Thursday, November 10, 2005

Moaning and groaning

The Joy of Knitting observes:
Italians don’t have a high opinion of themselves. Whenever national characteristics are discussed by a group of people, doom and gloom prevail. It is a ritual, and like every ritual it has its rules which must be followed punctiliously. "We are awful," intones one. "We are worse than awful," goes on another upping the ante, and everyone in turn participates in this ritual of self-abasement adding some more of our faults to the horror list, while those who listen on sadly shake their heads, murmuring "Poor Italy" and "What are we coming to". Once I dared point out that we aren't that bad and was instantly swept off my feet by a volley of self-abuse. You mustn't think that Italians berate themselves in public while inwardly basking in the sense of their own superiority. It isn't so. Italians say they're bad and think they're worse than bad, and in their heart of hearts they fear they're the worst of the worst.
This is mostly true, though it may be overdone a bit. I have the feeling that many Italians moan and groan because there is a lot to moan and groan about - and that, if anything, though there may be too much moaning and groaning, not enough interest is taken into actually solving the problems. In fact, the Italy-bashing which is brought to absurd lengths without any sense of irony, seems to be counterproductive. At the height of the Fazio scandal it emerged that during a telephone call Giampiero Fiorani, who at the time was shamelessly committing colossal financial irregularities, had the chutzpah to say that "a country cannot go on functioning like this," without considering that he was one of the people creating problems for Italy.
Nonetheless, I feel the moaning is often justified. For instance an Italian commenter notes below:
There are no real journalists in Italy.
Politicians of any color, and Corporations, replaced them all with prostitutes a long time ago (way back before Berlusconi or Prodi).
When it comes to give some real service to the public, and inform, and nobody is ordering them to go in one direction or another, the prostitutes are kind of left on their own. It shold be funny (so to speak) to see from the inside what happens when no political line is given to an editorial staff.
And though it sounds implausibly awful, I really believe it is mostly true (as I have noted before, both my parents are journalists, so I have first-hand experience). And I should make it clear that this is not at all a political observation: this problem pervades media across the political spectrum; it's just how things are usually done in Italy. And so we moan and groan.

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