April 4, 2007

The ambiguity game

I am having a “tolerance of ambiguity” moment today. The roots of this cultural imperative are long and strong and an integral part of Italian and Catholic culture-- although I do try to understand, some days just bring on moments.

How is it that a guy (Cesare Previti in this case) can receive a final sentence of six years for corruption charges, confirmed by the highest court (for the Imi-Sir case) and then not only be granted three years grace and the other three doing social services, but also continue to be a Senator in Parliament. Absurd and unthinkable, to us, but somehow makes sense within the context of Italian culture’s high tolerance of ambiguity. It is not an individual case, there are approximately twenty parliamentarians (between the Senate, House and European Parliament) in more or less the same situation, granted some with convictions that are more serious than others, but in any case, not exactly the kind of people you want representing you in government -- or maybe some are, but where do you draw the line between a ten day sentence for a building violation and the millions of euros paid off to officials to rig a merger or secure a contract?

Pazienza. Rules are made, and then enforced by taking into account the particular situation, in this case, political ties. The old bulldog, Antonio di Pietro, from Tangentopoli days, is heading up a proposal that would block candidates from Parliament once they had received a final sentence. Boh – yet another law?

Back at school, they all learned to walk the fine line between out and out cheating (punishable) and “helping each other out” (openly overlooked or simply ignored by the teacher). By the time they turned 18, they had learned the ambiguity game. We instead, are pretty naïve, believing that rules are rules and should be applied universally in the same way.


A domani,


Alina said...

Elizabeth, I've been reading your blog for hours and just wanted to let you know how much I'm enjoying it. My life in Italy (Naples area) sometimes seems a susseguirsi of what I've thusfar coined as mentality clashes, but your term "cultural moments" puts it all into a somewhat more comfortable perspective. More comfortable, anyhow, for a New Englander with an inner need to always diffuse conflict and minimize difficulty: to reply to "How are you?" with "I'm fine" no matter what. So now I can minimize the impact of those uncomfortable moments by saying to myself "you're just having a cultural moment", and shrug it off. At least I hope so.


Elizabeth said...

Alina, I am so glad to have been of help by giving a you a few tools! I am a New Englander too and you are right, we do need to diffuse conflict and be understated at all times. Isn't it nice to be able to say, "oh, I am having a cultural moment" rather than feeling personally offended or even violated by the difference at hand? Stay tuned! E