generalistic TV itself and its "race to the bellies" that has provided an alternative reality of mirrors, smokes and illusions.

What about the popularization and construction of a free market ideology? And what about the distortions introduced by a thousand year montheistic religion?

It's a little more complicated than merely describing popular differences, I guess.
posted by elpapacito at 12:21 PM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's hard to be anything other than apathetic when your last decent leader was Marcus Aurelius.

I am officially in love with spaltavian.

posted by scody at 12:25 PM on May 13, 2011


I read this as "what really oils Italy" and expected more discussion of olives.
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:25 PM on May 13, 2011


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