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Contradictions in Italy

The newspapers in Italy contain some strange contradictions at the moment.

But then, as you will discover, Italy is no real stranger to contradictions, or to contradictory behaviour.

Contradiction Number 1 – Worries about Crime

In the right corner, we have Italy’s defence minister stepping up the presence of the soldiers on the streets of MilanMore soldiers are soon to be patrolling more areas of the city.  Probably just as well, as the news seems to be announcing fresh cases of rape just about daily.  It’s not clear whether the squaddies will be able to stem the flow though.

Over in the left corner, the local newspapers contained a story about Milan’s police who are so strapped for cash that, amongst other things, they cannot even afford toner for their fax machines!  Yes, I know fax machines are a little old hat, but here in the Living Museum, fax machines are still widely employed, often in preference to email.

It has, however, recently been announced that the ranks of Italy’s police force (the polizia – not the other one) are to be swollen.  In the meantime, let’s hope they manage to find the funds to provide the official police fax machines with toner.

Contradiction Number 2 – The Economic Crisis

On one hand, we have Italy’s finance minister telling Italians that 2009 is going to be a belt-tightening year for the country.  Stories of the Italian equivalent of lay-offs abound, and the opposition party are calling for the distribution of monthly benefit checks to those unlucky enough to have found themselves without work.

Then, on the other hand in the newspapers, but only if you read carefully, you will discover that in order for Italy’s politicians to cope with higher living expenses – they take home around 15,000 Euros a month on average – the honourable ladies and gentlemen quietly voted through nice little pay rises for themselves.  Tough at the top, it is.  Although one Italian politician has recently called for MPs in the Living Museum to donate 25% of their salaries to a sort of crisis fund to help those who do not earn as much as Italy’s movers and shakers.  For some reason, not many of Italy’s political men and women are too keen on this.  Running those Ferraris, yachts, and third homes is devilishly expensive, you know.

Incidentally, Italy has one of the most expensive governments in Europe, which quite probably and one is willing to bet, does not rank that highly in terms of efficiency and value for money.  Perhaps one Mr Brunetta, who is having a go at sorting out Italy’s notoriously inefficient public sector, could also turn his hand towards the productivity of the country’s politicians.  Just an idea.

A slight sub-contradiction on this very same issue is that recent news reports stated that Italians are not really cutting spending, aside from putting off buying new cars and not booking as many holidays.

Contradiction Number 3 – Nuclear Power

Berlusconi’s government have recently signed an agreement with France for nuclear power generating plant know-how*.  This implies that the French know how, but the Italians do not!  Sorry.

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The nuclear contradictions start with the 1987 referendum in which Italians rejected nuclear power generation in Italy.  Belusconi’s mob seems to have ignored this vote, and launched Italy on the path towards nuclear generation once more.  Hence the agreement with nuclear friendly French president Sarkozy.

However, compounding the contradictions, while Belusconi’s supporters have welcomed his nuclear power program, not many, if any, Italian regions actually want a nuclear power plant to be stuck in their necks of the Italian woods.  Good old NIMBY syndrome at work!

So, on the one side we have ‘Nuclear, yes please!’, whereas the very same side then goes: ‘But not in my back yard’.  Apparently not one Italian region has said yes to nuclear power, and offered somewhere to put one of these plants.  Contradictory or what?!

Despite the contradictions, Berlusconi is now committed to the resurrection of nuclear energy generation, so there will be some pretty interesting behind the scenes negotiations going on in order to convince someone somewhere to put up with one of these plants.  Arms will be twisted, cash will probably change hands too, and a few well aimed threats will be probably be made too.

If anyone out there has any suggestions where Berlusconi can shove his French-built nuclear power plants, I am all ears – polite suggestions only please!

Meanwhile, another alleged rubbish mismanagement scandal is brewing in Italy – down near Rome in a place called Colleferro, so heavens knows what will happen if Italy starts dealing with dangerous, highly toxic, nuclear waste – it’s still got quite a bit left over from dabbling with nuclear power in the past.  Still, look on the bright side, soon Italy won’t need street lights!

Traditionally Contradictory Ruling Classes

Italy has always had something of a strained relationship with its traditionally contradictory ruling classes.

Back in the late sixties and the seventies, the country was almost on the brink of a revolution.  Actually, Italy was the only large country in Europe, according to Wikipedia ‘Anni di Piombo’ (in Italian), to have had such a serious problem with internal terrorism rooted in discontent with the country’s political classes, and ‘interests’.

Even I was well aware of the infamous Red Brigades before I stood on Italian soil.  Still, Germany had more than a few problems with what was commonly referred to as the Baader-Meinhof Gang, so Italy was not really the only country with this type of problem.  And before anyone shouts, the IRA and Basque terrorists were not against the political systems of the countries in which they went about sowing death and destruction.  No, the IRA and the Basques were  (are?) separatist terrorist groups which ‘fought’ for the independence of their slots on this planet.

OK, history lesson over.  Back to now.

With regard to some of the contractions already mentioned, sayings such as ‘the left (or right) hand does not know what the right (or left) hand is doing’, and ‘I’m all right jack’ spring to mind.’  Time though, continues its inexorable march.

*Italy: Berlusconi and Sarkozy sign nuclear accord

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