Wow – there is so much going on in the world at large that sometimes I have to take my head out of the Sicilian sand (a.k.a. lava rock, ancient ruins and temples) and realize that according to contemporary media, Italy is on the verge of financial collapse.
And, then, I look around me and realize that there is a 3-day gas strike going on, too. Yep, no fuel sales for three days (except the Agip by the base today) – unless my interpretations are incorrect and the strike is next week. This is completely possible because Italians (and many Europeans) plan strikes ahead of time. The goal is to cause enough discomfort that complaints reach high up, but not to inconvenience the everyman (who is the hero of the strike, after all).
The La Repubblica article I link to (in English!) writes the tale of the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde character Berlusconi has always been – balancing his personal financial interests with Italy’s financial interests. But is that a balance that can actually be achieved? Perhaps not, as indications abound that Berlusconi may finally step down.
Here at the Cinquecento Project, Berlusconi has been a symbol of the enigmatic Italian people. The people whose artistic essences and poetic souls created the conglomeration of villages and regions into this great nation we know as Italy. Like Berlusconi, Italians are known for being outrageous in completely contradictory terms. Women are known for holding the family together – dinner at Mama’s; yet boys are the uncontested darlings of Italian society and Italians have their own brand of machismo. Forward thinking and open talk are pillars of the warm and expressive Italian society; yet the dominant Catholic religion maintains strict norms on social behaviors (that are largely believed, if loosening in response to economic demands on families).
While Berlusconi has mirrored the enigma of the Italian people, he has largely inspired mild disgust in me. I turn my nose and then I turn my head. I do not vote in Italy. While I am interested in world politics, I have little interest in dissecting or critiquing Berlusconi’s actions, because I can only gauge them against my values and social norms. And, my values and social norms are decidedly not Italian. Well, not yet.