From The Economist:

Italians, unlike the British, French and, increasingly, the Germans, do not see the EU as an arena for the resolution of conflicting national interests. Instead, “Europe”, always referred to as if it were somewhere else, is a supplement to—and maybe, one day, a replacement for—their own government, which is axiomatically bad. The EU is like one of those benign but stern creators that reach out of the clouds in Renaissance masterpieces.

To successive Italian governments, “Europe” has been a convenient excuse for imposing unpopular measures. It is why Italians must sort their rubbish, give up their farmland and let in foreign goods. “Europe” is also the reason why certain things cannot be done—in the bureaucratic slang of Rome, it is the vincolo esterno (external constraint).

Fianna Furbo

1 January, 2010

Charlemagne, the Economist’s European Union blog, was interesting last Wednesday.  Extract below.  It introduced me to the Italian concepts of “furbo” and “fesso”.

I think cynicism is often a corrosive force in Europe, especially in France and the countries of southern Europe that I know reasonably well. And I think there is a link between European cynicism and that sense of enfranchisement I found in America. Put rather harshly, bits of Europe are held back by something like the cynicism of the disenfranchised: the natural suspicion, caution and bleakness of those with no real stake in or power over their societies. Such cynicism sees the world as a zero sum game. In the past, this was pejoratively labelled “peasant cunning”. Giuseppe di Lampedusa wrote about the 19th century Sicilian peasants who, in plain view of their home village on the very next hilltop, would deny any knowledge of its whereabouts if asked for directions by a stranger—just to be on the safe side.

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In last Friday’s Irish Times, Paddy Agnew drew attention to a piece in the Italian news weekly, L’Espresso, by Umberto Eco, the academic, philosopher and novelist who is best known for his medieval “whodunnit”, The Name of the Rose.  Eco, according to Agnew, “sounds a strident alarm about what he perceives as the threat posed to media freedom in Italy by proposed new legislation from the Berlusconi government”

Eco wrote: “The Italian problem is not Silvio Berlusconi. History is full of enterprising figures who had a very low sense of the state Read the rest of this entry »