Thursday, 23 June 2011

The face of power - by Massimo Gramellini

To know the face of Mr Bisignani is the privilege of few. The 10 or 11 million Italians who talked to him over the phone have never met him in person and the man in the street who has only lately learnt about his existence see every day the same picture, one taken ages ago, with drop shaped glasses on a smooth face.
It’s a paradox, isn’t it? We keep being told that we exist only if we are visible, and in the meantime nobody knows the people with the real power. Never spotted a banker on talk shows’ chairs, not even in the States. The puppeteers send the puppets to shamble on TV. May be they are worried that by having their image reflected on thousands of screens their soul would be taken away. Or may be they simply know that power feeds on fear and nothing makes fear fade as familiarity.
Just one step below the invisibles, are the audio-authorities: those who do not participate to TV shows, but phone the studio live, voicing their looming monologues from the top, over the faces on screen. Another step below there is the one who appears speaking from abroad, on a broad screen the size of a Mao poster. But he appears, which mens he does not count much. The ones that really do not count a thing are the habitual TV guests. The puppets hugging their chairs, clattering for attention, for a close up, while the mutter the mantra “I didn’t interrupt you, do not interrupt me”. The despondent people despises them and votes them. The faceless power despise them and uses them.

[Translation by Anna Marchi. Original available LA STAMPA - 23.06.2011]

P4 and the 4Ps: pimps, prostitutes, plunderers and profiteers

Italians are learning about the P4, the latest and updated version of the masonic gang that rules the country behind the scenes.

Bisignani is the man in the shadow,  politics, media, business, banks, he seems to have been running things in every district of power. He is all over the front pages, but there is just one old picture of his face, we can read everything he said over the phone, but we can’t see him and don't know much about him. (On this issue my translation of an excellent column by Massimo Gramellini)

Immediately the more visible 4Ps sitting in the government and the parliament rush to push through the gag law to impede the kind of phone tapping that is exposing the underbelly of power.

(“It’s a useless government” / “Monsters, jerks and sluts”)

While pimps, prostitutes, plunderers and profiteers sit in the government, the right wing press tells us Brunetta was right about the “worse part of Italy”, it’s there and it’s the precarious teachers, “so called teachers” says ilGiornale, who protested outside the Parliament asking Berlusconi to quit.

(Brunetta was right / There you are, the worse Italy)

IlGiornale and Libero also tell their readers they shouldn’t worry about P4, that doesn’t exist, just like mafia, the real P4 are magistrates (also called PM in Italian, how very convenient for a nice tabloidy headline).

(They only spy the government. The real P4 are the magistrates)

Berlusconi won yesterday a confidence vote and vowed to stay until 2013. He said he has to because “the majority is strong and cohesive”, he said he has to because it would be “folly” to leave the country in political and financial instability, “ending up like other European countries which are virtually bleeding”, he said he has to because there is no alternative to his government, he said he has to although it is “a great sacrifice” but someone has to do it.

Friday, 17 June 2011

The worst part of Italy - a post PC story

This is a post PC story. It's not a post Personal Computer story, it's not a post Italian Communist Party story (though it may well be), it is a post Political Correctness story. Post implicates an ante, which is probably a misleading concept in the Italian context, but in the global world please allow the idea that we can be post PC, without having ever been there.

On June 14th the web on this shore of the big world was invaded by a viral video where the Minister for Public Administration and Innovation Renato Brunetta calls precarious workers "the worst part of Italy". Within minutes a Facebook page requesting the resignation of the Minister was created and within an afternoon it collected more than 10 thousand subscriptions (the number this minute is 37,508 and growing). Brunetta readily replied from his webcam claiming he was attacked by a bunch of drag-precari that were in fact brigadists exploiting the dramatic situation of so many young Italians, in order to push through their own agenda. These people who savaged and insulted him, he said, "are not the victims of precariat(1), they are the victims of their own failures".

Apparently in Italy there are about 4 million losers, victim of their own failures.
They used to call them "flexible", flexible is good isn't it: it bends it doesn't break, it folds you can carry it everywhere, it's soft it doesn't hurt.
It doesn't hurt, but they get hurt, another name for them is "casualised workers", doesn't it recall "casualty" =  someone or something that is damaged or suffers as a result of something else. Then you have "intermittent workers", as if you could live intermittently, intermittently pay rent, intermittently eat. "Temporary workers", hey don't look at me everything is ephimerous, just go and "hold eternity in an hour".
Then the word "precarious" arrived. Unsteady, unbalanced, unstable, DANGEROUS. The people at the top planned it to be dangerous for us, and indeed it is, but it turned out it is dangerous for them too. Precariat will become the new proletariat. Then it is a post Communist Party story!

So the new communicative strategy is making the "precarious worker" disappear. A conservative politician won't be caught dead saying the words. "Precarious worker" is a political label not a socio-economic category. Let's just refer to "project worker" (it makes it nearly sound as if they have a plan), "freelance workers" (it makes it sound as if it was their choice), or "self-employed" (that is empowering!). But those "precarious workers", those bogus precarious workers I mean, they are just the worse part of Italy.

Recently ISTAT (the National Institute of Statistics) revealed that there are 2 million young Italians who don't do anything. They don't count as unemployed, because they are not even looking for a job, they don't study, they live with their parents, relying on the family as lifejacket. They are called the idle "lost generation", though the Italian term used to describe them is much more revealing. They are "rassegnati", they are hopeless. About 1/5 of Italian youth, between 18 and 34,  is hopeless; after that we become plain useless.
HOPELESS is an interesting lexical choice. It suggests that it's our responsibility having lost hope, rather than conveying the idea that somebody stripped us of our future.

According to senator Giorgio Clelio Starcquadanio (PDL),  Berlusconi's party lost the regional elections and the referendum, because on the other side there is an army of 4 million slackers "who have fuckin' nothing to do and spend all day fiddling on the web" and making a hell of a rack.

Hopeless, losers, failures,  the worse part of Italy, slackers, squadrists, web-jerkers... I told you it was a post politically correct story.

The FB page requesting Brunetta's resignation has in the meantime reached: 37,749 attending.
The tenor of the comments is admittedly quite offensive and unimaginative. They pick on him for his "stature", now that is a low blow! On the other hand if they had hit higher they'd have probably missed the target.

It's post PC baby, or just call us: differently stable.

(1) It is necessary here to stress that the words “precarious-precarity-precariat” are a linguistic innovation, which in the last year has spread from Italy and Spain to all the European networks engaged in a reflection on casualisation. Superseding the better known terms “flexibility-flexworker”, the introduction of “precarious-precarity-precariat” marks the emergence of struggles that are constituent of a new terminology and new imaginary from which, in turn, new rights come to light. (Marcello Tarì and Ilaria Vanni, On the Life and Deeds of San Precario, Patron Saint of Precarious Workers and Lives)

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Freedom is participation - evolve or die!

It was a joyous sunny morning reflecting on the wet pavement. We were walking home after the busride from Rome and an amazing Europride parade.
You might have heard of it by now, you certainly know about Lady Gaga's speech and what a powerful, moving and serious speech it was. I felt proud and honored to be there and grateful.
We went to the newsagent, we wanted to see our day printed in sticky ink. A discussion started around the counter covered with papers, "look at that, this Lady Germanotta attracted 1 million people, she brought 1 MILLION people in the square with a 30 min show, while we have to make all this effort for the referendum". I raised my head in disbelief, sleep brushed away by a sudden anger, "you may find out - I said - that we would have been in that square anyway". I wanted to say more, but I left, my stomach churning, leaving silence behind.
We would have been there anyway, I thought again as I was going to vote. We flooded Rome's streets for our rights, we flooded the electoral box the next day for our rights, and yours too. But that man at the newsagent's did not seem to notice how the two things were connected. Some "friendly" newspapers did not seem to notice either. L'Unità - a left- wing committed newspaper - decided that 500,000 people marching and a gathering of 1 million deserved a small mention somewhere on page 22, after 20 odd pages about the referendum. Most media thought, as the man at the newsagent's, that it was all about Lady Gaga, they failed to register that as she brought thousands of people together, it was thousands of people together bringing her in the first place.

I have no problem with the fact that a Versace dress tickles journalists' pens more than the broken voice of a lesbian parent, the swelling heart of a mother, the stinging words of the president of the transgender movement, but I want the man at the newsagent's, I want journalists, I want everybody to realize that the meaning of the Europride parade is not different from the meaning of the referendum. As the Italian songwriter Giorgio Gaber said "Freedom is participation". The Pride parade is a carnival, it is an expression of sheer joy, it is a show of us being us and of us being here, it is a protest, made of energy and rage and exhilaration. And you Mr newsagent's man should have been there too. Besides it was a fabulous dress and boy what a voice ;-)

Today it is another joyous day, the sun is struggling to break through the clouds, the street is filled with cheering chats about the referendum and I am grateful to all 26,130,637 Italians who voted.
It is priceless to see the papers spread on the counter spread with YES, even more priceless to see this:

But hey, 26 million, listen, you should have been with us too. And if you still think that we are not talking about the same kind of RIGHTS... well "evolve or die".

Friday, 10 June 2011

The revolution will not be televised - Bring your own camera!

Such is the moral pillage, the devastation of hopes, the bonfire of ideas  perpetuated by Berlusconism in this country, that we hang with desperation to voices from abroad.
A famished readership of Italians, tired of walking the globe gaunt and apologetic, has spent the morning posting the Economist's front page on their Twitter and Facebook accounts, as if crying LOOK LOOK, DO YOU SEE IT NOW? The king is naked! 

But, is he? The foreign press has declared Berlusconi dead many times, unfortunately this country ain't the foreign press. If you want change, go out and get it, go out and MAKE it!
The campaign for this weekend's referendum is "Vote YES to say NO!". We should learn the lesson, quit shaking our hanging heads in disapproval, shame, dismay and DO something.

We can "like" The Economist as many times as we wish, but it won't make our revolution.
Vote, make a difference, protest, march at the Europride, strike, climb on the roofs! And while you are there, bring your own camera, because the revolution will not be televised.

PS: On the margin of this quick rant, I'd like to thank the Economist and to inform ilGiornale's readers that they might want to ask around before ruling it out as yet another Communist pamphlet.

But this article is just too hilarious, you need to have a taste of it. A rough translation of the opening paragraph follows:

The Economist, once a serious British business magazine and now playground of the European leftist lobbies, throws some more mud on Italy and on Berlusconi. Put together a bunch of stale articles read on LaRepubblica and ilFatto Quotidiano, add a vulgar headline (The man who screwed an entire country) and done, your front cover is ready[...] It is as if today we had titled: "Economist, it's shit". And who could controvert. Or "Queen Elisabeth's a cockblock". Sure we would be deemed quack and vulgar, slimy scribblers on the paycheck of power. Those dumbos at the Economist, however, today will be praised as free and refined analysts.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Silvio gets a blast at long last and it's a newspaper feast

May 31

Natural disaster metaphors cover all the front pages: it's an earthquake. The Prime Minister's party "reduced to rubble in the cities" says Corriere della Sera, among others, and one cannot but think of the real rubble of l'Aquila, left behind and covered up by the Italian government and its media.

In the meantime Berlusconi warns the liberated citizens of Milan and Naples "You will regret this" and predicts the incumbent catastrophe "pray the Lord to be saved". A suspicious mind may have maliciously wondered who he meant by Lord.

Berlusconi, the papers remind us, turned this local elections campaign into a referendum on his persona and his leadership. The people's response is splashed all over the press: FAILED!

With a few exceptions, today's front pages are all about the Emperor's defeat, rather than about the winners, only the (real) left wing papers do not miss a rare chance to rejoice. "I can't believe it!" titles ilManifesto, "Thank you Italy" goes l'Unità.

But on a day like this one really does not want to miss the right wing press. In an early online edition yesterday Libero chose to open with the winners:


The morning edition though throws the ball back to the looser, hitting with satire:

"Blow for Silvio
Crying and not shagging"

(The headline is difficult to translate, because one should be able to render the Neapolitan dialect. What it made me think of and I found quite hilarious is "BLOW NOT BLOW JOB").

The Berlusconi family paper ilGiornale managed to avoid the discussion about winners and losers by turning the whole business into a sentence of insanity.
Despite the intentions, it was a treat to see a Che Guevara flag on the front page:
The newspaper's "psychodrama": "The left talks about 'liberated cities' but they are ready to give them away to gipsies and muslims".

What a day...