Erroneous synecdoche

By Matteo Incisa • 2 Jun 2009 • Nessun commento

European Leader looking for the solution to the financial crisis by de_coder (from Flickr)How much do you like to be harassed by superficial conversations, based on stereotypes or – probably worse – journalistic trumpetings?
How many times have you been genuinely surprised that even your friends – even those close friends – not only could associate to clichés, hearsays and idiotic speculations but also tried to sell them to you as perfectly logical arguments, based on the evidence that this person or that journal ‘said that’?
How often have you tried to smooth those sins against logic, proposing different and ‘normalizing’ perspectives? And how often have you been accused of spatial-arrogance, because you can’t know more than this person or that journal?

Let’s go to the point. I already had occasion to express my personal distance from Mr. Berlusconi. I had also expressed, though, my ‘necessary vicinity’ to figure of the Prime Minister of Italy. The scission between the two things is as crucial as basic, for anyone interested in filling his own mouth with big words such as ‘democracy’ (in western sauce).
That is why I can certainly understand any critic over the person (indeed, sometimes clownish), yet I become way more rigid when the critic-virus extends to the Institution he represents, the Government of Italy in general and, by further syncopated extension, to ‘the Italians’. Because, in the end, ‘they are like him’ or, invariably, ‘they elected him’.
The former account is not true; the latter, a failed syllogism.

As Italian, at some point I got a little sick of this constant light (when not heavy indeed) international press reprimanding from our glorious international neighbors. Sickness becomes real annoyance, then, when even supposedly professional figures seem to base their analyses on extemporaneous mixes of third-hand hearsays and prejudices more than on coherent set of information and some proper research on the subject.
Instead of receiving some journalism I’m often left with the impression I’m reading a smattering of CIA’s world factbook seasoned with some villain’s protesting for anything – as if it is hard to find villains protesting for something convenient to any thesis (or simply eager to hit the news).

Ever more often, reading international news on Italy (or having dinner with friends from abroad), looks like a trial, as an Italian, because of what my PM does or says – or, worse, for how he does or says anything.
Here is, then, the erroneous synecdoche: since my PM is a debatable person then, by extension, so are Italy and the Italians, in a vicious circle that sees the person phenomenally contaminating the whole country, people and institutions.
Way worse, if you do not associate to the reprimanding chorus then you’re automatically disqualified, classified as a ‘Belusconian’, your word losing weight because tolerating the ‘elsewhere’ intolerable.
It is that ‘elsewhere intolerable’, though, that does not convince me, at all.
The vicious circle, in fact, might be also somewhere else.
I believe such an unpleasant confusion of terms and concepts derived by ignorance, and creating more. A soft-crime, the most evident sign of the loss of the conceptual divide between information and (superficial) opinion, perpetrated by nowadays media for the sake of filling columns or air-time.

The latest international remarks on Italy - and their effect on the international crowds - appear to go exactly in this direction.
Probably, the time for an answer has come.
The Italian Government ridiculous? Fine.
Before attacking a PM of any country, though, you might want to drop a glimpse at that one of your own – and those who came some time before.
Let’s not talk about politics, democracy, western values or other big paraphernalia. Let’s just remain on more cosmetic and immediate considerations.
Thus, instead of providing for justifications (which, anyway, I wouldn’t have many) to counter the alleged deficiencies of the Italian PM, his unfitness to drive the country, or reply to the idiotic consideration that he might set a dangerous precedent for any other government in Europe, let’s have a look to a few neighboring excellent Heads.
In the try to remind, to everyone, that after all we’re all on the same boat.
And to offer a different perspective, for once.

How not to start with the almighty France. Their hyper-president, half-Hungarian and half Greek (not that this would imply anything, were we not to be talking about France), at the age of 54 has three marriages on his shoulders - the ‘making of’ of the last of which (with an Italian singer) has been one of the two main subjects of his electoral campaign. So much for talking about being scared of foreigners. His agenda of ‘rupture’ – the other main subject – two years after the hyper-government started, lays probably somewhere off in a forgotten drawer, stopped by cab-drivers in riots, Parisian suburbs in riot (and fire), students in riot, professors in riots, public employees in riot, and I don’t continue because I got a word-limit here. The Mr. Attali ‘Commission for the French Growth’, prompted as the battering ram of the new French economical revolution, is listened less than the Cuma’s Sybil, any of its proposals now looked with more apprehension than expectation by both the French people and its Government.
To wrap up: he’s not ‘French’, he’s far from being a family-model, he’s certainly not a model for discretion and understatement (CBS interview-case docet), he’s not really pushing the French growth at the supersonic level he promised.
Anyway, no one thinks France today might ‘weight less’ or its institutions less valuable because of Mr. Sarkozy. Nor anyone would associate Sarkò’s pathetic Napoleonic stance (political, stance) and debatable public behaviors to the French people.
The rive gauche may still snobbishly refer to him as the ‘Hungarian-dwarf’, yet you’re left wondering how much the majority of the French may have detested the idea to have a woman at the Élysée to prefer this in lieu of her. So much for talking about a modern country, the ‘driving civilization of Europe’. Going with this reasoning, the only way to imagine Mrs. Royal winning the past election is for her to have had a gay opponent.
In fact, today Sarkò may appear losing some consensus, yet the Parisians (hence, the French) are over-bending for his conservative party, whose advantage over the socialists is calculated in more than 10 points.

Let’s move to a more ironic case, Spain. This baby has been breast-fed for two decades with floods of cash by the three main contributors of the Union (i.e., Germany, France and Italy). As a thank you note, its current Prime Minister, a little boyishly, declared some day last year that Spain had overreached Italy on per-capita GDP, with France being next target. Some days after, he had to admit the loss of over 70.000 jobs in a week. Today, the unemployment rate of this country has soared back to 18% - a figure which, in Europe, is comparable only to post-bombing Serbia. Perhaps time has come, for Mr. Zapatero, to focus a little less on childish ‘who has it harder’ among European colleagues, stop trying to propose its social legislation as a model for the entire Union – being that de facto annulled by the mayors of two-thirds of the Country, conveniently Catholic and dreadfully corrupted – and start realizing that, given the new alleged wealth, no more money is coming from Europe to let him keep living the dream of a richer Spain.
In any case, no one thinks that having a preposterous Prime Minister apparently overwhelmed by complexes and whose economical failure is the most consistent and endangering of the continent has diminished the credibility of the Spanish institutions. Nor anyone would associate Mr. Zapatero to a typical Spaniard.

Next: the United Kingdom. The situation here is actually so bleak one is tempted not to stitch the knife on its Government. Yet, it may be worth recalling that Mr. Brown’s consensus is already the ‘longest lowest’ of the whole Western hemisphere since tracking of consensus started, ranking worldwide just next to Mr. Olmert and Mr. Koizumi. He governs since June 2007 without actually having been elected and he postponed the next poll up to June 2010, in order to ‘show his vision for change’. No matter how the British elections mechanism works, from this standpoint it looks debatable enough – and the real reasons behind the poll’s delay, debatable even more. However, no one would ever think Mr. Brown as an unelected dictator, his try to postpone the elections year after year as an attempt to the British democracy.

Of course, one could spend also a couple of words on Bulgary, republican-ly governed by the pretender to its throne; Greece, whose politicians have lied for almost a decade on the economical figures of the country in order to accede to the Euro-zone; Austria, whose disastrous results of year 2000 elections were to bring a neo-Nazi to Vienna’s Chancellory (if it wasn’t for an unusually bald ostracism of the European partners); or the Czech’s President, the current diplomatic disgrace at the rudder of the European Presidency.

However unfit they might appear, these leaders are not automatically considered to represent projections of all their citizens, or an ideal image of them. They simply represent their countries, and their populations, as a natural consequence of the democratic system in which they live and that allowed their election. Everyone feels free to criticize them, right because the critic goes to the person, not to the institution they represent.
No one would ever think to accuse, because of the behavior of their political leaders, the Greeks to be all liars, the Austrians neo-Nazis, the Spanish full of complexes or the French retrogrades to the unimaginable.

Unfortunately, for Italy, the attitude of the international press shows remarkably stricter (and syncopated) standards, the gestures of Mr. Berlusconi not only – and rightfully – severely stigmatized, but – very wrongly – considered as ‘typically Italian’, improperly creating an association which at best is only very partially true.

Shall I say that sometimes is best to have a look at the mirror first?

Matteo Incisa

Matteo Incisa is an odd creature believing simplest things the most dangerous, simplistic solutions the less effective and simple people incredibly tedious. More than a decade spent desolately between Florence and Genoa was preceded by a sparkling short infancy in Paris, breached by a year in dreamy-LA and buried by the civilized-Milanese-age. A couple of degrees later here he goes back to hell, stuck in Geneva, preposterous Alpine village with more version of its name than the inhabitants it gets. Worked for the European Commission, and astonished by how an apple cannot be apple if its diameter measures more than 14.5 centimeters. When personal assistant of an LA studios manager met a couple of guys everyone-want-to-meet, and thought make up can do miracles. When co-hosting a talk show on some TV got the prove make up can do miracles – but your ignorance can do more. Practicing as a lawyer let him loose his sense of justice. At least, of that you can find in court. Writing is a passion. If on international politics, a deep passion. Travelling is a basic need. Los Angeles, Paris, Belgrade, Toronto, Valencia, Edinburgh are places where he left a piece of heart - and keeps coming back.
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