A Geographical Expression?

Another twist to the continuing Italian government shenanigans is announced today:  “Forza Italia”, recently re-founded from within the PDL (Popolo della Libertà), after stating that it would continue to give support to the government coalition has now placed itself in opposition to it. This means that the present junta has a majority of only seven votes and the crisis will certainly deepen. In the relatively sedate English political climate this situation might merit a long chapter in the history books but in Italy it is cynically shrugged off. And now we find B himself has had his “decadenza” decided for him (“decadence” might even be an appropriate translation although strictly the word means “stripped from office” – as a senator).

One of the things to be realised in living in Italy is that this country has been experiencing an endemic political crisis ever since it was “unified” in 1861, except for a period of around twenty years when someone called Mussolini decided to step in. Indeed, the average life expectancy of an Italian government is around ten months.

Just the mention of Benito’s name makes me prefer the continuing crisis although, clearly this is not good when it comes to working out one’s contributions to the state and the local administration. The latest “imposta” (“imposition” is an apt translation) is something called IUC (Imposta Unica Comunale) – a tax on one’s main house -which will hit us in 2014. Yuk I say to that!

These “imposte” are tirelessly being re-conjectured and revised in the wake of continued political “fibrillazioni”. This word, constantly used in the news programmes, literally translates as “heart seizure” but doesn’t mean that politicians continually suffer from cardiac attacks (although we, as citizens living here metaphorically sometimes do when we see what antics Rome gets up to) but that the government is constantly in danger of expiring.

As in the UK “Downing street” is used as another appellation for “Prime minister” so in Italy different parts of the perishing government bodies are classified by where they reside. For one’s benefit, when listening to RAI news, here are the most important of them:

Roma: the current occupying power in charge of Italy and residing in Rome.

Montecitorio: the lower house or chamber of deputies (camera dei deputati)

Quirinale: official residence of the Italian president

Chigi: official residence of the prime minister (presidente del consiglio) – at present Letta.

Madama: the upper house or chamber of senators

Villa San Martino, Arcore: Home of Silvio Berlusconi

Palazzo Grazioli: the Rome residence of B.

Il Cavaliere: alternative nickname for Berlusconi (the others used may be too rude to print here). It does not mean “cavalier” (although many would deem B’s actions as such but refers to his erst-.while senatorial title).

To come down to our little world of Bagni di Lucca: the sindaco (mayor) is a member of “Scelta civica” (“civic choice”) which is a centre-right party set up in the wake of Monti’s “technical government” and which still forms part of the present government’s coalition. (Indeed, the majority of Italian governments have been fragile coalitions).

We are now living in Italy’s second republic. The first one (which had rather more permanent political parties) came to an ignominious end in 1993 in the wake of disclosures of widespread corruptions and bribes which would have made Watergate seem like a little tantrum in a local rural parish council meeting.

When I ask my fellow Italian citizens to explain to me something about Italian politics their eyes turn to heaven and they exclaim “I don’t think I know very much more than you do.”

The fact is that, although it is rather more than what the Austrian nineteenth century statesman Metternich termed “merely a geographical expression”, Italy is not yet a country in the mature sense of the word (although economically it was in the boom years of the “miracolo” of the sixties and seventies in the last century).

Clearly, Italy will not disintegrate like that other artificial entirety Yugoslavia, primarily because its vast majority of individuals were brought up on one religion. Roman Catholicism and the Italian language is written using one alphabet, but it will take a hell of a long time for Italy to integrate itself into an truly efficient nation. Perhaps it needs a third republic?

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