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8 September, 2011

Orange Italy in Three Episodes

There is a strong sense these days that any monopoly government will inevitably fail

Episode one: orange. You wake up one beautiful morning and see an orange Italy. Milano, the defeated political stronghold of Silvio Berlusconi’s twenty years in power, is a sea of orange flags. Orange balloons float into the sky. Women wear orange scarves and lipstick. A recent administrative election in big cities with left-centrists running against right-centrists was a confident victory for Mr. Berlusconi’s opponents. Reporters describe this as an Orange Revolution in Italy. Italians are enjoying the sun-colored flag that has kicked out a grey dull soviet-looking dictatorship. Mr. Berlusconi is similar to Leonid Kuchma and the leftists look like Ukrainian democrats. Orange is the color of freedom, an urge for changes, “a chromatic modality of the sexy.”

Small pictures from Ukraine’s Maidan 2004 hang under bright orange photographs of crowded rallies. This is a genealogy of the “most elegant revolution in history,” the British say.

This is a distant glare of Ukraine where the orange shine of Maidan is being crushed by the gray dull close-to-dictatorship regime.  Its sunny flag has once again been ravaged by the flag of the red plague which is a step away from grinning at Europe with the bars and elbows of its law enforcement authorities.

Still, this moment of crushing hopes and ideals carries a philosophy of its own. This moment perfectly shows that any monopoly government will inevitably fail at some point. Mr. Berlusconi, a new Caesar and the most loyal friend of Mr. Putin in Europe, is leaving the historical arena as a defeated dictator. The recent The Economist had this knowing title on the cover: “The man who screwed an entire country.”

Democracy is an ever evolving system because it inevitably makes people learn from their mistakes, among other things. There are no 100% defeats as there are no 100% triumphs. The British warned the world many years ago that Berlusconi was unable to run the country. Yet, his opponents were no more capable political analysts. Similar to Ukrainian orange politicians, their Italian counterparts were infected with protagonism and antagonism that keep them apart at the most critical times for the country.

Episode two: green. Indeed, green followed orange shortly after. As soon as Italy cheerfully celebrated its orange victory it went through a green defeat. Lega Nord (the Northern League), a rightist Italian political party in Berlusconi’s government, started a public gathering known as Pontida. This separatist political force claims Italy must turn into a federal state, the rich North does not necessarily need to subsidize the poor South, while parasite ministries rooted in Rome have to move to Milano, Italy’s real economic capital. Yesterday the country had an orange Milano, today it is filled with green shirts and ties on the banks of the Po.

How much is this all about political mythology? And what are the shares of truth and illusion in this? What is fake and what is original? What is reasonable and relevant? For instance, excessive centralization apparently damages the regions that prefer to administer their funds on their own, to name one. But is this not an antidote to corruption?  Should the South realize perhaps that it is also responsible for the piles of trash in Naples or the Sicilian mafia? Shouldn’t Milano realize that a large part of that mafia is sitting in its administration? Isn’t it clear that the country will go back to the same haunting problems after another 150 years of independence without dealing with them jointly?

And then, talking about leftists is easy. We have Europe with its “social state” deep in crisis and crowds of immigrants helping right political forces to come back to power. Yesterday, just one Jörg Haider was bringing Europe to a shock. Today nobody is counting Haiders, and many of them are much more radical. The Norway tragedy is a dangerous warning.

The senses of the world today are growing more and more complicated. We need to hurry to interpret them without forgetting the warnings of the past.

Episode three: republican tricolor. As Italy turns 150, national television is encouraging people to reflect on their past. The show is called “Brothers and sisters of Italy” bearing hardly disguised irony. Actress Veronica Pivetti is like black siren. She is a post-modernist attempt to escape from her Risorgimento noble predecessors.  Are we living in the era of post modern or not? We need innovators, we’ve had enough anachronisms, the actress says, mentioning Garibaldi, Mazzini, Cavour. Then she tries to remember other names: trr… be-ba-bo. Hmmmm…

And then, Mazzini, Cavour, Garibaldi, she goes with a sigh.


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