being written - not yet completed
Today a new Italian Government was sworn in by the very President who had levered-out the elected Silvio Berlusconi from the Premiership in November 2011, who had then inveigled the Italian people into accepting an unelected executive government for a year, and subsequently, when the elected Silvio Berlusconi judged that the Italians had had enough of the unelected Prime Minister, Mario Monti, and withdrew his party’s support for the executive thereby triggering elections which Mario Monti, seriously overestimating the esteem in which he was held by the Italians, contested and lost, but the outcome of which was three mutualistically antagonistic parties with about 25% of the vote then, following a very brief interregnum when his mandate was expiring and his powers circumscribed by law, at the age of 87, managed to get himself re-elected President for another 7 year term by the morally and ethically bankrupt political class distinguished in its venality only by its incompetence, worked-up the eventual creation of a "grand coalition" Government between the party of Berlusconi and its enemy for twenty years, the principal party of the Italian left, being the very same politicians who were unable to agree on any other person for President (out of a population of 60 million) other than the current one, Giorgio Napolitano.
These are the very people who are to save Italy and whose government, the BBC reports has been greeted with "optimism".
It was reported today that six ministers, including the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister (who respectively belong to the Democratic Party of the Left and Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Liberty party) have their political roots in the Democratic Christian Party which imploded under the weight of its own corruption in the early 1980’s and that two ministers belong to the muscular Catholic Organisation "Communion and Liberation" in which Rick Santorum is a fellow. This last organisation has recently run into difficulties of its own in Italy as leading members, such as the ex-President of the Lombard region, have been charged with corruption, and Investigating Magistrates have executed search-warrants at the Organisation’s Rimini headquarters following fraud enquiries.
It’s not very good really. And it’s not logical. How can anyone realistically expect the very people who have been responsible for Italy’s decline, who are so tenacious in sucking on to power at any cost, who are so unprincipled and so incompetent, now to put things to rights?
to be continued ... this is going to be a long one!
By the end of the evening I couldn’t wait to get home. The uncertainty relating to Fritz’s whereabouts was wearing and the desire to get home and find him there great. Wanting to avoid the difficult feelings that would go with losing the dog, I hoped to find that everything was alright after all. As we came up the Faula driveway, and in front of the house, Hector, for a moment, in the gloom seemed to be Fritz. Everything was alright after all! But then we saw that it was Hector and Fritz was still away from home.
The night gave the possibility that in the morning Fritz would be back at La Faula and so comforted by that hope I went to bed. During the night I slept fitfully and woke-up when I heard Rett barking. Maybe Fritz was back? But in the morning, he wasn’t and it seemed that I would have to confront the fact that Fritz was gone from La Faula for good.
I imagined Fritz happily living with another family that he had followed on an Easter Monday walk and who, taking him for a lost dog, had brought him home and decided to keep him. Or I imagined his little lifeless body lying abandoned on some lonely grass verge beside a road where cars passed indifferent to the fact that he was our pet that we loved.
I had memories of our walks in the winter and the moment I let the dogs out of the cage in the morning and he does a scratchy roll on the gravel. I remembered how Fritz had cried when I went to see him after his hip operation two years ago. I thought of the little Belgian boy, Ossip, who had walked Fritz after the operation as part of his physiotherapy and who in a couple of days would be arriving with his family to see his canine friend.
I felt a great sense of loss but then it seemed ridiculous and out of proportion. Sure, Fritz was a great pet but he was only a dog. I thought of friends who had lost their child to Lou Gehrig’s disease and asked myself how I could permit such a welling of emotion for a small dog when people commonly face much worse. It seemed perhaps indulgent and a bit exaggerated. Then I thought of the expense of Fritz’s hip operation and how he had recovered so well with mobility and without pain. Now all that money would never be depreciated by years of Fritz running free with the other dogs in the fields and on the hill of La Faula. As I passed the paper-recycling bin I saw one of our new paper table mats with an image of the four dogs on it, done by a guest of last year who had been taken by the friendliness of the Faula border collies. Already just printed, the image was a lie as Fritz was no longer or was, at least, no longer of La Faula!
Anna, Fritz’s sister came up. "Come on Annie" I said
"Let’s go and have a look at the old shack"
I pulled on my gumboots (Wellingtons) and Anna and I walked across the field in front of the vineyard towards our neighbour’s shack. I had no hope of finding Fritz. It was a pro-forma action but had to be done just the same. I walked with Anna where I walk often with all the dogs who run and galavant with the pure pleasure of being alive, free, without fear and loved. By now I was getting pissed-off that it should have happened that Fritz was no longer with us. One doesn’t want bad things to happen and this was a bad thing even if he was just a dog. At the minimum, the money we had spent on his hip replacement had not been returned in full. And even if a dog is just an reflexively animated people pleaser, Fritz had given me pleasure and I did love that dog even if that love is, by definition, less than that we can express to a person.
Anna and I approached the shack. There was a tent in front, closed and I couldn’t tell if there were people in it or not. Quietly we moved past the tent and looked into another large, high-roofed white tent where, obviously, the party had been held. Only a couple of black bin bags, full, were present. I was impressed that at the end of the festivities the kids had cleaned everything away. Passing alongside the lean-to on the side of the shack I noticed some abandoned plastic plates with chicken bones. Fritz must have had a great party here! Anna was busy sniffing around, I guess wishing that she too had been at the party. I had hoped that Anna, being a dog, would in some way indicate to me the presence of Fritz, if he was nearby, perhaps hurt, but there were just to many good smells and interesting stories to occupy her!
I reached the door of the shack. I was unsure what was inside and whether there were perhaps kids sleeping there. I gently lifted the latch and pulled the door a little ajar. Inside it was gloomy with the light coming through one small, dirty window. In the dusky light I made out some rows of benches. There was a smell of fire and perhaps a fireplace in the middle of the far wall. But my eye caught a movement at my feet. I looked down. It was Fritz, his little nose pushing out through the opening!
I laughed to see Fritz pushing out through the door and looking up at me with a sheepish face. He was rotund as a sausage, black with soot and had the air of a dog that has had the party of his doggy dreams! "Come on Fritz" I said. "It’s time to go home!"
As I write this Fritz is curled-up outside the Yellow bungalow. Inside are our friends, who came originally as guests, and who lost their child to Lou Gehrig’s disease. These people who come to La Faula twice a year have been coming since October 2000. They have shared La Faula, the way we make it grow, and our trials during those years. They share a love of dogs and know and remember the Maremanni, Minnie, Spotty and Barty and the border collie Nellie, the mother of Fritz and Anna and Rett. During the time of our friendship we shared, incomprehensibly of the profound magnitude of the suffering, their loss.
So I suppose that all loss is a tragedy for those who feel it. And the size of the tragedy is commensurate with the magnitude of the loss. The premature loss of a pet is a small tragedy compared with other things that happen to people. But it hurts all the same.
So when I finish this diary entry, press send and confirm the "Diario modificato regolarmente." page and get up and pass Anna stretched-out on the mat, and Hector underneath the bench next to where I am sitting, and Rett stretched-out on the mat at the entrance to the dining room and then look across to the Yellow Bungalow where Fritz is waiting for his friends to open the door and - if he is very lucky - let him in, I will give thanks for a loss avoided and will savour this moment when all is as it should be and is right in our little world knowing full well that these moments, transient and ephemeral, are the diamonds in the rough of life!
Easter Monday was a busy day at La Faula. In the morning guests who had stayed for the Easter holiday period left and in the afternoon friends came and we sat around the wood-burning stove eating well, drinking and talking. There was lots of talking!
During our time in the room with the stove the dogs came in and out, begged food off us, got banished outside but then sidled in with the next person to enter the house. I was vaguely aware that Fritz was not among the dogs but assumed that he had found something better to do outside. Eventually our friendly and cosy afternoon in company drew to a close, our friends left and we had a short break before being due at the Trattoria Ai Cons where we had been invited for dinner. It was dusk and time to round-up the dogs and take them to their sleeping cage where they are the stars of the "Sleeping Dogs" webpage. Fritz was no-where to be seen. So we called and hollered but he didn’t turn up.
Now, it’s not so unusual for the dogs to make little visits to the fields around La Faula. If something interesting gets their attention such as a badger set or a field freshly sprayed with liquid manure they depart for a little adventure. But they are never out of earshot and a good bellow, such that the hill echoes with dog names, invariably brings them back. So it was perplexing, worrying and saddening when Fritz didn’t come back. We searched the ponds and recalled the people passing through La Faula on Easter Monday rambles. We hoped that in his friendly way he hadn’t attached himself to some other family and was about to start a new life with someone else. Worse, we recalled that our dogs are not familiar with roads or cars and we had visions of him slack and lifeless beside some road. We wondered if his hip replacement had given out and he was injured in some wood around La Faula. All in all it was pretty sad. But just before leaving for the Ai Cons trattoria we noticed that some local kids were having a traditional Easter camp in a shack in one of our neighbours fields. As Fritz likes to go and visit the neighbour when he is working the vineyards in front of the shack, it suddenly seemed probable that Fritz was there and enjoying plenty of pats and begging food off the kids.
It seemed so likely that Fritz was with the kids that we didn’t go to find him. The field with the shack abuts La Faula and there are no roads so we guessed that Fritz would make his way back home once the party was over and, the next day not being a holiday, the kids went home themselves. The kids were local and would have known that Fritz was from La Faula so we had no concerns for his safety. We didn’t really want to bust-in on th kid’s party so we departed for the Ai Cons where Elda and Alcide and the waitresses were relaxing after a busy Easter. But it was a case of salt having lost its taste. Normally I love an evening at the Ai Cons in the company of the usual’s who congregate there. But on that Easter Monday evening I felt concerned. When a dog is away, of course, one imagines that it will all turn out alright and the dog will come home. But one fears that the story may not in fact have a happy ending and in that uncertainty uneasy grows the soul!
to be continued.
To understand Italians and their society one has to be of them. If one takes them at their word one will never understand them as how they are, and how they present themselves, are two different things. In the way that they face the world Italians are directed by two obligatory cultural norms. The first is that they are bound to present the "bella figura", literally "beautiful figure". It is an Italian imperative that in their relations with the world, any world, Italians must present themselves in a winning and admirable light. To do otherwise is to display weakness, lose respect and risk opprobrium. But the bella figura is a relative concept and what is a winning and admirable light depends upon the ambient norms in which the Italian finds him or herself. Thus, the Italian is a chameleon recognising the colours of the environment it finds itself in and reflecting them back. But the chameleon itself is thus invisible.
The second is that they, the Italians, both together and individually are required to believe that they are by definition "brava gente" or "good people". And they do believe this. Being thus per se good people they can perceive their motives as being just even if the means by which they achieve their ends may be morally suspect.
And so non Italians outside Italy can find Italians to be persuasive, cognisant of non-Italian concerns and empathetic. Thus only a few short months ago the "Two Marios" (Draghi and Monti) were being hailed - by the cognoscenti no less - as the saviours of the Euro zone while the contrasted Silvio Berlusconi was seen as nothing more than a cunning, if buffoonish, crook who had led his country to ruin!
But an Italian knew that this wasn’t true. Because as all Italians know "l’apparenza inganna" "appearances deceive" and that Italians have amongst them very many "furbi" "sly one’s", "cativi" "bad one’s" and those who will often "fregarti" "screw you".
So the Italians knew that as Mario Monti was reaping pundits from the international cognoscenti (but not Wolfgang Munchau in the Financial Times) he had in fact declared war against the private sector demonizing entrepreneurs as inveterate tax evaders and racking-up the application of force against them by instruments of the State such as the Finance Police, the Inland Revenue and the State Revenue Applied Collection Agency (Equitalia) such that businesses were obliged to pay State-assessed taxes on income not earned. Increased excises and taxes were also applied to energy, assets and houses and land. But - and here is the real nub of the issue - not a single bureaucrat - not a single member of the bureaucracy that has since the inception of the Italian State suffocated and restrained the application of private initiative to capital to create growth and thereby wealth - was sacked. Two groups were protected. Pensioners with good pensions (those with poor pensions have seen their purchasing power eroded) and State employees.
And so the hero of the hour, Mario Monti, saviour of Italy and the Euro, deluded himself into thinking that the Italians also loved him their having being fooled by his lies and manipulation and he created a political party in alliance with the party of the Catholic Church and he plunged into the national elections of February past. But he foundered on the rock of truth. For the Italians, being Italians, know the other Italians. And they knew him for the moralising, manipulative, dissembling coward that he is. And Mario Monti went from hero to has-been in the space of 12 hours (whining that he now "can’t wait to get out of politics").
And this brings us to Silvio Berlusconi. Silvio is "an Italian’s Italian". Silvio Berlusconi knows nothing of the world outside Italy and Spain. He knows the cultural norms of his own country - through his TV channels he has helped to create them - and when outside Italy he has shown numerous times that he believes that other peoples have the same cultural norms as the Italians. Thus, coming across to foreigners as buffoonish and a clown he is in fact a much more interesting creature than the chameleon Monti because Berlusconi opens a door on what Italians are actually like. And very ,very many Italians believe that Berlusconi is like them and fights their corner. And one cannot say that this is not so even if he, as the result of having governed Italy for most of the last twenty years, is responsible for the state that Italy now finds itself in because what he did, as Prime Minister, was what a large number (if not a majority) of the Italians wanted.
Berlusconi, buffoon to the world, is at one with very many Italians. Monti just reflected back to the European and International cognoscenti what they wanted and so, a man without balls, he delivered the coup-de-grace to Italy, a country of 60 million people, in the process. And here I should say, aside, that Italy is finished. And not metaphorically but actually. Italy has been hollowed out from the inside and is no longer capable of supporting a rich-world life style. Italy is a dead man walking. But that is a diary entry for another day and one that I am reluctant to explore because it might - erroneously - give readers the idea that Italy is not a good holiday destination!
So today, following the political stalemate that resulted from Italy’s national elections a bigwig in the Italian Democratic Party of the Left, the principal leftwing political block stated:
"And [we must] quit this superiority complex, widespread within our camp, such that we pretend to choose the opponent [to try to find political accommodation with]. Whether we like it or not, Italians have established that the head of the [political] Right, a Right that has taken practically [the same number] of votes as us, is still Silvio Berlusconi. And with him we must talk. "
And so it is that the intellectually superior Italian political left has been reduced to negotiating, from a position of weakness, with the very man that they have spent the last twenty years denigrating and demonizing. And they have been forced to do this because enough Italians voted for Berlusconi to give him equivalent political power as the left. And the Italians voted for Berlusconi because the Italian left were intellectuals of nothing using the name of an ideology that they did not adhere to or believe in to cover their avarice and plunder of the State and of subsequent generations. Because the great winners of the last fifty years in Italy have been employed workers, civil servants and pensioners who were employed workers or civil servants. Berlusconi never, not even once, moved against their privileges sustained and defended by a corporatist union structure. He said it was impossible to move against the "Communists" because political power in Italy is too diffused to permit decisive and determinate action. But those very workers, expensive and unproductive, and those very State employees, incompetent, lazy and destructive of economic growth and those very pensioners, sucking-up the resources of those working to sustain their comfortable retirement, brought, in their totality, the Italian economy to ruin and suffocating under a mass of debt.
Berlusconi is a snake-oil salesman. But in a society where private initiative is distrusted and thus to be heavily managed by the State and regulated by the bureaucracy, he was the only game in town for those not wanting to adhere to the Italian tribal "Left". Berlusconi did nothing, and will do nothing, but promote his own business and private interests. But the Italians all know that. They know that he changed nothing. They also know that it is also probably true that real change is probably impossible in such a geronto-bureaucratic society comprised of competing, wary and distrustful fiefdoms of every kind, public and private.
Italy has its back to the wall and the only way out is to smash the wall. The question is whether the comic Beppe Grillo will be able to smash that wall. He can’t do it alone so he has to rely on Italians to help him do it. The real question now is whether there will be enough Italians with courage and clarity of purpose to bring that wall down even if it means crushing many vested interests whose only aim is to keep that wall standing!
So, at the end of the Second World War Italy flirted with civil war. The Italian Communist Party had an armed wing of Partisan fighters but partisan resistance in Italy was characterized by numerous partisan groups with multiple and sometimes opposing political orientations (communist, "actionist", monarchist, socialist, catholic, liberal, republican, anarchist). In Friuli the communist Garlibaldi Brigade partisan group was under the aegis of Tito and was working to ensure the absorption of Friuli into the foreseen future Yugoslav State. The Tito-directed Garibaldi Brigades were resisted by local "Republican" partisan groups. Civil war, if it had come to Italy would have been between those wanting a communist Italy and those determined not to have it. As Italian communism was Stalinist, a victory by the Communist faction would likely have seen the abolition of private property and the creation of a State modelled on the Soviet Union. Following the fall of fascism all was to play for in Italy.
There was no doubt, however, that a large portion of the Italian populace would have bitterly resisted communism, the Catholic Church saw resisting communism as an existential struggle and the United States and Great Britain were not prepared to have Soviet domination pushing down into the Adriatic. Civil war was averted when leaders of the Italian Communist party were incorporated into the government of national unity formed after the fall of fascism, were involved in the constituent assembly and writing of the Italian constitution and in return they renounced violence, embraced democratic means to achieve their ends, their "Garibaldi" partisans were disarmed along with the others and in June 1946 the leader of the Italian Communist Party, Palmiro Togliatti, as Minister of Justice promulgated a General Amnesty for crimes committed during the war.
In the first general election following the Second World War the communist coalition lost to the Catholic Church sponsored Christian Democratic but it took 31% of the votes. In 1946 Winston Churchill stated that "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent." But in Italy the opposing forces that were separated in Europe by the iron curtain were forced together in a narrow peninsular. Just as on the intercontinental scale, the risk of mutually assured destruction ensured that conflict was sublimated and restrained. The Italian Communist Party did not renounce its Stalinist views and thus retained the power to frighten capitalists, the middle classes and the petite bourgeoisie. Lacking the power of a contrarian libertarian ideology anti-communists were either forced into the logic of the Catholic Church or were left with their instinctive hostility to a collectivising ideology. Having just escaped a collectivist existence they were viscerally hostile to those who would propose its return. At this level resisting communism was, as for the Catholic church, an existential struggle conducted with real hatred for those who would take away a liberty so recently attained.
But in addition, there was a personal element to the hostility between the left and the others in Italy. Marshal fund aid and economic growth after the Second World War was a rising tide that lifted all ships. Thus Italian Communists started doing well and they themselves comprised their own petite bourgeoisie and workers who were earning well. Their involvement in the unions and presence in Parliament, the accommodation of them by the Christian Democrats and the willingness of the Christian Democrats to extend social protections to workers when prodded by those very communist unions led to them being seen as hypocritical. They didn’t practice what they preached and were despised for it. But worse, they occupied the secular moral high-ground in Italy. For a large part of the second half of the twentieth century Europe, and Italy, was awash with leftist intellectuals. The left in Italy saw itself as the secular intellectual elite. And it was because, putting the dogma of the Catholic church aside, the left was the only intellectual game in town. Italy upon its creation had to share space in the narrow peninsular with the Roman Catholic Church that it had defeated but not vanquished. Thus it inherited two thousand years of static Catholic dogma. The Americans of 1776 were able to claim that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed," For the Italians deference and obeisance to the Church and the Landlord were all that was required of them along with exertion of their labour.
Thus non-communist Italians felt deprecated and disdained by left-wing Italians who were living and benefiting from the system like everyone else. And as those not of the left had no historical standard bearer for liberty and the pursuit of happiness by making money, and were subject to being categorised by the left as self-interested, common and ignorant by those no different to themselves they saw in Silvio Berlusconi a saviour when he came onto the political scene. In Silvio Berlusconi for the first time there was someone, a "bigwig", who spoke like them and reflected their aspirations and their fears.
to be continued ....
["When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."]