Thursday, 22 December 2011

The Full Monti

From this frozen mountain
The ancient wood burner, vats of hot lentil broth and radio 4 pod casts down-loaded in clusters at Punto Com the local internet hub (home connection at yokel speeds) provide sustenance during the long winter evenings. Europop Italian radio doesn't cut it and my unsophisticated Italian can't cope with serious discussions so for a bit of depth and analysis it's radio 4 all the way.
I recently caught a pod cast entitled The Young Italians about what motivated hundreds of Italians under 30 to leave home and move to London each year. Graduates of all disciplines told the same stories of being 'locked out' of jobs, careers and even self-employment by arcane closed-shop rules, exorbitant licence fees or just by simply not having the right connections. Access to higher degrees, research and thus into teaching were guarded by a sort of academic Godfather. The figure of the 'Barone' exists in all Italian universities. He's (it's nearly always a man) usually a late middle-aged professor long since bored by his subject, and he's the guy you've got to suck up to if you want to get on. Talented? Who cares? It's not what you know, but who you know that counts.

We're used to seeing such shenanigans in the upper echelons of government and business in the UK and Italy. The bizarre antics of Signor. Berlusconi and cronies have been plastered all over the news for the best part of a decade. In the UK revelations of the revolving door for ex-government ministers and senior civil servants between the ministries and private business, are found first in the pages of Private Eye, filtering down to the broadsheets only when they've been scrutinised to make sure that none of the dirt is going to rub off. But these are examples from the stratosphere. At least some semblance of equal opportunities culture exists in the UK. Italy you are pissing away your talent – sveglia e sente il caffè!
Berlusconi has gone off to hawk his new CD - oh the hubris! - and the unelected Mario Monti has taken over. The British press have characterised him as an administrator, an EU stooge to do Frau Merkel's bidding. The sharp contrast with Berlusconi's inebriated style is partly to blame. Like mild Major to malevolent Margaret he's sober, greyer and altogether blander. But like Major, who drew Britain back from Thatcherite excesses like the Poll Tax, it looks like Monti wants to remove the excesses that stifle creativity - the culture of patronage, clientelism, nepotism and the dense strata of esoteric rules that create inertia and have no place in a modern economy. He seems to know what some of the problems are at least! I only hope that he wants the focus of government to be ordinary Italians and not just something that oils the wheels of the corporate juggernauts, which is the way it's been in the UK for the past three decades. It will be a monumental struggle against vested interests and a culture which says, 'What sort of person is it who wouldn't help their son/daughter/niece/nephew?' Tell that to those whose daughters and sons are in London.

November blog
The Landscape in winter
The November post on Bob Dylan in Firenze produced the highest number of hits on the blog ever – almost a thousand on the first day alone and another five thousand unique visitors have followed since then. Thanks everyone for your emails and comments; I'm very grateful anyone's reading it at all! I don't know if the fault was in my transmitter, or your receivers but I want to reassure the fifty percent who thought that anything less than fulsome praise was dissing the diety I really enjoyed that gig. I couldn't find any clips from the Firenze concert to demonstrate what I mean, but a clip from Rome the following night demonstrates what I liked about it.
Forgetful Heart, Roma; 12.11.11

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