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Keeping Dog Leashes on Italian Politicians

Keeping Dog Leashes on Italian Politicians

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Published by Anthony St. John

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Published by: Anthony St. John on Sep 29, 2010
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Keeping Dog Leashes on ItalianPoliticians &The Art of Political Stupidity 
I am fed up telling the Central Stupidity Agency what to do as regards their meddling in theaffairs of Italian social, economic and political matters. They are thick as mud. They hangpictures of John Foster Dulles in their offices. If they ceased butting in so ridiculously naively,things could work themselves out more wisely and the Italian people might instigate thenecessary political initiative that would lead them to take hold of their own Destiny and bringthemselves, trustingly, to that state where democracy and good will were the order of the day.Hope springs eternal.Or, does it? Italy is falling apart at its seams. Not anywhere are there signs that a politicalupheaval is imminent. The beat goes on—ever so precariously. Social and economic woes aredeeply ingrained, and people are forlorn, fagged out nervously and without any desireaccompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfilment. Stress is the order of the day. Thatinsane-like frenzy that I witnessed in Caracas, Venezuela in the early 1980s before the Chávezblood-letting revolution, is floating about us in the air asphyxiating Italy's performance day-after-day. The Central Stupidity Agency is not obliged to make things worse but it knowsnothing better to do.* * *On 27 March 1994, the same day my DisUnited States' passport expired, I walked out of theDEAR (RAI television) studios in Rome after being interviewed by host Alessandro Cecchi Paoneon the
Mattina in Famiglia
mid-morning Sunday talk show. I am a veteran of the Vietnam“War” and therefore anti-American bait for some yet not in truth all the RAI mob. They justneeded a personality that did not fit their boring ID sketch of what a typical Italian guest mustconstitute. I had been called in to comment on a war on the Balkan Peninsula—myexperiences in Vietnam where I served as an artillery officer were thought to be, strangely,insightful to Bosnian current events. As when I appeared on two other RAI presentations, I wasagain interviewed by telephone by a woman journalist, and then a rigged transcript of theinterrogation was faxed to my home where I was told to memorize it well before the live show.When the silly Alessandro kenned that I had not learned the interview by heart, he darteddisgruntled grimaces at me at the times the show was interrupted by advertising spots. Togive you an idea of Ale's brainpower, when a commercial was being aired, he ran to the wingsof the staging area, sat rigidly on a chair, and waited for a short, stocky man—in a scintillatingblue magician's jacket—to wave his arms, without touching him, in circles round his neck area!After some seconds, Ale oozed with moans of relief, and kept repeating: “Thank you, thankyou, thank you! My neck feels so good now!”I was relieved to get out of the heavily-guarded RAI bunker-like crazy house and far away fromthe loony Cecchi Paone who revolted me with his presumptuous mannerisms. I never wentback to RAI again—even when they begged me to do so. RAI is a regime-controlledinformation service, and it is well known for its slanted news releases and inexpert televisionprogramming. It is in the pocket of Vatican, Inc.I signed out, handed in my name tag, and bolted for the bus that would take me to the Roma Termini train station, after to Firenze's (Florence's)
Santa Maria Novella
hub, and then by busagain to my home in Calenzano. The electronic departures-arrivals' board flashed me that Ihad ten minutes to go. Hurrying my way to my departing train's platform, I hopped into a fast-food establishment, snatched a sandwich and Coke, paid in a jiffy, and then scurried to mysecond-class position in the
Eurostar 
where I would sit still for a little more than two hours—or,
 
so I thought.
 
 The passenger car was almost engorged, so when I spotted a seat not far from the door, Islithered into it and scanned the faces of my neighbours all of whom, except for one, were setback and resigned to the upcoming, and for them boring, trip north. I did not want to intrudeupon the concentration of the middle-aged woman sitting directly in front of me, but I knew Iwould eventually do so because on the mini table that separated us there was a stack of lightblue folders printed on them with this:
Corte di Appello.
First, I had to drink my Coke and eatmy sandwich. I couldn't wait to find an excuse to ask her if she were a lawyer!Silvana Arbia (19 November 1952) sat absorbed in some of the documents which werescattered about on the tiny table and set uneasily on her lap. She immediately impressed mewith her daintiness and serious-mindedness. The more I observed her the more I thought she just might be a professor—she had that look of books about her. No make-up. Veryconservatively dressed and fixed, gently, with a purpose. I bet in my mind that she would besoft-spoken once I might start talking to her. If I did, I hoped she wouldn't tell me she had toomuch work to do and could not converse with me. The more I sighted her, the more mywonder boomed.Had I known at the time that she had a master's degree in law (1976), was trained at theAcademy of European Law and The Hague Academy of International Law and had hadadditional training at the René Cassin International Institute of Human Rights (1989) and theCanadian Human Rights Foundation (1995), I might have kept quiet refusing to disturb her inher activity. Further, had I realized she was a fervent advocate of human rights and was abattler on behalf of legislation posited to combat human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children and other victims of crimes in the European Union, I'm sure I would have reined in myenthusiasm. Silvana, in later years, would serve as a senior trial attorney and acting chief of prosecutions at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. And in 1998, she participatedin the drafting of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Since 28 February2008 she has served as the registrar of the International Criminal Court. Without knowing asingle thing about her and her life, without hearing yet a word from her, I just recognized, in1994, that I was sitting in front of a very distinguished individual and one to whom I couldtender, without equivocation, my respect.It is awe-inspiring what a smile can do! Perhaps it is better to say “the right kind of smile.”Fortuitously, mine worked. She put down the folder she held in her hand thus “body-languaging” that she would like to hear something from me.“Excuse me, but are you a lawyer?” (I started off in Italian.)“No. I'm a judge.”
“Little you!” 
I chaffed.
“Little me
is an anti-
mafia
judge,” she riposted but this time in English.
 
“Wow! An anti-
mafia
judge. Are we going to get shot at on our way to Firenze? Should Ichange my seat?”She blushed and burst out laughing, asked me where I was from, and then we exchangedpersonal data. After, I told her I did not believe in the
mafia.
“Some time ago, I asked a Sicilian architect if the
mafia
existed. He told me the
mafia
doesnot exist but
mafiosi
do! Your honour, wouldn't it be better to call it organized crime as manyanti-defamation proponents suggest?”
 
“Why not? Crime is crime and my work is trying to eliminate it.
Mafia,
organized crime are just labels for a judge.”Silvana proceeded to talk vaguely and diplomatically about the state of the Italian judicialsystem, and I added—to be ennobling—that in the DisUnited States crime frequently plays anenormous role in keeping the DUS from progressing salubriously—that the cost of fighting law-breaking and restraining law-breakers was debilitating. I did not want to enter into a
tutto ilmondo è paese
give-and-take with her because Italians are forever at the ready to justify theirshortcomings vis-à-vis the defects of others. (Schopenhauer: “The principal nationalcharacter trait of the Italians is a perfect impertinence. This consists in both not feeling toounfit for any task from where stems their self-importance and sass; and, in not feeling too loftyfor anything from where originates their meanness.”) The state of the judicial structure in Italy
 
cannot be confronted with that in the DUS. They are two antithetical realities. In the DUS,there is much to be desired; in Italy there is most to be wished for with Italians little interestedin effectuating those changes and choices needed to bring the word “Justice” to the levelwhere it might enjoy some degree of respect. The Italian judicial system, corrupt and rotten, isfrequently a Kafkaesque-like snare where one law prohibits one from turning to the left, andwhen one turns to the right, another official document orders a turn back to the left.
Reductioad absurdum?
 The powder blue files on the mini table in front of Silvana might have served as a symbol of the extent to which Italian juridical officials are cognizant of the grave state of criminal affairsin Italy. Nevertheless, they also represent another realness: Neither Silvana nor her dedicatedlegal compatriots will ever be sufficiently efficient and thorough as to resolve the multitude of legal cases held in judicial abeyance throughout Italy. Pending cases have accumulatedbeyond the imaginations of legal representatives belonging to the European Union. And,unhappily, Silvana and her friends are enjoined to select, “politicize,those cases whichdemand precedence over others leaving “less urgent” briefs to collect dust for years, evendecades. The obvious consequence of this perverse manner of administering Justice is thatItalian citizens—or any other resident caught in the vise of this Italian justice reprobate andinequitable—suffer an ambiguity of Justice and not the doubtlessness of it. Italy is a fledglingdemocracy—not a proved and mature one.“Your honour, you are privileged to understand, better than most, the workings of the Italian judicial system. For me, it is an enormous enigma, a generous plate of spaghetti—an infinite,twisted confusion.”She sympathized with me and wished, too, that her profession might be more streamlined oneday. Still, she added that the maladroitness of the method does often keep innocent peoplefrom being sent to jail arbitrarily. She did not have to tell me that in the DUS many convictedpersons have been unjustly railroaded without fair trials.I could tell that she didn't want to talk about the law's generalities so I switched the topic tosomething more buoyant.“Who are some of the Italian politicians
 you
think are corrupt?”She was startled by that question not so much because of what it signified, but more becausethat I had asked it.“Oh, I can't tell you!”“Yes, I know you can't
tell
me! You won't have to!”“What do you mean?”“I have an idea, your honour. I mention the name of a politician and you nod your head upand down to signify he or she is guilty or sideways to indicate an innocent response!”She laughed almost hysterically.I started off. She fell in with me and seemed pleased to play the little game. Three politicians that I had mentioned came off with an innocent nod: Giorgio Napolitano,Giovanni Spadolini and Mino Martinazzoli.“Why?” I asked.She could not say.“Did they come from wealthy families?” I quizzed.I told her John F Kennedy did not have to steal because his father had robbed for him all thathe needed!She laughed heartily.She reflected: “In fact, none of them came from poor families!”Nevertheless, she went on to defend her choices, and I have always reflected on thesepoliticians considering the
nihil obstat 
that Silvana had blessed them with.I pushed my luck further.

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