Whenever I spend a period of time somewhere, something significant in the political world usually happens; the last time, I was in Bangkok for the the 2011 elections- battling my way through series of protests and demonstrations, watching Thai people desperate for Yingluck Shinawatra to get into power…look how that has turned out …
I thought I would focus my attention on the latest turn of events here in Italy, a monumental weekend which will go down in history; the appointment of Matteo Renzi as the youngest ever Prime Minister.
Sworn- in in a lavish ceremony in the Eternal City, life has changed forever for family man Renzi. I can’t help but feel that this is a highly progressive step forward for a nation who still allows the papacy and catholic church to occupy much of their front pages. Ashamedly, I have no idea of any of Renzi’s policies, a scary fact which I think is true of many Italians.
Mass hysteria and morbid curiosity has followed this man for weeks and despite the skepticism around his lack of parliamentary experience, his youth seems to be his salvation. The hopes of many Italians desperate for change rest on the shoulders of someone with a unique perspective; it is entirely new.
As a Brit, I must say, I think this is a very bold move for Italy. Living in Bari has given me first hand experience of just how divided Italy is. One one hand, I have seen how conservatism and traditionalism rules in parts of the south- people are fiercely against immigration, homosexuality seems to still be a biblical abomination if graffiti in parts of the city are to be believed and multiculturalism is nothing more than a ‘foreign word’. Having said this, I know that this is not the mindset of everyone . A typical day for me is teaching groups of teenagers and progressively thinking adults who are proud of their country and want nothing more than opportunities. Most of my students are exactly like my friends back home and like me; they are trying to carve a career, climb the property ladder, provide for themselves and their families whilst also trying to save their pennies for the future, not forgetting, trying to have and enjoy their life in addition to battling through a global financial crisis which has no end in sight.
I left university in 2010, amid the recession. I vividly remember reading about how in the UK, we would all have to ‘cut our cloth accordingly’ and make it through 3 years of cuts in order to cut the deficit and have a fully functioning and profitable economy again by 2013. Well, its now 2014 and we are no further forward.
In London, they are told the situation is improving and the economy is now starting to grown. In the UK there is the NHS, a fantastic benefit system, a good system for university where loans can be paid once the graduate has a job with a sufficient income. If you are disabled, you can speak with a social worker and arrange for the relevant care you need, potentially government subsidized. Here things are different. Imagine our discontent in the UK, double it. Add the frustration of laughable, Bond- villain style politicians like Silvio Berlusconi and you have an idea of what my students express to me daily. They tell me how lucky I am because I am English and I have the ability to go and work anywhere in the world because of my native Lingua-franca. They worry about the jobs market, they worry about their education. They worry about nothing changing. The first step towards change is to actually take the first step.
Matteo Renzi is a gamble, but what is life without a gamble?
It is a progressive move that needs to seep into global politics and democratic systems everywhere.
I would like to keep the faith that one day, in the UK we will not have to tolerate a coalition government (who technically, we didn’t elect) we will take a political gamble and elect a new cabinet all from different socio-economic backgrounds, non of whom went to Eton or speaks with a plummy RP accent. I would like to see young people, pensioners, homosexuals, teachers, nurses and doctors, farmers, former inmates, maybe even teenagers; a cabinet made up of the real people who contribute in real terms to society.
Maybe Renzi will fail, maybe he will be the game changer for the EU, who knows?
All I know is that this bold move by Italy has shown EU politics that these changes can happen, they should, they must happen. What’s the worst that can happen, we are already at rock bottom.