February 22, 2007

...and they all fell down

The government slipped and fell – or better, a push made it slip that caused it to fall. In any case, here we are starting all over again with a stroll up to the Quirinale.

It is foreign and incomprehensible to us – the game playing and posturing that creates meaning from context more than the words. The newspapers are full speculation as to how the fall was orchestrated and its meaning, nothing is clear.

Locker room talk at the pool came up with this version. Italics are my running cross-cultural thoughts.

1. Italians are afraid of themselves, their natural attraction to strong leadership by one man that once caused them to bring a Fascist dictator to power. (The desire for a strong one man leader is an outgrowth of their ancestral patriarchal society or in any case, their strong orientation towards family, headed by a strong father, as the basic unit of survival).

2. So to counteract this fear of themselves, they set up a system of democracy in its purest form – everyone is represented. (The school system is partly the source of this idealism. At school you get a good grade for knowing the theory not for analyzing its practical application.)

3. Everyone means EVERYONE and this has brought about an absurd number of parties that range from a split between reformed communists and communists on one side, and the Lega on the other with even parties for pensioners and consumers. (But this does not indicate strong individualism; I would call it “particularism” or the desire to stand out from the rest for some small particularity -- a desire to be seen and noticed.)

4. Obviously (to us) this doesn’t work. The extremists on one side or the other are always doing what they do best, making a lot of noise and dropping little bombs – like today’s vote against the party line on foreign policy. (They seem to comfortably live the ambiguity of causing the fall of their coalition’s government while loudly denouncing the other side).

So, we have it all: a group (family) orientation over that of the individual, a propensity for the application of rules to fit particular needs, a very high level of tolerance for ambiguity, theory at the expense of practicality -- yet only the tip of the iceberg.

A domani,

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