Designing Disenchantment

“I’m so over Italy,” said an American relative who spent many years working in the country. “It’s just too frustrating these days.” Indeed, if one were to read British news periodicals, after Israel, the Italians have the second worst reputation. Based on the behavior of Italy’s political leadership during the year that we lived in Milan, it’s not difficult to understand why.

The hardest part in explaining why isn’t in criticizing Berlusconi, or any of the boorish, racist behavior of his cabinet members. They’re too easy to disassemble, since they are already such grotesquely exaggerated caricatures in their own right. The challenge is to provide the kinds of examples of their misrule, that would lead others, outside of Italy, to actually care.

For me, that means finding ways to narratively represent how utterly depressing it was, for example, to be invited to a sumptuous dinner at a Mediaset journalist’s home, and told how strongly she backed a government proposal to impose quotas on immigrants in public schools. “How can we tolerate a situation where we Italians are a minority in our own classrooms?” she asked.

I can cite so many instances like these, some far worse even, mixed up with far more mundane everyday events, all of which communicate the same thing. That’s the advantage, I think, one gets, living in a particular place for any length of time. If you pay proper attention to what’s going on around you, all the elements are there to mount the most effective kinds of criticism.

A disenchanted Italian is responsible for the poster. Pasted to a lamp post, in Navigli, some time in January.