Just to draw attention to a new addition to the blogroll. This is Beppe Grillo’s blog, which I’ve been reading regularly for a couple of weeks now. You can read it in English, Italian or Japanese. Grillo is an Italian comedian who has turned his attention to political reform. He is scathingly critical of the current regime there, to the point that no public Italian TV network wants him on air for fear of attracting the furore of politicians, many of whom have a big hand in the media, not least Berlusconi himself. In spite of this, he is still one of the most famous personalities in Italy, broadcasting over the internet (not easy in Italy, where internet access it quite strictly controlled), and when he did make a rare TV appearance in the 90′s the show got huge viewing numbers.
Here’s an introductory video from the New York Times. I don’t know how to embed it else I would but it’s worth watching, please do come back . I think ‘Va Fan Culo’ (or however you spell it) is now one of my favourite expletives. It translates quite well into the fine Scottish term, “get to fuck”.
Each post will typically have a video which obviously is in Italian, I can understand more or less because I live with an Italian and I’m used to hearing it and translating into Spanish, but there’s a nifty little tool which I’ve grown to love. If you go the the bottom right of the video and turn on captions, then subtitles come up. You can then translate these subtitles into English which I believe uses Google translate (don’t knock it, it used to be crap but it’s got much better in the last few years, although it’s still not perfect). So you can enjoy too. Here’s an example so you can see just how brilliant a public speaker Grillo is, it’s a 25 minute video outlining what the movement wants to do. You don’t have to watch it all, the part about information is the best, that starts at about 16:10.
Anyway there are two things making headlines in Italian politics at the minute. First of all is the so-called ‘Lodo Alfano’ which is a law granting immunity from prosecution to the holders of the four highest offices in Italian politics. Basically it was a means of making Berlusconi not have to face prosecution for his crimes. It works quite well in conjunction with another law which shortened the time limit of prosecutions for some offenses, mainly the ones he and his cronies have been accused of. So if he can avoid prosecutions whilst in office, and he’s been in office for more than 10 years, and a law put through by him means that after 10 years he can’t be prosecuted, well then he’s just getting off scot-free. A select Orwellian quote I read somewhere by one of his supporters was that the Prime Minister should not be seen as a ‘first among equals’ but rather ‘first above equals’. Fortunately this Lodo Alfano got struck down this week by the constitutional court, because it conflicts with an article of the Constitution which says all citizens are equal before the law, and a constitutional amendment would need to be passed to pass the law. Lots of my Italian friends are celebrating this, it seems to me that good news is few and far between in Italian politics.
The other thing is the Fiscal Shield. This is a move designed to allow 300 billion euros to move back into Italy from offshore banks and investments with just a 5% tax, which the additional guarantee of anonymity. I can’t stress how corrupt this is. Basically any money from dodgy dealings, money laundering, mafia money, tax-dodgers etc will be able to reenter the country to create a legitimate-appearing front for any other illegal activities. Brilliant. This one’s still going ahead, and the deputies of the opposition parties were noticably absent from the vote in Parliament. 24 outspoken opponents were absent, and 20 would have been enough to overturn the law, which the government had also turned into a vote of confidence, so it was a monumentally important vote.
Anyway although Grillo and his V Day movement is massive in Italy, I don’t think many people know about it outside of there. I myself had never even heard about it until my Italian flatmate mentioned it. So if you’re interested in this kind of thing, spread the word. There are hordes of like-minded people throughout the rest of the world who can do a lot of damage to the Italian government’s already terrible public image, if only they had a bit of information. It’s in the interest of democracy and liberty, something that humanists should definitely be concerned about.