Friday, July 25, 2008

Che ti dice la patria?

Hard times in “Il Bel Paese.” This morning I read an article in the Corriere della Sera, which said that the Italian government has now declared a national “State of Emergency” because of illegal immigration. The official communiqué from the Council of Ministers explains the decision as an attempt to deal with the “persistent and exceptional inflow of non-EU citizens”, most of whom have been washing up on the shores of southern Italian beaches, some alive but many of them dead.

Illegal immigrants in a boat off the Italian coast

Of course, without knowing anything about Italy or its present government a reader might think, “well, yes, that is a problem.” Every country has a right to its own immigration policy and rules are rules. You can’t just float up on a beach, half dead from the sun and the salt, and perhaps even after having seen your friends and family drown and expect to be welcomed by the local authorities. Bruttissima figura (very bad form) as the Italians would say.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi

Order will be maintained and Silvio Berlusconi, being the savvy politician that he is, knows that in economically difficult times one of the best ways to distract voters and keep them in a state of fear is to persecute those who are different or disadvantaged. It works in the USA, where we’re building a reinforced concrete wall between ourselves and Mexico, and it’ll work in Italy, too. In fact, not only has the government decided to zero in on illegal immigration, they’ve also singled out the Rom or “gypsies” for special attention. Another government law, this one from the 11th of July, decreed that there would be a national census of all the Rom, children included, living in the outskirts of major Italian cities. This decree, according to the Berlusconi government would finally deal with the “gypsy question”, enhancing the security of all of Italy’s citizens.

The fact that at least a quarter of the Rom in Italy are Italian citizens, and have been for generations, and as such have the right to go wherever they please in the country doesn’t seem to bother anyone in the government. The equation, gypsy = thief (or worse) has been not so subtly reinforced in people’s minds and that’s all that matters. A convenient scapegoat has been found, and if the cost of living in Italy is sky high and families are finding it harder and harder to save or even make it to the end of the month, well, then at least they know that there’s someone below them in the social pecking order.

Having lived and worked in Italy for over twenty years, I am sad to see this happening, but it's not totally unexpected. Berlusconi’s pogrom against i diversi (the different) is a part of a worldwide trend, a planetary disease pitting the rich against the poor.

Of course, you could say that this isn’t the first time that the Italians have led the rest of the planet boldly into the future. Back in the 1920’s they were at the forefront of another social trend, but then history never repeats itself, right?


VITTORIO said...

Il racconto (bellissimo) citato nel titolo del tuo post esprime un'atmosfera tetra ed è uno dei più drammatici che io ricordi, ambientato anche a Sampierdarena, dove ho vissuto, e capisco perché lo hai utilizzato. Vittorio.

John Hemingway said...

È strano come le cose non sembrano cambiare mai? In Italia ma anche altrove.