Italian Politics Again

Apart from the climate wars, the only other subject I know of whose fate is so profoundly entwined with the internet is Italian politics.

The future direction of the world’s climate and energy policy depends largely on how long it takes for Andrew Montford, Anthony Watts, Steve McIntyre, Donna Laframboise, Jo Nova and others to be accepted as legitimate interlocutors by the political and media establishment. It might be weeks, it might be decades.

No such question mark hangs over Italian politics. In last year’s election, Beppe Grillo’s Five Star movement came third, just a few points behind the Democratic Party (ex-socialists) and Silvio Berlusconi’s People for Liberty party, returning 165 members to the two houses of parliament. But the Five Star Movement isn’t a party, but simply a protest movement organised around the comedian Beppe Grillo (“Joe Grasshopper”) his eminence grise, internet wizz kid Gianroberto Casaleggio – and a blog.

Yesterday Beppe Grillo started to behave like a proper party leader when he organised an online referendum to decide whether to expel four senators from his party for daring to criticise their beloved leader for his behaviour in a face to face meeting with the new prime minister Matteo Renzi. He won the vote, and the four dissidents will no doubt have their names and photos wiped from the Five Star blog with an efficiency that Stalin would have envied. (What a lot of bloodshed could have been avoided if the Bolsheviks had only had Photoshop!)

Grillo has style, and a great stock of funny oneliners. (Think Mussolini played by Billy Connolly). But the new prime minister Matteo Renzi has style too. Three months ago he was just mayor of Florence. Then he got himself elected secretary of the Democratic Party in a popular vote. Then he made a pact with Silvio Berlusconi to replace the existing electoral system which has been declared unconstitutional by the constitutional court, and abolish the senate. Then he instituted a motion of no confidence in the current government, led by a member of his own party. Then he was asked to form a new government by the 85 year old President, ex-communist, ex-partisan Giorgio Napolitano. (Napolitano and Her Majesty Elizabeth II are probably the last two heads of state to have served in the second world war). The day before yesterday Renzi ad libbed, his hands in his pockets, before the Senate for 69 minutes, explaining why the senators should vote for their own disappearance, which they did. Yesterday he repeated the performance before the lower chamber. Renzi has class. Grillo burbled before him on stream before the whole of Italy like Falstaff before Henry V. Then he took his vengeance on those of his followers who dared to point out what an arsehole he’d made of himself.

This is politics, as understood by Plutarch, as interpreted by Shakespeare. You won’t get a hint of it in the British media, who’d rather cut their throats than let you hear Renzi and Grillo fighting it out. (What would it cost them to subtitle a few minutes of real political debate? Their jobs – that’s what).

This is politics as drama, as a life or death struggle between real human beings staking their futures on the outcome. If Italy has think tanks and media consultants and spin doctors they are not in evidence. Renzi and Grillo and Berlusconi are flesh and blood characters. They will fight to the death and the Italian people will deliver the thumbs up or down. Maybe the majority are too busy worrying about their everyday problems to follow the finer points of the struggle, like the majority of people everywhere. But struggle there is.

How very different from the life of our own dear democracy.

I’m off to Florence tomorrow to get an eyeful of trecento frescoes. Keep up the good work everyone.

About Geoff Chambers

Retired illustrator (children's magazines, religious education textbooks, an Encyclopaedia of Christianity, gay contact and female fitness magazines, pornographic strip cartoons etc.) Retired lecturer in English and History of Art in a French University; ardent blogger on climate hysteria, banned five times from the Guardian and twice from the Conversation. Now blogging at
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12 Responses to Italian Politics Again

  1. What a great posting! Enjoyed it enormously. Thanks Geoff.

  2. Lewis Deane says:

    Geoff, my friend, I’m sorry I didn’t seem to be attending but I was. I have, perhaps, to much to think about and you, perhaps, posed more problems than I could answer (without a months or three thinking!). For my sins, I haven’t read the above post but I will. Here’s a poem:

    I’m going to walk into the sea and see a forest there:
    Anemone and pinching crabs and starfish and dolphins
    And killer whales, big fish that will eat me in one gulp
    And I shall walk down the spine of the Atlantic, past
    The cape of Good Hope and into those Islands
    Of proverbial Paradise, which we have destroyed,
    Man being the ‘criminal’. I shall ride on the turtles back,
    I shall command him, man that I am,
    To take me somewhere else.

    Geoff, I think you’re great – you’re a thinker!

  3. Lewis Deane says:

    I live in a sea that boils and burns – having escaped from Heaven (in fact, I was expelled) and my feet broken by that ancient Fall, I must smile this disingenuous Smile that exists only because I imagine it. How dirty can one be, how evil? The monster in my eyes does not know. I control him. I am ‘in charge’.

  4. Lewis Deane says:

    “An angel!”  My hair dresser .

    It’s merely individual, the four wings cramped,
    A slight burn of candlelight
    And we say “He’s O.k.” Arid so he is,
    Broken not by any peculiar expulsion,
    Cracked, rather, by a room.
    And endless, endless those scribbled
    Petitions back to God. You say
    “Land on your feet!” which, of course,
    Were broken before, even, the saints
    Began their song. Because this age
    Is so new, so endlessly new
    And he, ancient, has forgotten, again,
    How to say ‘Yes! – to God.

    So, ‘across the water’ , he will drown,
    And, yet, , ‘the attempt is worthy’,
    Or, merely, vanity.
                               How endless the call!
    And below him and above him the stair
    That could never fail to climb, to descend


    For, see, the precipitate stone: up,
    Just the barred impossible: a roof,
    Those walls, the handle of a door,
    Window that cannot open: grubby, entirely?
    His closed wings, vicious in a room.
    Yes, this is useless. “There is no god.”

  5. Enjoy Florence. I’d always thought the trecento was more associated with Sienna than Florence (which was more quatro). And Sienna is a nicer place anyway. But I digress.

    Digressing further, but relating to Italy and your early post about climatosceptisme francaise, I came across the blog
    (sceptico italiano?)
    with articles by Guido Guidi, who sounds like one of those renaissance artists.

  6. Lewis Deane says:

    Geoff, I seem to spam everyone – sorry! Perhaps I have a ‘message to hand over’, a certain urgency (a good psychologist would say ‘intimations of mortality’!?), perhaps I should read first the OpEd? I’ll try, in future, to behave better.
    Italy is interesting (not merely because ‘Italy is interesting’!) because, perhaps, for old historical and cultural reasons, it has always been known to be, how shall I put it, biddable. It’s interesting how, along with Germany (because they have moth balled any native energy source!), Italy is the most reluctant to ‘sanction’ Russia and want a new ‘Munich Agreement’ with that KGB thug, who shall remain nameless and infamous. Italy, along with Greece (which historically speaking, and this is purely an objective fact, is peopled with Ottoman slaves speaking a barbarous bar bar of so called ‘Greek’, demotic as it is!), is the source and the energy, still, of our Western civilization ( France, as always, it’s semi-barbarian Ersatz! And forget England! I mean pluuurease, as Steve MacIntyre would say), which time seems to have forgot.

  7. Lewis Deane says:

    Odd Numbers.

    Odd numbers on a scrap of paper
    Found in my library Blake, seeming so familiar:
    Did whoever wrote that read this or underline
    And spoil, gather like a hoarder scattered words
    That confirmed his or her own boredom,
    Were these accessed digits loves, vague catches
    Of possible friends, the desperate last
    Samaritan to a falling despair
    Or the casual overflow of the overly social:
    What did Blake say except how we are born
    Bludgeoned by our imaginings, sweating
    An infernal magic, ignored and burdened
    With needed, wrong acquaintance: dictums
    Of law and friendship, a private room,
    The fantastic visions of candlelight,
    Silence of before the telephone?

    Is he or she a friend, this Blake ‘scholar’,
    This desecrator, this egotist,
    This humanity? Probably not.

  8. Lewis Deane says:

    The soul is an ‘honest broker’, a forethought of what could be. Captured by time, trapped by the future, a mere possibility. The ‘soul’ exists but only in potentia. Our tomorrows drag us forward.

  9. Lewis Deane says:

    Martina, my wife.

    Martina is a smile, a gait, a way of walking.
    To touch those hips, like Joshua touching the Angel.
    We rise and fall from Heaven, climbing the ladder
    And being ‘refused entrance’. So I sit here
    And remember every electric touch that seemed to
    Wake my soul. I am awake and I have your photograph
    In front of me. It does not speak, it will not utter
    A word. How is it I love only you? What is this
    Urging of the body that urges towards you?
    Like a virgin whose only love broke this soul
    I am like the sun when your name is mentioned.
    In common bars, in old taverns, the shout ‘Martina’
    Destroys my mind. An old leaky roof and my eye
    On where to put the bucket next and catch the rain
    I am rancorous and discontented. Love is a poison
    You swallow once and you are for ever dead.

  10. Lewis Deane says:

    Sweet It Is To Die

    Sweet it is to die without cause or reason,
    Having no undone for a conspicuous tail:
    No defeat in memory, no love in mourning –
    Sweet and also just: For these heavy deaths
    And unaccomplished frauds, the farcical offbeat
    Of the drum, the untuned pipes, the illusory,
    Marauding gang of hearse musicians, these are
    Only the pompous accidents the Master Actor finds
    Useful in his conjuration’s ‘for the unruly crowd.
    Let Death come when he has talked with friends
    Who wait to bewail us first: It is charity
    To deprive us of those who will be deprived the most.
    Or better one turns ones head, modest in silence,
    Patient of the scythes decapitations.

    I served Proserpina with a distant awe
    Nor did I batter the tympanum of Dis
    With deprecations: I expect the shade
    Of fruit and wine, insubstantial but better taste,
    On that table where I have reserved my place.

  11. Lewis Deane says:

    The Flag.


    Conceived, born and here, a place near the sea,
    A path, bright but indistinct, where I walk,
    Add a gesture, a sign to part and dissolve dawn’s early air.

    You I met and have forgot,
    Will remember, we shook briskly
    Our forged request and let the here
    Become the past without regret.

    Then the eyes were precise and as ever
    Misdirected, seeing beyond the hand
    And the arm and the body two ghosts
    Divert the dawn who both expected someone else.


    Left the added butts sogged in water
    A common signature termed B movie
    As the superfice of what’s been,
    Illusion of memory.
    At the bottom of the card the faded ink,
    A nation’s stamp that’s released
    From the pressure of representation
    Behind us and gone. What the faded air
    Illumed as flag is the flare a dawn
    Now scatters as ash. Our hands are glass
    Darker and darker in the dark, gesture of distance
    Twisting its banner of intercession
    An apparently losing hope.
    Or, if a day has burned itself a universe,
    It has burned a tapestry of spread
    Perception. ‘We’ lies forlorn, a mark
    On the cotton like a stain of blood
    Fingers scratch there. Notes that puncture
    Their own hours as a mesh of  stitched time
    And leave frozen the particular. I walk
    And you walk a tango in the sordid street,
    One more blown wrapper found parting on the horn.


    As a quest for something more exotic
    It leans abandoned in the air, a patch
    Of wall fluttered Rome’s Scottish border.
    A Caesar will arise, reel some restless
    Discontent to a march on an old idea.
    Thus, broken upon flutings, faded
    In a different age, it has assumed
    Resurrection, hooked the grave with the bait
    That’s a sword’s sanguine hope, the drums, pipes
    And shouts blunted a dissonant song
    Collected chance redemption.
    If, when the marching’s stopped, the city
    Returned to board, pub and bedroom,
    The back wave that is history
    Knocks us out again, all we can mark
    Are the lists of the dead, the captured,
    The hoards, the rapes, the consequent
    Retelling of adventure…
    Cancel but revivify the ailing culture
    And make true the absent as the present.
    So, this thread rolled around as sky outlasts
    The individual, does not touch the individual
    Except as the burn of that alien one
    Togetherness may pretend we enjoy.
    To begin or find the origin
    Which is nowhere, cannot be contained,
    Is known only in and is known only as
    Appearance: radial of no foci,
    Hub of no turning, start of all
    That’s not creation. Wave or somewhere the flag,
    A signal that was individual.


    We remedy history, its stretch of
    The warp and the woof, its tear of the glimmer
    By our rebellion against the lie
    Of an impersonal intent, circumference
    Of a revolving god, by a habit
    Of seeing ourselves as limbed
    In the tree, the bird, the dog, his howl
    At the sky, a process that contains both
    The general and the particular,
    A word passed in the roll of cloth, appearing
    Ramified essence, not common nor
    A whisper termed misunderstanding.

    ‘Utopian’ – but history turns the conversation
    Back from the dead, out of the present,
    Into the present as a holla
    That peaks the rumble of burnt forest
    And factory, demos jumble thrown
    A break in the ‘fix’ of an arm, rubble
    Stimulus defined, mathematically,
    ‘Dead matter’. Azure not gravity spins
    The words as tapestry, pageant, perhaps
    ‘Triumph of Life’, benign as golden faces
    And as frightening. These ones return
    Silent, the offered gesture a graceful start
    To that being more than enervated.

  12. Paul Matthews
    Florence is bigger on frescoes, though Sienna’s Town Hall has Lorenzetti’s monster Good and Bad Government fresco which I didn’t get to see in a three hour guided tour of Sienna, alas. The tour guide was very insistent on how rich Sienna’s banks were, which seemed slightly odd, given that the world’s oldest bank, the Siennese Monte dei Paschi, is in the process of going bust, with the usual suspicions of corruption. And Sienna’s museums, unlike Florence’s, aren’t free for the over 65s, and it costs 50p to pee. Project those attitudes back to the middle ages when Sienna was a necessary stopping point for pilgrims to Rome, and you begin to get an idea of how they financed all those goldleafed Simon Martini virgins.
    I’ve nothing against Siennese art, but it rather peters out with Beccafumi and Sodoma, while Florentine art continued via Leonardo Michelangelo and Raphael into the modern world. Sienna is an artistic backwater, like Benin bronzes, or English book illustration, my own particular thing.
    Note that I’m happy using teleological arguments in art, but not in climate science. Giotto is alive and well and living in what remains of Western figurative art. But I’m blowed if I can see how global warming in the nineties can result in flooding in Somerset 17 years later.

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