status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage
There can be few things in this world as baffling (and as terminally depressing) as Italian politics.
I have now been in Italy for almost four and a half years – a period of time that was sufficient to endow me with a reasonably fair understanding of the way the political tides ebbed and flowed in Spain and then subsequently in France – but to my shame, with regards to this country I have long given up even trying to work out what’s going on.
Recently, however, I inadvertently brought a small smidgen of political machinations into my own life… and oh how I regret it.
It all started with a Facebook spat about immigration – far from the first of that nature I have had on that particular forum, and unlikely to be the last given how I seem to enjoy giving myself angst-filled and sleep-deprived nights whilst I mentally harangue people whose attitudes make me feel ashamed to be human.
I won’t rehash the discussion for fear it may instigate in some readers a similar desire to throw themselves from a high building as it did me, but here are some of the salient rejoinders to my argument – paraphrased in the interests of succinctness:
- Certain people (me) are ignorant, impolite and lacking in good sense for pointing out that the person loudly posting about how “Italy is for Italians” is married to an immigrant.
- Certain British people (me) shouldn’t call Italians racist (I didn’t) when there are armed police protecting the Channel Tunnel from illegals.
- Italy is a country that welcomes those from all walks of life, such tolerance stems from the traditions and teachings of the Catholic Church (???).
- Certain British people (me) have no right to express an opinion on the subject of racial intolerance (I didn’t) as the concept was only invented when the British imported slaves into America (???).
- Certain hypocritical conformists (me) are only shouting about racism (I wasn’t) in order to indulge in a bit of pre-electoral mud-slinging.
Aha! So that’s what it was really all about: on the 25th of May, My Little Italian Village will be voting for their next mayor.
The current mayor, my neighbour/friend/ex-landlady, is completing her third (non-consecutive) term at the helm of the town hall, and for the last few years at least, has been greatly looking forward to hanging up her tri-coloured sash now she has reached her mid-sixties, and settling down to enjoy a well-deserved retirement.
Local politics, however, was not about to let her go quite so easily.
For as the elections loomed, it quickly became apparent that the only pretender to the throne, together with a number of his merry band of councillors, are of the opinion that anybody a whisper to their left is a communist, whereas if they themselves shuffled any further to their right it is highly likely they would topple straight off the edge and into the arms of Il Duce.
And although there are many around here who are of a similar persuasion, there is an equally high number who view such monochromatic political leanings with great concern and were therefore unanimous in their insistence that she stand again.
Playing against the newcomers is their lack of experience in the political arena, something that becomes painfully obvious when scanning their scant “manifesto” – little more than pointed and rather libellous digs at the opposition (a few examples of which are paraphrased below):
We promise that if we win these elections we won’t hog the town hall for twenty years! Was, unbelievably, their opener.
We promise that under us, the village will be managed for the people, by the people! As opposed to the current dictatorship, I presume.
We promise that we won’t misuse our powers to give favours to friends! Just… ouch!
We promise transparency in our actions! Especially interesting, as my new Facebook bestie (one of the would-be councillors), rather than creating his own profile, instead uses the profile of his mild-mannered foreign spouse to harangue the “friends” she has amassed through her school and playground interactions with his political issues.
As in between incessantly posting and re-posting variations on a theme that certain people (me) should keep their traps shut, he has also undertaken to swell the party votes by incessantly posting and re-posting variations on a theme that politicians who hold on to their power for too long, are anti-democratic.
Because apparently the democratic thing to do to a village unfortunate enough to have only two candidates, one of whom happens to be long-standing, would simply be to pass the keys of the town hall to the newcomers regardless of majority opinion.
One would hope that the overt mudslinging that has so far been offered in the place of real and attainable goals, plus the vitriolic lack of self-control shown by this particular councillor on his internet platform of choice, would perhaps make people think twice about the newcomers’ suitability to administrate. But perhaps that is just how politics works.
Either way, individuals capable of demonstrating such complete lack of humanity and compassion in their opinions on the human tragedy such as the one ever more frequently unfolding in the waters off Lampedusa, might ask themselves why on earth they feel qualified to look after the interests of others at all.
This is Status Viatoris, not looking forward to the 25th of May very much at all, in Italy.