Friday, 15 October 2010

Fratelli d’Italia

Satellite image of Italy in March 2003.Image via WikipediaI would have liked this to be my first ever proper bilingual blog post, but for reasons which will soon bcome clear, this is not really on the cards. I only have so much free time...

Anyway, this is inspired by an exchange in the kitchen at work. We were talking about English pronunciation, which led, naturally enough, to the conclusion that the English are strange. It must have been Manu (that’s Emanuela, not Manchester United) because I proceeded to vent my indignation in her direction, with a combination of gusto and bad Italian – my cool was lost, though I wasn’t at all offended. Us, strange? That’s a bit bloody rich considering what goes on in this country – that was the gist of it. Ever heard anyone in England start a sentence with "If this was a normal country..."? Me neither, but in Italy, every now and then...

I didn’t get to the point of saying “You want a list?”, but I thought it might be fun to blog one. Some of these things I just find interesting, and some I find very annoying. The only key element is that I think they’re a bit (or bloody) odd.
  • Berlusconi
    I know, I know – it’s too obvious. However, in the same way that the Nazis tend to find their way into discussions on morality, if you start talking about Italy’s problems, there’s one of them which is always, inexplicably, on the telly. Where to begin? A man who clearly should not be left in charge of organising a piss up in a brewery, who is a gaffe generator of Prince Philippian proportions, whose political efforts are all concentrated on keeping himself out of trouble, who thinks that Italy gains by association with Muammar al-Gaddafi (who’s always popping into the country for a visit), who is a walking conflict of interest as far as his media empire is concerned, who is compromised by his alleged criminal history which he (coincidentally of course) takes measures to ensure are not investigated – I’m amazed that a single Italian could vote for him, let alone the requisite majority.
  • Berlusconi’s Smile
    I feel that this deserves an entry in itself. If I were in charge of Italy, I don’t think I’d be smiling. He, on the other hand, always has this cheesy grin on his ridiculous mug (which, by the way, is beautified with a hairdo that looks uncannily like shoe polish) – happy as Larry. There’s no small amount of discontent in Italy at the moment; how is it that no-one has taken the trouble to punch that smug grin off his face?
  • The OppositionOn paper, being the political opposition in Italy must be a piece of cake, right? "Hey," they might say, "you know that moron who's in charge of the country, the one who looks like a used car salesman? If you vote for us, the worst that could happen is that a different moron will be in charge." At this point I imagine the populace desperately breaking down the doors of the voting stations. It's not quite like that. You can't entirely blame the electorate. They don't (by their own admission usually) really do politics here. I've been here about two years, and if you asked me what policy differences exist between Berlusconi's Popolo della Liberta and the principal left-wing opposition party, the Partito Democratico, I honestly couldn't tell you. I may be partially to blame for this, because reading the papers is something I never got the hang of in English, let alone Italian, but I'm sure the PD could get their message (always assuming that they actually have one) onto TV if they put their minds to it.
  • Politicians on TV and in the Camera
    Two words that you might hear a lot in Italy are "pazienza" (patience) and "vergogna" (shame). They like to tell each other that they should have these important characteristics. In the case of the second, the sense is "You ought to be ashamed of yourself". This applies especially to politicians I think. Now, Italians don't have a problem with talking, and sometimes shouting over each other, whereas we don't. It takes some getting used to, but there's nothing essentially wrong with it. Variety is the spice of life. On the other hand, when I see Italian politicians on TV I often find myself thinking "But you know you're on TV, right? That people can see you, and that you're behaving like a child?". They call each other names, shout over each other, throw tantrums, refuse to let other people speak, and so on. And it's not much better in their parliament, the Chamber of Deputies. I seem to recall a fight breaking out once. If you think Prime Minister's Questions can get a bit juvenile sometimes, think of Italy and count yourself lucky.
I made a list of things to cover, and I've just done 4 of about 27, plus things continue to occur to me. It so happens that the list switches from politics to the telly at this point, plus, I've had request to break this mother down into smaller sections, so I will.
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