April 30, 2008

Give to Prodi what is Prodi's

Though I have never been too soft with him, I think it’s important to give praise where praise is due, and not just because he is about to leave politics.

Vladimir Putin personally tried to tap the outgoing Italian Prime Minister to become chairman of South Stream, a new pipeline project by Russian gas monopolist Gazprom to link Russia to Europe. Mr. Prodi was "flattered" by the offer, his spokesman said, but won't be available.
Mr. Prodi leaves politics, for good he says, with his dignity apparently beyond the reach of the Kremlin's wallet.

April 29, 2008

Earthquake in Rome

Gianni AlemannoSo they lost Rome to the invaders—“the black tide,” as Democratic Party candidate mayor Francesco Rutelli used to put it in his last, unsuccessful calls to arms to his fellow citizens. And now not only will Silvio Berlusconi's conservatives rule Italy—after their overwhelming victory on April 13-14 national election—but they will also rule the Eternal City. A former Rome mayor—he ran the capital for between 1993 and 2001—Rutelli was also deputy prime minister and culture minister in the outgoing centre-left government led by Romano Prodi. Which makes the defeat all the more painful.

A former youth leader of far-right Italian Social Movement—the now defunct party from which National Alliance was born, which in turn is now part of Berlusconi's People of Freedom party—, Gianni Alemanno, the new mayor of Rome (see profile here), took 53.6 per cent with a remarkable turnaround after an initial ballot in which he had taken 40.7 per cent and his competitor 45.8.

“We have carried out a true political miracle,” said Alemanno when he started his victory speech in the Capitol Square. And there is no doubt that this is so, and that Berlusconi’s “enthusiastic thank you to the voters in Rome” for “this historic victory of Alemanno, for the first time making the People of Freedom leader of the Italian capital” couldn’t be more justified. “This success—he added—completes our victory on April 13-14 and is stimulating for the commitment expected of the government of Italy in a period that is not easy from an economical point of view, and there for even more exciting”. Once more, there is no question about that.

Paradoxically, Berlusconi is hailing the victory of a man who is the exact contrary of the kind of politician of which both Silvio Berlusconi and Walter Veltroni (as well as Rutelli himself) are highly representative—Alemanno is no eloquent and inspiring speaker nor a consummate political performer with the ability to empathise with ordinary people, he does not look like he is that concerned with cultivating his own image. He has also won praise, even on the centre-left, for his low-key, moderate style. Even his education profile—he has a degree in environmental engineering—seems to go against the mainstream, suggesting much more a technocratic rather than a mediatic approach and phenomenon. And that’s why, perhaps, he won, or better still Rutelli and Veltroni, that is the outgoing mayor of Rome, lost.

Veltroni, in fact, has never been one to shy away from the spotlight. So, when in January 2006 the then mayor made his official announcement of first Rome Film Fest, his opponents argued that his devotion to culture had come at the expense of attention to more pressing issues, such as pollution, crushing traffic problems, a sprawling periphery, a large inflow of illegal immigrants—and related public safety issues—as well as the upkeep of the city’s monuments, to name but a few. I guess Romans must have thought that way, too. I think they consequently voted for change.

Alemanno campaigned on the same issues that helped Berlusconi defeat Prodi in national elections pledging to reinforce law and order and crack down on crime and illegal immigrants. Rutelli and his allies tried to deprive these proposals by playing the card of anti-fascism, of the upcoming “black tide,” but this time Romans didn’t trust them.

The day after the earthquake, commenting on the results of the second ballot, Walter Veltroni wrote in a note that

the defeat of Rome will ask for, starting in the coming hours, a serious analysis involving all, thinking about the difference in national and local results. I believe the political climate in the country has had its impact on local elections, particularly regarding security.

Let’s hope the upcoming analysis will actually be serious and all involving. Let’s also hope that Veltroni will successfully face his internal opponents. He may have made some mistakes, but he is still the best choice for the Democratic Party. Which says it all.

April 28, 2008

To be Columbus

Though I do not find much attraction in the seaman yet I can discern that the naval hero is a hero. It takes all the thousand thousand European voyages that have been made to stablish our faith in the practicability of this our hodiurnal voyage. But to be Columbus, to steer WEST steadily day after day, week after week, for the first time, and wholly alone in his opinion, shows a mind as solitary & self-subsistent as any that ever lived.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson [from his journals, Jan. 7, 1833], in EMERSON IN HIS JOURNALS, selected and edited by Joel Porte, Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Massachsetts) - London (England), 1982.

April 26, 2008

Tibet: a turning point?

The day after Chinese state media announced Beijing's promise to renew dialogue on the Tibet issue, namely that government officials would meet soon with an envoy of the Tibetan spiritual leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama welcomed the news. “Basically talk is good,” he said. Yet he felt the necessity of adding one second later that anything other than “serious discussions”—aimed to find out “what is the cause of this problem and how to solve it”—would be fruitless and “meaningless.”

Does he suspect that Beijing is planning the meeting solely to appease international concern ahead of the Olympics? Well, actually the suspect would be justified, given that even today China's state media was accusing the Dalai Lama of conspiring to turn world opinion against China. This after the Dalai Lama denied some hundreds times the Chinese claim that he supports separation of Tibet by saying every time he-only-wanted-autonomy, though obviously a genuine and complete one—as provided for in the Chinese constitution itself, but remained “on paper” only—to preserve Tibetan unique culture and traditions. “We really need an arrangement of full protection of Tibetan language and culture,” the Dalai Lama said at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, some days ago.

Yet, perhaps this time China is taking the matter seriously. Why? Because Beijing is afraid—more afraid than ever before. And this, as Sandro Magister puts it, because of one of the new phenomena of this era, namely “the passage to militant politics—and even to armed action—of a religion like Buddhism, traditionally defined as contemplative and identified with pacifism.”

It is a passage that is situated within today's general evolution of all the religions toward a stronger impact on the public stage. For Christianity and Islam, this evolution is before the eyes of all. The events of recent months show that Buddhism is no exception. First Burma, and then Tibet, have been the most evident theatres of the passage of Buddhism from quietist positions and support for the status quo to an action of critique and transformation of society, even confronting heavy repression.
But if in Burma the methods selected were nonviolent, in Tibet something different is happening. The rebellion is being expressed sometimes with a devastating force that takes aim not only at the hated Chinese, but also at those Tibetans who seem to be favored by the modernization promoted by the government of Beijing.

In addition, since not all of the Buddhist organizations supporting abroad the cause of Tibet embrace solely nonviolent methods (the so called “Middle Way” theorized by His Holiness himself) as proved by the difficulties facing the Dalai Lama in securing observance for his pacifist instructions (see also the Statement to All Tibetans, issued on April 5), Beijing might be worried about losing a moderate, “gandhian” interlocutor, whose endless patience is well-known.

That is why we might have come to a turning point in the history of Tibet.

April 25, 2008

Tibet, the orphaned Country

Is Tibetan independence autonomy a lost cause? If not, what should its supporters do to win it?
Here is an interesting point of view.

April 23, 2008

Pope Benedict's revenge

I am convinced that the question of justice constitutes the essential argument, or in any case the strongest argument, in favour of faith in eternal life.

Pope Benedict XVI meets with a first responder after praying and lighting a candle at Ground Zero in New York, 20 Apr 2008So wrote Pope Benedict XVI in his Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi (Saved by Hope). Well, as Vaticanist Luigi Accattoli noted on his blog (in Italian) the day after the Encyclical was issued, it is always striking a pope who says “I am convinced.”

My first thought was: how can such a disarmingly gentle, kind and sensitive man be perceived as “just” a chilly intellectual, the fierce intendant, if not the aggressive guardian of Catholic orthodoxy, a kind of cross between Torquemada and Dr Strangelove? And sometimes—by Muslim extremists as well as by many within the ultra-secularist European establishment itself—as a sort of instigator of religious hatred!

But three years after his elevation to the papacy, thanks his most visible excursion into the limelight since then, namely the first papal trip to America, that perception of him has turned out to be false or, as Gerald Baker noted in last Friday’s Times, “as far from the reality as it is possible to be.” “What was missing—he writes—was an understanding of Benedict’s remarkable capacity to use words to speak to the emotional part of the human brain.” Yet,

[s]hortly before he became Pope, Benedict told a congregation: “Christianity is not an intellectual system, a collection of dogmas, or a moralism. Christianity is instead an encounter, a love story, an event.”

This idea of faith as a love story — God’s love for his people, and our love for Christ, the human face of God — is what Benedict seems to want us to understand as the defining theme of his papacy. His first encyclical was not on birth control or gay marriage, but on what many considered the somewhat surprising subject of the simple divinity of human love, including the sanctity of erotic love. This emphasis on the centrality of love to the human condition is so at odds with the caricature of the doctrinal vigilante, endlessly lecturing on the perils of sexual intemperance, that it requires us to think hard about the very nature of religion’s role in modern life. It is a useful counterweight to the popular secular view that religion is the root of all human discord.

Three years ago, as John Paul II was laid to rest under St Peter’s, his extraordinary and epoch-changing ministry at an end, a reporter turned to one of his colleagues and said, with evident feeling: “There goes one heck of a story.” But the story, as it happens, lives on, Benedict has opened a new chapter and if people would only listen they might find it has a surprising ending.

For a full account of the papal journey to the U.S. check the following links (to Sandro Magister’s website):

> The Pope's First Day in the U.S. - Against Sexual Abuse, and for America as a "Model of Positive Secularism"

> The Pope's Second Day in the U.S. – Benedict XVI Lays Down the Guidelines for the Bishops

> The Pope to U.N.: "The human person is the high-point of God's creative design for the world and for history"

> The Pope's Third Day in the U.S. - With Catholic Educators, Other Religions, Jews

> The Pope's Fourth Day in the U.S. – Benedict XVI Explains Why Christians Are So Divided

> The Pope's Fifth Day in the United States. - The Homily in the Heart of Manhattan, and the Meeting with Young People

> The Pope's Sixth Day in the U.S. - The Prayer at Ground Zero, and the Last Homily "in this land of freedom"

April 21, 2008

Law and order?

“If you look at the figures, Rome is one of the safest cities in Europe, ” said center-left candidate mayor of Rome Francesco Rutelli, at a campaign rally on Sunday. But soon after he felt the need to add that “unfortunately this is not enough and doesn't satisfy anyone. That's why we're here and we want more security.” Why?

First of all, personal security isn’t just a Rome issue, as shown by the two rape cases—both involving foreign victims—which happened over the weekend, namely that of an American student near a Milan nightclub and that of a student from Lesotho on the outskirts of Rome. In both cases foreigners—an Egyptian and a Romanian—are being held, and one of them was caught in the act.

In the second place, fears over crime and illegal immigration boosted the Northern League’s vote at last week's general election, doubling and tripling its haul, above all in front-line towns where local prosperity is undermined by thefts and burglaries. “We’re the only ones who talk unashamedly about law and order,” said Roberto Mura, the Northern League’s secretary for the province of Pavia, in Lombardy.

In the third place, center-right candidate for mayor of Rome Gianni Alemanno is campaigning that the weekend rape cases were evidence Italy has been too soft on immigrants. “For too long illegal immigrants and nomads have been considered untouchable in Rome,” he said.

So, crime and immigration have been pushed to the top Italy's political agenda. Which is perhaps the best way to escape from becoming victims of our own fears. Paraphrasing a well-known quote, the best way to try to escape from a problem is to face it.

April 18, 2008

Salvate il soldato Luca ...

Ma no, ma dai che lo sai che non è vero ... (e sperando di essere ancora in tempo!)

Traducete quei due!

la mitica sede del Corriere, in via Solferino, a Milano
Che il Corriere possa avvalersi di columnists come Ernesto Galli della Loggia e Angelo Panebianco, non è evidentemente una circostanza di scarso rilievo: significa stare un buon palmo al di sopra degli altri quotidiani. Di questo bisogna dare atto al giornale di Via Solferino—per dirla come si usa nei migliori clubs, non certo nella blogosfera, che è fatta di gente semplice e alla mano. Insomma, Mieli o non Mieli (di cui alla gente semplice, appunto, non frega assolutamente nulla), come il Corriere nessuno. Ieri l’altro Galli della Loggia ha scritto sulla sinistra una cosa da incorniciare, una specie di epitaffio (come suggerisce il titolo: “Una storia finita”). Datemi retta, leggetelo, ammesso che non lo abbiate già fatto. Stesso discorso per l’analisi dedicata ieri alla Lega da Angelo Panebianco, ma qui evidentemente non si tratta di epitaffi. Ne riporto due passaggi, così, tanto per citare qualcosa, ma va letto tutto, compresa la conclusione: la previsione che il federalismo fiscale potrebbe porre qualche problema al governo Berlusconi.

Una annotazione: perché mai l’edizione in inglese del giornale non utilizza questa roba? Poi ci si lamenta che all’estero non capiscono un accidente di quel che succede dalle nostre parti: per forza … Traducete quei due, per favore!

Ed ecco i due passaggi dell'articolo di Panebianco:

Non funziona accostare la Lega, partito territoriale insediato in alcune delle zone più ricche del Paese e che gode del consenso di ceti produttivi, ai movimenti classici di tipo ideologico, vuoi di estrema destra (come il lepenismo in Francia) vuoi di estrema sinistra (come la sinistra massimalista in Italia). Al di là di certe somiglianze superficiali con i movimenti estremisti (e senza negare che le spinte anti-politiche possano oggi avere avuto un qualche ruolo nel successo elettorale della Lega), un partito regionale come la Lega Nord vive e prospera in virtù di un rapporto «contrattuale», di scambio, su temi concretissimi, che toccano direttamente le loro vite e i loro interessi, con i propri rappresentati. A dare forza alla sua azione, a spiegare il suo radicamento e i suoi successi, sono due circostanze. In primo luogo, il fatto che un partito regionale non deve preoccuparsi, a differenza dei grandi partiti nazionali, delle «compatibilità» (se non quando non preoccuparsene danneggerebbe i territori rappresentati) e degli interessi nazionali. Ciò lo rende meno impacciato dei partiti nazionali che devono mediare fra tanti interessi, territorialmente diffusi, e fra loro contrastanti. In secondo luogo, il fatto che il comunitarismo territoriale che lo ispira gli permette di muoversi «come se» le popolazioni rappresentate fossero internamente omogenee. Per l'interclassismo comunitario, «se ci guadagna» il territorio, ci guadagnano tutti i suoi abitanti.
Per capire meglio le specificità della Lega si pensi alle differenze fra il suo ruolo nel precedente governo Berlusconi e quello svolto dalla sinistra massimalista nel governo Prodi. La sinistra massimalista tenne il governo Prodi in scacco su tutti i temi possibili, dalla politica estera al welfare, fu fonte di continua instabilità. La Lega Nord, nel passato esecutivo di Berlusconi, invece, sostenne sistematicamente le politiche governative nel loro complesso, tenendo ferma la barra sui pochi ma cruciali temi che le interessavano: l'immigrazione, la devolution. Né si può ignorare, a conferma del carattere assai pragmatico dell'azione leghista, che il governo Berlusconi fu debitore nei confronti della Lega di un ministro del Lavoro (Roberto Maroni) cui si dovette, fra l'altro, uno dei provvedimenti più significativi di quel governo: la legge Biagi.

April 17, 2008

Eravamo un Paese di conservatori

Eravamo un Paese di conservatori: ogni cambiamento guardato con sospetto, se non con ostilità, o quanto meno con l’atteggiamento mentale di chi, a parole, si lamenta di come vanno le cose, ma all’atto pratico preferisce “andare sul sicuro.” Eravamo. Ora non più. L’esito delle elezioni, reso possibile anche dall’innegabile coraggio dei due maggiori competitors, ha fatto piazza pulita. Voto pragmatico, semplificazione, scompaginamento delle vecchie logiche di appartenenza, clamorosa rottura con le abitudini consolidate in materia di voto, e chissà quante altre micro e macro “rivoluzioni copernicane.” E’ bastato che un segnale forte e inequivocabile, uno solo, venisse da Veltroni e Berlusconi, e gli elettori, immediatamente, hanno fatto il resto, cioè la loro parte.

Tra le tante “rivoluzioni” cui abbiamo assistito (e preso parte) quella della scomparsa dell’estrema sinistra è forse la più inaspettata e sorprendente. Ecco, vorrei dirlo nella maniera più equilibrata e, se così posso esprimermi, “educata” …, il fatto è che ne sono particolarmente soddisfatto. Non si tratta di maramaldeggiare (cosa ovviamente odiosissima), è un giudizio politico. Ovunque ci sono comunisti (veri), trotzkisti, e cose del genere, ma non dappertutto sono rappresentati nei parlamenti nazionali, anzi. Dov’è lo scandalo se in Italia una rappresentanza parlamentare non l’hanno più? Non c’è, appunto. Dove sta scritto che una Camera e un Senato orbati di questa presenza ne debbano soffrire? Che il Paese stesso, anzi, ne debba soffrire? Da nessuna parte, che io sappia.

Un altro discorso è quello se una sinistra radicale non solo abbia il diritto di esserci (cosa ovvia), ma che sia un bene che ci sia. Io credo di sì. Alcuni “estremisti” sono riusciti, nel tempo, a far intravedere cose di cui nessuno sospettava l’esistenza. Nelle aule universitarie, nella saggistica, nella produzione letteraria, cinematografica, teatrale, il loro contributo è stato notevole. Ma in un parlamento quale può essere la loro funzione? Quale contributo alla soluzione efficace di problemi specifici e concreti può dare chi, in maniera più o meno dichiarata e contro ciò che pensa e vuole tutto il resto della società, è convinto che le fondamenta stesse su cui il sistema si poggia debbano essere messe radicalmente in discussione? Ecco che un’ipotesi affascinante sul piano intellettuale—perché “folle,” utopistica, geniale perfino, nella sua capacità di essere “contraddizione radicale”—per quanto ovviamente opinabile, diventa il suo opposto, e questo nel momento stesso in cui le si offre l’opportunità di calarsi nel concreto, di diventare “vita quotidiana,” cioè metodologia e prassi della decisione politica: da brillante esercizio intellettuale a sordo ostruzionismo e sistematico boicottaggio delle politiche (riformistiche) altrui. Da sogno (per loro) a incubo (per tutti gli altri, e forse anche per loro stessi).

Ebbene, eravamo un Paese di conservatori, si diceva, ed anche la sinistra radicale rientrava tra “i beni” da conservare. Oggi quel tabù è caduto. A non volerne prendere atto sono oramai in pochi. Tra questi Francesco Cossiga, che paventa ritorni di fiamma eversivi. La stima e l’affetto che si può provare per lui, stavolta non può far velo a un dissenso profondo. La presenza di un robusto partito comunista nel Parlamento italiano non ha risparmiato all’Italia il brigatismo, purtroppo. Personalmente sarei tentato persino di sostenere una tesi diametralmente opposta, sia pure con molti se e qualche ma.

Un altro che non molla è il famoso opinionista Francesco Merlo, che su Repubblica di oggi rivolge un accorato appello a Walter Veltroni affinché faccia sua “la gentilezza di sinistra” dei Niki Vendola, per “maritarla con la cultura di impresa.” Non una riflessione banale, ci mancherebbe, anzi (giustissimi i rilievi ai Pecoraio Scanio), epperò, a me pare, un estenuante esercizio di conservatorismo politico e intellettuale. Il punto non è che Veltroni deve andare da Vendola, ma semmai che Vendola vada da Veltroni, dopo aver realizzato che forse lui (Vendola), con le sue idee e il suo “pragmatismo” (lo garantisce Merlo), starebbe meglio dall’altra parte. Insomma, il percorso effettuato dallo stesso Veltroni e dai D’Alema, le Turci e i Bersani. Non mi sembra di chiedere troppo.

A proposito di conservatorismo da buttare a mare, un altro opinionista, Gian Enrico Rusconi,
ripropone su La Stampa di oggi il vecchio vezzo nazionale di dare molto peso a ciò che scrivono all’estero, in questo caso la Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Ora, sia chiaro, bisogna avere il massimo rispetto di tutti—compreso l’Economist che con il Berlusca deve avere qualcosa di personale—e ascoltare tutti, però, magari, se prendessimo atto del fatto che spesso, quando parlano dell’Italia, certi forestieri dimostrano di non essere, ehm, molto preparati, e del resto se le loro fonti di informazione sono i giornali italiani …, ecco, forse sarebbe meglio. L’Italia è un Paese troppo complesso, lo è per noi, figuriamoci per gli altri (poveretti).

April 16, 2008

Veltrusconi? Here is an example ...

Here is an example of what I mean when I talk about “Veltrusconi” (in today’s online edition of Il Foglio newspaper):

The day after the electoral apotheosis – while in Friuli and Rome other landslides were being realised – the Cav. (Berlusconi) was already once again the worker Prime Minister, but with a more mature touch which was welcome to the Opposition. The exchange of courtesies with the Party co-ordinator of the Democratic Party, Goffredo Bettini, followed by Berlusconi’s invitation to a meeting via his own Master of Ceremonies Gianni Letta, signalled a desire for coherence with what had been decided before the election. To take, among others, one of the Cav’s phrases: “It would be I myself who would be the happiest with a continuing debate and dialogue with the Opposition”.

Italian elections: Viva Veltrusconi!

Top political analysts will soon tell us what the numbers of Berlusconi’s huge victory in Italy’s general elections exactly (“scientifically”) mean. But I think that no one who has any ounce of common sense would ever ask them why he won.

Well, I can’t guess what The Economist’s editors would actually ask themselves and/or Italians—but the second choice appears highly unlikely—, because I’m not that imaginative (alas! nobody is perfect).

Perhaps it would make more sense to just ask how could it ever have been possible to expect a different result. Have you ever heard, for instance, of Naples garbage crisis (thousands of tonnes on the streets …)? Isn’t Naples an Italian city? And guess who have been ruling Naples and its beautiful region since a decade and more, and who has been leading the country so successfully since May 2006.

Furthermore, try to establish whether there is a link between the story of Clementina Forleo—a brave magistrate who is being massacred by “the caste” because of her charges against very influential members of the Democratic Party—and the fact that the Center-Left coalition includes the Italy of Values party, led by Antonio Di Pietro, that is the former magistrate who spear-headed in Milan the so-called Clean Hands anticorruption drive launched in 1992 that brought down Italy's old regime.

Add to this the heavy tax burden and the public safety issue. But those are only a small selection of issues, though very representative of the country’s mood. Italians must have realized that Italy needs more effectiveness and “Lombard pragmatism” and less “Roman wishful thinking” (“yes we can” in a tomato sauce …). And perhaps Berlusconi, in turn, must have realized what was wrong with his country when he announced on Tuesday his future government's first task: clearing piles of rubbish from the streets of Naples. “I imagine I'll spend at least three days a week in Naples, at least until the refuse problem has been resolved,” he said in an interview, adding that the first cabinet meeting of his government will be held in Naples and that “the months and years ahead will be difficult.”

“For Berlusconi it's a double success,” wrote Corriere della Sera columnist Massimo Franco. “Not only will he be returning to the prime minister's office, but the novelty is that the mandate comes after an election campaign in which he did not promise miracles or hint at painless solutions for the economy.”

Nevertheless I am bound to say that I think Veltrroni is the best of his bunch. He has been trying to provide Italy with a modern and responsible left and a more effective and stable political system. His announcement that the PD would have run on its own, without the squabbling Catholic-to-communist coalition allies that brought Prodi down, was like a new beginning, a big break from the choice of bickering coalitions Italians are usually faced with. As a result, in turn, Silvio Berlusconi had called on centre-right parties to run under the slogan “People of Liberty”—not only a single banner for the election, but also the embryo of a new single centre-right party that will include the right-wing National Alliance, in a bid to avoid the shaky coalition that weakened his own previous government.

Now Italy has only five parties represented in Parliament, instead of about twenty, and what is more, in my view, no far right and radical left parties. That’s why I personally congratulate … both the winner and the loser: perhaps Italy is becoming a normal country. Viva Veltrusconi!

April 15, 2008

Italian elections: quick update 2

Silvio Berlusconi has won absolute majority in the Chamber of Deputies as well as it happened in the Senate. And as in the Senate the Northern League will be decisive. The Italian regions have assigned 340 seats to the majority: People of Liberty 272; Northern League 60; Mpa 8, 12 deputies must still be assigned by foreign constituencies. Regarding the opposition: the Democratic Party has 211 deputies; Italy of Values 28; Udc 36; Svp 2; Aut-Lib-Democratie 1.

Here is the lists of new Members of Parliament:

> Camera dei Deputati (Chamber of Deputies)
> Senato della Repubblica (Senate of the Republic)

Italian elections: quick update

Silvio Berlusconi's center-right coalition (People of Liberty and Northern League) has the absolute majority in the Senate. The Italian regions have assigned 171 seats: 144 to the People of Liberty; 25 to the Northern League; 2 to the Mpa (sort of Southern League). So the Northern League will be decisive. Six others senators will be assigned by foreign voters. As for the opposition, the Democratic Party has 116 seats; the Italia dei Valori Party 14; the Udc (Christian democrats) 3; the Svp (Sud-Tiroler Volkspartei ) 2; the 'Lista Svp-Insieme per le autonomie' 2; the List Vallee d'Aoste 1.

April 14, 2008

Italian elections: Berlusconi is ahead of Veltroni (updated)

According to the exit polls taken at 3 PM by the Consortium for Sky tg24 television Silvio Berlusconi and his “People of Liberty” alliance enjoy a two- or three-point lead. But according to the first official projections Berlusconi's Center-Right coalition—including the Northern League—has 43.7 per cent in the Senate to 39.1 per cent for Walter Veltroni's Center-Left alliance, which includes the recently formed Democratic Party and Di Pietro’s Italy of Values Party.


UPDATE April 14, 2008 - 7:00 pm

From ANSA (2008-04-14 18:39):

Projections at the end of Italy's two-day general election on Monday predicted a victory for centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi in both the Senate and the House.The projections, made by research institute Ipsos for the Berlusconi-owned private TV network Mediaset on the basis of initial results, saw Berlusconi's alliance leading in the Senate by 47.1% to centre-left leader Walter Veltroni's 38.5%. Another projection made by Consortium for state broadcaster RAI predicted 164 seats in the 315-strong Senate going to Berlusconi's alliance and 139 to Veltroni's.Meanwhile, Ipsos' projection for the House predicted that Berlusconi's alliance would win by 46.5% to Veltroni's 37.7%. The centre right's winning margin was wider than initial exit polls had indicated, giving Berlusconi a decisive lead in the Senate where seats are awarded on a regional basis.

UPDATE April 14, 2008 - 11:55 pm

From Telegraph.co.uk:

The 71-year-old media magnate defeated Walter Veltroni, the 52-year-old leader of the Democratic Party, by a considerable margin and has a large enough majority to rule Italy for a full five-year term. [...]

From ANSA:

Flamboyant media magnate Silvio Berlusconi won a third term as Italy's premier on Monday, emerging from the country's two-day general election with a stronger-than-expected mandate to govern.Centre-left challenger Walter Veltroni conceded defeat in a phone call to 71-year-old Berlusconi after projections based on vote results showed the centre-right chief had gained a solid majority in both the House and the Senate.
According to the latest projections, only six parties will take up seats in the House this time round: the PDL; the PD; the Northern League, a populist, devolutionist party which is allied to Berlusconi; the tiny Sicilian-based party, Movement for Autonomy (MpA) which is also allied to Berlusconi; Veltroni ally Italy of Values (IDV) led by former anti-graft prosecutor Antonio Di Pietro; and the centrist, Catholic UDC, a former Berlusconi ally.

UPDATE April 15, 2008 - 1:15 am

From Corriere della Sera:

MILAN – The victory is decisive. Silvio Berlusconi’s coalition has won the general election by a margin that will give the People of Freedoms (PDL) with its allies of the Northern League and Movement for Autonomy (MPA) a comfortable majority in both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. According to the latest projections, the Centre-right alliance has secured 46.7% of the votes cast for the Senate against 38.5% for the Democratic Party (PD) and Italy of Values (IDV). In the Chamber of Deputies, the margin is slightly narrower. Again according to forecasts, the People of Freedoms has won 45.9% of the vote for the Chamber with 38.9% going to the Democratic Party.
The gap is insurmountable and PD leader Walter Veltroni acknowledged defeat during the evening. “I phoned Mr Berlusconi”, said the PD leader”, “to convey my best wishes for his future work”. PDL and Northern League sources expressed satisfaction. Silvio Berlusconi phoned Gianfranco Fini and organised a dinner at his home in Arcore while the Northern League’s Umberto Bossi exulted: “We’re going strong. This surge was expected”. Early exit polls circulated just after voting ended were proved wrong after they indicated a gap of only two or three percentage points between the PDL-League-MPA and PD-IDV coalitions. Noteworthy results included the performance of the Northern League and the collapse of the Rainbow Left, which looks set to be excluded from parliament. The Rainbow Left candidate for the premiership, Fausto Bertinotti, has resigned from all party executive duties.
SENATE – In detail, the results show that the Centre-right finished about eight percentage points higher than the Veltroni-led coalition in the Senate elections, according to projections supplied by Consortium for RAI television with coverage of 96%. The PDL-League-MPA grouping has 46.7% with the PD-IDV on 38.5%, the PDL securing 39.8%, the Northern League 5.7%, the PD 33.5% and IDV 5%. Other results are: Rainbow Left 3.2%, the Christian Democrat UDC 5.6%, The Right (LD) 2.2% and the Socialist Party (PSI) 0.9%. After the results were announced, PSI secretary Enrico Boselli announced his resignation. Seats in the Senate are assigned on a region by region basis and Mr Berlusconi is well ahead in nine: Lombardy, Campania, Sicily, Veneto, Piedmont, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Abruzzo, Puglia and Calabria. Mr Veltroni is on top in six regions – Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Umbria, Marche, Molise and Basilicata – while three regions are still on a knife-edge: Lazio, Liguria and Sardinia. The size of the Senate majority will depend on which way these regions go. The PDL is also ahead in Trentino Alto Adige with 35.7% while the Südtiroler Volkspartei (SVP) and Together for Autonomies (IPA) lag behind on 27.7%. According to early results for the Senate, the Centre-right should take 164 seats against 139 for the PD and IDV.
CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES – According to Consortium’s projections, Mr Berlusconi’s victory in the Chamber of Deputies is equally unambiguous. The PDL-led coalition has won 45.9% of the vote for the Chamber with 38.9% going to the Democratic Party. The PDL itself has 38.3%, the Northern League has 6.4% and the MPA has 1.2%. The PD, on the other hand, has 33.8% and IDV has 5.1%. Among the minor parties, the UDC has 5.5%, the Rainbow Left has plummeted to 3.5%, LD has scraped 2.6% and the socialists have a bare 0.9%. If these figures are confirmed, the Rainbow Left will fail to clear the quorum hurdle in either Senate or Chamber of Deputies. Mr Berlusconi’s coalition would have 340 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and Mr Veltroni’s alliance would finish on 241.
SICILY – Early exit poll results were also available in Sicily, where electors have voted for the regional parliament. The Centre-left candidate, Anna Finocchiaro, has obtained between 36% and 40% of the poll whereas Raffaele Lombardo, for the Centre-right, has 49% to 53%. Other candidates have 9% to 13%.

April 13, 2008

Noticina sulla campagna

Vado un po’ di fretta, ma che diamine, una parola sulla campagna elettorale bisogna pur dirla. E allora, ecco una cosetta di Filippa Facci che ho letto ieri sul Giornale. Non sarà poi ‘sto granché, ma insomma rende l’idea, perché si dice tanto dei politici—e a buon diritto, ci mancherebbe!—ma i giornalisti, ah i giornalisti, sono proprio i loro degni compari, e come si dice tout se tient, in questo benedetto Paese. Certo non tutti lorsignori sono uguali, però, nell’insieme, la storia è un po’ quella raccontata da Facci. Anzi, diciamone un’altra: si son portati meglio i politici dei giornalisti; parlo sempre della campagna elettorale, è chiaro, perché i politici, almeno, hanno reso le cose un po’ più normali, con due partiti (o anticipazioni di partiti) che hanno avuto il fegato di andare “da soli” (virgolette d’obbligo, per e ben note ragioni, compreso il fatto che il Di Pietro, a mio modestissimo avviso, non c’entrava per niente ed era meglio lasciarlo fuori). Che poi sia stata una campagna noiosa, forse, è il risultato di una “normalizazione” in atto, e dunque praticamente un bene. Sono stati i media, soprattutto i due maggiori, a non essere all’altezza.

Amici di Repubblica, rendetevi conto del giornale che avete fatto ieri: 1) In prima pagina occhiellone stile Unità «Il Cavaliere attacca Totti»; 2) Sempre in prima un pezzo d’intrattenimento di Curzio Maltese dove spiega che Berlusconi è stato «ignobile», e che rivela, senza spiegare, che il sorteggio televisivo tra Veltroni e Berlusconi è stato «pilotato» per buona pace di Vespa e Mentana); 3) Ancora in prima pagina, fondo di Giorgio Bocca per dare dell’assassino a Mangano e collegarlo ovviamente a Berlusconi; 4) Di nuovo in prima pagina, fondo di Giuseppe D’Avanzo che parte da Emile Durkheim e arriva a Mangano e Berlusconi; 5) Per caso in prima pagina, pezzo di Nanni Moretti titolato «Berlusconi inadatto alla democrazia»; 5) Incidentalmente in prima pagina, pezzo di Carlo Bonini per rivelare che vero responsabile della strage di Linate (non stiamo scherzando) è un jet Gulf-stream IV della flotta privata di Silvio Berlusconi; 6) A pagina 2, un pezzo titolato «Fini si smarca da Silvio»; 7) A pagina 4, un titolato «Maroni contro Berlusconi» e intervista a Di Pietro che «sbugiarda il Cavaliere»; 8) A pagina 7, intervista ad Anna Finocchiaro contro la «Sicilia feudale della destra» e intervista a Nicola Piovani titolata «Bisogna fermare la destra». Insomma, amici di Repubblica, rendetevi conto: neanche una parola sul Tibet.

April 11, 2008


Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a Prime Minister called Anthony Charles Lynton “Tony” Blair …

Do you remember the Conflict of Interests?

Just a few days ago I was talking about how complicated—even for us Italians—Italy’s political life might be. I was saying that it requires some particular attitude of mind, midway between Kafka and Pirandello. So, here (in today’s online edition of Il Foglio newspaper) is a concrete example:

So whatever happened to the famous Berlusconi “conflict of interests” issue? For what has for a good fifteen years been the lynchpin of all the finger-pointing by the Left at the Centre Right, as well as one of the main platforms of the “Olive Tree” coalition’s manifesto, has now all but disappeared off the radar. Centre-Left leader and Aspiring Prime Minister Walter Veltroni struck it off the slate of “urgent things to do” once in power, and when a few weeks ago Antonio Di Pietro (electoral ally of Veltroni’s and a former self-style “campaigning” magistrate) brought it up again, nobody in the “Loft” (as The Partito Democratico’s HQ is ironically known by some) seemed to take any notice. The general impression is that on the Left, there are only a handful of politicians who still consider it a major issue. When asked why they have suddenly gone all quiet, practically all those politicians on the Left who have spent the last decade or so homing in obsessively on the conflict of interest, now acknowledge its disappearance as a major issue, although not conceding that all hostilities with the Centre Right have ceased. (Transaltion by William Ward)

By the way, do you remember the title (at least) of one of the most well-known works by Luigi Pirandello, So It Is (If You Think So)? Well, I found a review—appeared in a December 1922 issue of The New York Times—of one of the first English translations of plays by Pirandello. Alice Rohe summarises the story and shows what the “message” of Pirandello is all about (a good read, in my humble opinion, for those who enjoy “intellectual adventures”):

A new secretary of the Prefect has come into a provincial town. He has installed his mother-in-law in one apartment and his wife and himself in another. The two women are never permitted to meet. The curiousity-whetted gossips finally lure from the son-in-law the disclosure that his mother-in-law is insane or on one subject. She believes his second wife is her daughter, his first wife, who was really killed in an earthquake. Later the mother-in-law reveals that her poor soon-in-law is insane upon one subject. He believes that her daughter, his wife, is really his second wife and that his first wife was klled in an earthquake. And so—which is insane is the question.

Against the background of petty bickering and prying the tenderly human quality of these three characters, obviously, through love, trying to save each other, is dragged to sacrifice: The wife is forced to appear before the mother-in-law in the presence of the Prefect. And as mother-in-law and son both cry out in anguish, different names, when the back-veiled figure appears, she says:

“You want what?—The Truth! The Truth is simply this, that I am the daughter of Signora Frola and I am the second wife of Signor Ponza. Yes, and for myself, I am nobody, I am nobody.” To the Prefect, protesting that she must be one or the other, she replies: “Not at all, sir! No, for myself, I am whoever you believe me.”

Isn’t that terribly exciting? Just realize that this is also what Italian politics is all about!

April 10, 2008

Godi Fiorenza ...

Il solito Giovanni Sartori, ma stavolta, forse, un po’ più perfido del consueto. Ecco i suoi malefici suggerimenti per “un voto-rifiuto, un voto che puramente e semplicemente dice no.” Ma, attenzione, non un no a qualcuno per dire a qualcun altro. Magari! No, un voto che, se ho capito bene, significa questo: quello mi disgusta, ma quell’altro è peggio della peste, e dunque uno lo castigo, l’altro lo distruggo. Altro che astensione, questa sì che è una vendetta! Solo una mente “fiorentina” poteva escogitare un siffatto marchingegno—ed io, sui fiorentini, sia detto sommessamente, la penso esattamente come Dante ... ;-)

Godi, Fiorenza, poi che se' sì grande,
che per mare e per terra batti l'ali,
e per lo 'nferno tuo nome si spande!
[Inferno , Canto XXVI]

Gordon Brown won't go

From Telegraph.co.uk:

Gordon Brown has said that he would not be attending the opening ceremony for the Olympics Games in Beijing in August.
Downing Street insisted that the Prime Minister had never intended to go.Instead Mr Brown would be present for the closing of the Games as leader of the next Olympic host country.However, the move could be seen as a snub to Beijing after it was widely reported in the Chinese press that Mr Brown would attend the opening.

April 9, 2008

The Return March to Tibet in New Delhi

The “Return March to Tibet” reached New Delhi today. Yeah, it’s the long trek—started out in Dharamsala on March 10—from which, in a way, the longest and most sustained challenge to China's 57-year rule in Tibet originated. The march was suspended soon after it started because Indian police arrested marchers in Jwalaji, Kangra district. Now the number of the marchers has increased to 200 (from 100) and includes 147 monks, 9 nuns and 16 foreign supporters.

From AsiaNews.it (an article/interview with Tenzin Choeying, the national director of Students for Free Tibet):

Tenzin Choeying [...] was released only on 27 March. Speaking to Asia News, he said that “we went on a hunger strike for protest” after their arrest. “But the time we spent in prison is nothing compared to the situation in Tibet,” where “anyone who is arrested is subjected to torture and humiliations.”
He expects that “more than a thousand Tibetans and activists will be waiting for the Olympic torch when it lands in new Delhi on 17 April,” he said. “India, the world’s largest democracy, will allow our peaceful demonstration even though we know the Indian government wants to maintain good relations with China.”
“We don’t want to storm the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi. We want to take the world’s conscience by storm so that it can put pressure on China, demanding for instance that it let the Dalai Lama return to Tibet, that it release the Panchen Lama (the Dalai Lama’s heir who disappeared in 1995 at the age of six) and that it free all political prisoners.”
“Protests in Lhasa and Tibet have attracted worldwide attention and set off international protest. For years China lied and suppressed all information about the real situation in Tibet. It described it as a fast developing region where religious freedom prevailed both within and outside monasteries,” he explained. “Now the world has become aware of the tragedy of Tibetans in their own homeland. We are happy that the incidents involving the Olympic torch in London and Paris have highlighted the Tibetan Question. We hope that China will respond constructively.”

Tenzin ChoeyingTenzin Choeying expects that more than a thousand Tibetans and activists will be waiting for the Olympic torch when it lands in new Delhi on April 17.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and actor Richard Gere (the chairperson of International Campaign for Tibet) joined thousands at a pro-Tibet vigil in San Francisco. Speaking at a news conference held before the protest rally at the UN Plaza, Tutu said he is not calling for a boycott of the games, “because the athletes have spent a lot of time preparing,” but he is “certainly calling on heads of state not to attend the opening ceremony, to register their disapproval, their disgust really.”

Last but not least, here is a great news from the US Congress:

The House has just overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling on the Chinese government to end its crackdown in Tibet and to enter into a substantive dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, H.Res. 1077. House Resolution 1077 was introduced by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and members of the bipartisan Congressional Delegation that met with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government-in-Exile in India. Speaker Pelosi, along with Reps. Rush Holt, Jay Inslee, and Hilda Solis traveled with the Congressional Delegation and spoke in favor of the resolution during debate last night, as did Chairman Howard Berman of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Read the rest here.

April 8, 2008

Stress da blog?

Lo stress da blog può diventare pericoloso. Negli States.

Lo scrivente, a prescindere, non corre rischi, tranquilli: la politica italiana, nel caso specifico, agisce da sonnifero …

April 7, 2008

In search of ideas, not votes

Non-Italians are almost always baffled and confused by Italian politics, and they are fully justified. No matter about that. In fact, Italy’s political life has always been too complicated—even for us Italians, to tell the truth—and requiring not only some special expertise and knowledge of our recent political history, but also some particular attitude of mind, midway between Kafka and Pirandello, I dare to say, passing through the immortal Italian melodramatic tradition ...

That is why it’s remarkable what The New York Times writes today about the outstanding figure (“the most gripping personality”) of the general elections campaign:

In the Italian national elections next weekend, the charismatic billionaire and center-right leader Silvio Berlusconi may rise once again from the ashes, this time to defeat Walter Veltroni, a rock ’n’ roll-loving baby boomer who just stepped down as mayor of Rome. It would be Mr. Berlusconi’s third stint as prime minister — or Mr. Veltroni’s first.

But those two aren’t the most gripping personalities. They’re the usual suspects in a political landscape nearly incomprehensible to outsiders, where the same politicians fade in and out, promising reform and delivering stasis if not decline.

One fringe candidate is different.

He is Giuliano Ferrara, a Communist turned conservative who is Italy’s most operatic and most mercurial intellectual provocateur. A newspaper editor and former government minister, Mr. Ferrara is best known here as a television talk-show host. He combines the political theatrics of an Abbie Hoffman with the rhetorical flair of a William F. Buckley.

Italy’s political life has always been absurd, but Mr. Ferrara’s recent theatrics touch on something deeper. He is a cultural barometer, highly attuned to the desperation of the national mood. More than the real-politiking of the mainstream candidates, Mr. Ferrara, with his insistence on ideas, taps into Italian anxieties about the future of Europe, the loosening of national identities, the rise of immigration, the decline of Christian belief.

In his latest incarnation, Mr. Ferrara is running for Parliament on a small slate devoted to a single issue: “pro-life,” which he defines loosely. An avowed atheist and nonbeliever, he has called for a “moratorium,” but not a ban, on abortion, to call attention to the value of life.

Click here for the continuation of this thoughtful article. It is well worth a careful reading.

[See also my previous posts on Giuliano Ferrara: here and here.]

April 6, 2008

Ferrara, ovvero quando perdere è come vincere (e viceversa)

L’editoriale che Ernesto Galli della Loggia ha dedicato oggi al caso-Ferrara è talmente giusto, appropriato, ben argomentato e chi più ne ha più ne metta, che c’è rimasto ben poco da dire. Ossia, qualcosa c’è, ma è di difficile formulazione, almeno per me. Perché investe quelle zone d’ombra dell’agire e del pensare umano che vanno al di là delle rappresentazioni pubbliche.

Quando parlo di zone d’ombra, però, non intendo riferirmi a qualcosa di “inconfessabile,” tutt’altro. Infatti si tratta piuttosto di qualcosa di talmente buono e giusto da risultare improponibile, oggi come oggi, in un dibattito pubblico. Per spiegarmi la prendo alla lontana.

In questi ultimi giorni di campagna elettorale siamo sommersi di messaggi auto-promozionali: tv, giornali, radio, posta elettronica e, naturalmente, posta ordinaria. Parto da quest’ultima. E’ inenarrabile la banalità delle formule propagandistiche, la stupidità, l’incultura, i luoghi comuni, la piattezza dei messaggi che riempiono le buche delle lettere. Mi ripropongo ogni volta di fare una silloge, ma sempre me ne manca “lo stomaco.” Mi viene persino il dubbio—e con questo ho detto tutto—che proprio la nostra democrazia, in sé e per sé, sia una baggianata se riesce a produrre questo tsunami di mediocrità. Ovviamente il dubbio viene subito cacciato con sdegno ripetendo ad alta voce, come un mantra, la celebre massima di Churchill (la democrazia è un sistema pessimo, ma è di gran lunga il migliore fra tutti quelli che sono stati inventati finora). E che sia benedetto quel mantra, appunto.

Ebbene, qui è il punto: che cosa ha fatto Giuliano Ferrara? Beh, diciamo che ha ridicolizzato la politica così come noi oggi la concepiamo e la pratichiamo, l’ha fatta a pezzettini e l’ha data in pasto agli animali dei cortili partitici. Mentre la vera politica l’ha fatta lui, strafregandosene del giudizio dei più. Perché la vita è il massimo, non c’è niente di più consono alla politeia, niente di più vero, di più grande, di più interessante. Questa è la storia. Il resto son chiacchiere.

Perché tutta questa ostilità contro Ferrara, allora? Francamente non saprei, nel senso che ho parecchie spiegazioni in mente—da quelle di tipo socio-psicologico (noiosissime) a quelle di stampo apocalittico (e si andrebbe sul serioso, ma non è il caso, anche se ci sarebbe materia, eccome!)—e non so quale privilegiare. E poi non vorrei mai essere offensivo nei confronti di alcuno: offendere non serve a niente, generalmente è la risorsa dei mentecatti, e ce ne sono già tanti in circolazione, come ha dimostrato l’editorialista del Corriere—vabbè, ci sono cascato (nell’insulto), lo so da me, chiedo venia, ma come si fa a non farsi prendere la mano …, e si badi che non ce l’ho con i lanciatori di pomodori, poveracci, ma con “gli altri,” quelli che Galli della Loggia ha così bene stanato dai loro nascondigli …

Detto questo, malamente, lo so, non mi resta che aggiungere per onestà intellettuale che non voterò per la lista “Aborto? No grazie,” ma preciso che questa cosa del voto è quella che mi interessa di meno. E credo che lo stesso—se ho capito qualcosa—valga per Giuliano Ferrara. Si può essere “sportivi” fino al punto di gareggiare per perdere, pur di dimostrare che la vittoria è un concetto molto più sottile di quel che non si pensi. Vincere, in fondo, è quasi sempre una cosa così volgare …

April 5, 2008

Chinese police fire into crowd of Tibetans

An article out from the Associated Press says that in a Tibetan area of western China Police fired on several hundreds of protesters—Buddhist monks and laypeople—who had marched on Thursday on local government offices. Eight people (at least) were killed.

The protesters, according to the London-based Free Tibet Campaign and the International Campaign for Tibet, were demanding the release of two monks who were detained after 3,000 paramilitary troops searched their monastery and found photographs of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader.

The official Xinhua News Agency had no details on deaths or injuries but confirmed that “a riot” broke out near government offices in Donggu town in Garze, adding that one official was “attacked and seriously wounded,” and police were “forced to fire warning shots and put down the violence.”

The Associated Press also reports that, according to the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, based in India, two monks committed suicide last month in Sichuan's Aba County following government oppression.

This confirms that the protests are the longest and most sustained challenge to China's 57-year rule in Tibet … and that Tibet supporters from all over the world must keep a high level of awareness and alertness!

April 3, 2008

40 years after Martin Luther King's assassination

April 4, 1968 - April 4, 2008.

The Washington Post republishes excerpts from editorials of 40 years ago on Martin Luther King and his legacy (registration required).

Martin Luther King, Jr.
“I Have a Dream”
delivered August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.:

Un uomo 'immerso in Dio'

Di Andrea Tornielli, sul Giornale di oggi, un bel ricordo di Karol Wojtyla, a tre anni (e un giorno) dalla scomparsa. Toccante. Come la foto qui sopra. Testimonianze sulla vita di un uomo «immerso in Dio»:

Come quella volta che doveva pranzare con un vescovo italiano. Il prelato giunse in ritardo nell’appartamento papale e si scusò con Giovanni Paolo II raccontando di aver incrociato in San Pietro un suo ex sacerdote, divenuto da 17 anni un barbone e di essersi fermato a parlare con lui. Il Papa gli disse di andarlo a cercare e di portarlo a tavola. Il barbone, imbarazzato e impacciato, pranzò con Wojtyla. A fine pasto, il pontefice gli chiese: «Vuoi confessarmi?». Il barbone disse di sì, con l’incredulità e la gioia dipinte sul volto. Dopo quell’incontro, senza che nulla gli venisse chiesto sul suo passato, il barbone tornò a fare il prete. Questo era Karol, l’uomo «immerso in Dio».

Personalmente, come al solito, quando penso a lui … le parole vengono meno, dove invece il suo ricordo è una di quelle cose che sono destinate a durare per tutta la vita. Ma se proprio dovessi dare sostanza ai pensieri, non credo che potrei trovare parole più adeguate di quelle scritte da Shakespeare nell’opera più amata dallo scrivente, il Giulio Cesare. Così miracolosamente adeguate che il destinatario originale impallidisce al confronto: come se quelle parole, in realtà, fossero state scritte solo per Karol «il Grande», con alcuni secoli di anticipo:

La sua vita fu nobile, e gli elementi
Così composti in lui, che la Natura potrebbe levarsi
E proclamare a tutto il mondo: «Questo era un uomo!»

[His life was gentle, and the elements
So mix'd in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world 'This was a man!']

April 2, 2008

Behind the 'modern' China

After reading many news reports on what is currently happening in Tibet, this remark by American scholar and political commentator Robert Kagan—he writes a monthly column for the Washington Post and is the author of The Return of History and the End of Dreams—could be very helpful for a better understanding of what “modern” China actually is:

China can go for great stretches these days looking like the model of a postmodern, 21st-century power. Visitors to Shanghai see soaring skyscrapers and a booming economy. Conference-goers at Davos and other international confabs see sophisticated Chinese diplomats using terms like "win-win." Western leaders meet their Chinese counterparts and see earnest technocrats trying to avoid the many pitfalls on the path to economic modernization.
But occasionally the mask slips, and the other side of China is revealed. For China is also a 19th-century power, filled with nationalist pride, ambitions and resentments; consumed with questions of territorial sovereignty; hanging on repressively to old conquered lands in its interior; and threatening war against a small island country off its coast.
It is also an authoritarian dictatorship, albeit of a modern variety. The nature of its rule isn't visible on the streets of Shanghai, where people enjoy a degree of personal freedom as long as they keep their noses out of politics. It is only when someone challenges its authority that the brute power on which the regime ultimately rests shows itself.
In 1989, it was students in Tiananmen Square. A few years ago it was the Falun Gong. Today it is Tibetan protesters. Tomorrow it may be protesters in Hong Kong. Someday it may be dissidents on a "reunified" island of Taiwan.
This is the aspect of China that does not seem to change, despite our liberal progressive conviction that it must.

Nevertheless, it is true that, in the 1990s, many China watchers insisted it was only a matter of time before China opened, but today, says Kagan, “this all looks like so much wishful thinking.” Ultimately, though China watchers talk about it becoming a “responsible stakeholder,” we should not expect too much, and above all we should bear in mind that, as Kagan puts it,

[t]he interests of the world's autocracies are not the same as those of the democracies. We want to make the world safe for democracy. They want to make the world safe, if not for all autocracies at least for their own. People talk about how pragmatic Chinese rulers are, but like all autocrats what they are most pragmatic about is keeping themselves in power.

In my opinion it is also very interesting, and in a way connected with Kagan’s remarks, what Professor Norman Geras has to say about the basic argument of those who, opposing a boycott of the Beijing Olympics, are dismissive even of a “semi-boycott,” namely of a stay-away from the games’ opening ceremonies (“China isn't bothered by international criticism, for its standing in the world... does not rest on anyone's approval but on military and especially economic power”):

It's hard to avoid the counter-thought that if open disapproval of its human rights record can't hurt the Chinese government, then approval of or indifference towards it also can't, and more certainly can't. And disapproval does have the advantage that it might be welcome to Chinese critics of the Beijing regime - human rights activists, democrats, those kinds of people.

This definitely seems to be the most reasonable, fair and aboveboard of all possible counterarguments.

Let's celebrate Milan's victory, but ...

Okay, it is mission accomplished for Milan, and everyone here, above all Mayor Letizia Moratti and President (of the Region of Lombardy) Formigoni, has every right to celebrate victory in the race to host the 2015 Universal Exposition. It’s a really great result, a fantastic achievement for Milan and for Italy, and a wonderful opportunity to show the world what a viable, prosperous, and er … well-governed Country we are, etc. I also hope—to be minimalist (I am not a dreamer, or rather I am no longer a dreamer, or at least I think so …)—that the event will give residents and visitors chance to finally enjoy a clean Subway (Metro) system.