Relative to other Europeans, is mainstream Italian society more conservative or more liberal ?

10/03/2009 - 22:07

 After suffering 8 years of George W. Bush's conservative right-wing policies, I hope during my long stay in Italy next year that I won't encounter a similar political climate under Silvio Berlusconi.  Look, I can't stand even looking at this guy let alone try to comprehend how he got re-elected  unless most Italians are more conservative than I think.  I especially dislike his:-------appeal to superiority attitudes toward immigrants and "la bassa Italia" as part of his People of Freedom party's platform. . .their idea to separate Northern and Southern Italy.-------faux pas toward President Obama and wife Michelle,  saying, not once but twice, that the Obamas have a terrific suntan, knowing full well they are African-Americans. . seems oddly racist as well as juvenile to me to dwell on skin color.  Article on point:, what's it like chatting politics among mainstream Italians?  Should I plan on wearing political blinders in order to enjoy the rest of Italian culture? Do I keep my opinions on Berlusconi muffled?Any frankness is appreciated. . .forewarned is forearmed, grazie!  



 Id say Italy is certainly more liberal politically than most of the US, and they certainly like to talk politics - unfortunately only talking doesnt actually change anything.  All Itlaians have very definite opinions on what should and shouldnt be done to improve Italy, but translating it into actions is much more difficult.  at the moment, its really 50/50 in Italy - those who think Berlusconi is the salvation of the country and those who think he is the antichrist.Culturally italy is probably more conservative (with a little c)  than the States, certainly in the cities - but the great motto is you do what you like in private - but dont go flag waving your liberal tendencies.... However the Italians are a tolerant lot on the whole, and they would do little other than purse their lips and cross themselves if you step too far outside accepted norms.    

 . . .political v. cultural positions can be disparate. . .usually are in most countries.  And getting real constructive reform is the constant conundrum  in most governments as we currently see with Obama who can't get health care reform as he fights, not just the opposition but factions within his own party.So "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" is what I understand from your take, yes?Grazie, Ram,  for your frank observations. . .which you also continue later in  this discussion.

I have lived in Italy for 6 years it is impossible to understand why he (Berlusconi) keeps being elected except to say that he probably emodies many Italians in some way. I think it is better not to think too much about politics in Italy as it will drive you crazy! Suffice to say i think it is more conservative. Enjoy the rest of Italy .

In reply to by Simon C

one of the reasons he keeps getting elected is the alternative which nobody (few) want ,a rag tag and bobtail agglomoration of failed comunists/greens/ex christian democrats and socialists incapable of running a social club let alone the country.

. . .I've often asked.  If coalition governments are such failures, why haven't Italians been clamoring for nationwide referenda voting on major reforms?  Wouldn't a direct vote by the people on crucial issues, now facilitated by interactive computer technology, get around the quagmire of Italian coalitions and the corruption of Berlusconi's control of the media?Wish we could do the same in the States, too!

In reply to by Simon C

 . . .normally, to avoid the crazies,  I avoid politics when I travel or even when I converse here in the States.I thank you for your take that Italy is more conservative than the rest of Europe because I can now set my parameters better when I visit Italy next year. 

 I could say that nobody/few is 43% of the electors - not an insignificant number, and Berlusconis rag tag and bob tail agglomeration is tarnished christian democrats, neo fascists, separatists and anti europeans.  But I wont. Its much more likely that Berlusconi keeps getting reelected because he throws vast amounts of money at the electoral machine, owns and/or influences 80% of the media in Italy and will not allow any opposition (even if there were an effective opposition):  he is without doubt a master politician, but that doesnt make him a person worthy of ruling the country.  He is a rich megolamaniac with increasing signs of senility, a terrible sense of humour, little self control, and surrounded by obsequious yes men who dont question his terrible lapses of judgement.  He displays all the signs of a manic dictator who cannot be gainsaid, any criticism becomes anti-Itlaianism and yet he can say and do what he likes.  Even his wife has had enough.   If there were a role in a film made for the late great Peter Sellers - it would be Berlusconi the biopic.  Now, theres an idea...... Who should play berlusconi in the film of his life??

 The standard joke concerning Italian politics and prime ministers in the 70s/80, was that everybody got a chance to be prime minister.[with regards the amount of prime ministers Italy had had since the 2nd world war] Now looking back,at those times...I cringe everytime Berlo opens his mouth, i cringe with embarrisment  that he got revoted in again.It almost makes me want to apply for an English passport and chuck my Italian one away............Almost but then i think to myself....Its better to have the idiot where you can see and hear him,and at least we can take some comfort that everybody feels sorry for us for having such a Bacala as prime minister..........

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

 . . .thanks for the latest aliases (Berlo. . Bacala), Govanni F.  With such irritating corrupt politicians as Berlusconi,  Bush in my country, we need some comic relief.  Some of our Bush aliases were George the Lesser, Boy King, Dim Son.I sympathize with your cringing  because 8 years of Bush malapropisms and lame right-wing extremism really drove most of us up the walls.  We were trying to pass for Canadians as we traveled. . .so embarrassed of Bush's USA.Hang in there. . .Bacala has to start stinking soon. . .most fish do! 

 I see that the very day I asked about the political climate of Italian society, this news shows thousands of Italians in the Piazza di Popolo protesting suppression of the media:*****************************************"The BBC's Duncan Kennedy in Rome says concerns about Mr Berlusconi's influence on Italian media are not new but reaction to it on the scale of Saturday's protest is.In August, the prime minister launched legal action against media outlets across Europe for their coverage of his private life.Mr Berlusconi, who owns three of Italy's seven free-to-air TV channels, has also urged businessmen to stop placing ads in newspapers and magazines that attack him.His critics say he also exerts considerable influence over state television RAI.In its 2009 survey, media research group Freedom House downgraded Italy to the "partly free" category and placed it 73rd out of 195.Press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders, which publishes its own survey this month, says Italy is faring worse than any other EU country."*********************************So my original question is answered somewhat by the BBC. . .Italians HAVE SEEMED conservative but are STARTING TO HAVE liberal rumblings. . .bravissimo. . .VIVA ITALIA!   

Taking the idea of "politics" to mean slightly more than idiot macho posturing,  what about women in Italian society? I'd say the States was streets ahead in that field anyway.In that I could walk into a bar on my own in the US and not be considered a strumpet.In that (as far as I am aware) Miss USA does not get blanket TV coverageIn that it is not obligatory to have a bimbette doing a very strange dance in the middle of every show hosted by men old enough to be their grandfathersI know that Italian women are tough and the cult of the Mamma/Madonna etc etc but don't really know enough to come to any firm conclusions (though the above examples don't bode well IMHO).

In reply to by Annec

 . . .Annec, your post deserves its own thread because it is an important related issue.The Italian men's machismo certainly isn't liberal, just exploitation and downright reactionary!My first witness of that machismo was at age 11 on a train ride into Rome when a man pinched a female passenger's ass to make her move over in the cabin seating.  I thought. . .whoaaaa. . .what nerve and humiliation for that woman!I should think that "pinching custom" is gone by now?And from what I see on, Italian women show a lot of skin, don't they, but to me that sextease is not a liberal indicator but just baiting for viewers.Then, I feel sorry for younger women in Italy today (I'm 62) since the reforms of the 1960s women's liberation movement seem to have come and gone as they continue to be treated primariy as sex objects.So generally Italian men are machomen?  Even the younger generation????Annec, you need a new discussion thread !

I tell you what is interesting. If you look in the back of Corriere Annunci (local free ads paper with a lonely hearts section), lots of Italian men are looking for non Italian women. They actually say they don't want any Italian women, only Russian, Ukranian etc. What is that all about???

In reply to by Penny

 I could be flippant and say "Well, I guess Italians DO accept immigrants after all!"But to address your more serious point, I venture to guess the ads for foreign women have something to do with the current trend to cohabitate instead of getting married. . .even when there are children.I have 2 Italian cousins who have been living with and having children by their significant others, not husbands, for past 10-15 years.Also, I've read Italy has a very low native population growth rate:*********************************************Italian population stable, immigrants on increaseROME, Nov. 6 (Xinhua) -- Italy's population has remained relatively stable over the past ten years with the declining birth rate offset by a threefold increase in the number of resident foreigners, according to a report Wednesday from the national statistics bureau Istat.Comparing its census of 1991 to that of 2001, Istat found only a 0.2 percent decline in the population which last year numbered 56.306 million compared to 56.778 million ten years earlier.Italy is becoming an increasingly multiethnic society, the Istat report added, with 987,363 non-Italian residents last year, compared to 356,159 in 1991.************************So, changing mores and higher immigration = ads for Russian/Eastern European women for Italian men?Or, Penny,  you could be onto some other reason since you actually live there. 

that they are more likely to be more subservient (aka grateful!) than many modern Italian women who are at last kicking off the past of being replacement mothers for their new husbands.As for the bimbos that adorn most TV (game) shows, it reminds me of  UK TV in the late 60's and 70's, although I don't recall cameramen panning from the floor and up a skirt to get a flash of knickers or from the top zooming into the ample cleavage of these girls! The latest example is in Colore di Soldi, made worse by the leering perve in the stupid suit and glasses. Bring back repeats of Benny Hill!Is there an Italian equivalent to "Political Correctness"....... somehow I think not.

Admin, please resolve this problem.When clicking on "Post Comment", the screen appears to refresh leaving the same message giving the impression that the post hasn't been sent. Thus he member (including me!), click again. Some obviously click again and again and again.

We were having dinner in our local pizza place, ( village pop 800) and 20 young women came in to celebrate, I thought perhaps a birthday, but talking to one of them later ( in the loo as you do) she said "we are celebrating because we are all going off to university soon, I am going to Rome to study dentistry". A couple of lads popped in to see them during the course of the evening but did not stay. i thought this is the future of Italy, that women are making their own way with confidence. So may be an end to silly and stupid TV game shows, and role models for other young women here.Russ you are joking re Benny Hill?....please!.A

It's interesting going to bigger towns. I remember being in Fermo one evening in a very nice wine bar when a couple of women dropped in for a couple of glasses of wine after work (no food - just wine) just like in the UK and no-one batted an eyelid. It would be different here!I suspect Russ's answer re the personal ads is correct. The Italian eqivalent of the Thai bride scenario. Poeta, I wouldn't believe too much of what you read in the papers about Italy. To be honest, it gives us a good laugh. According to a lot of the UK press, Italy has been in recession for at least the last 5 years. I wonder who has been buying all the new appartments and building those new factories you see on the way to the coast then? Anyway - which figures were they using? teh official ones? What about the black economy?I read a great book which explained Italy's fondness for Mussolini and how he could have ever been elected. I suspect the same reasons apply to Berlusconi. He is the epitomy of the self-made man. An Italian friend of ours was telling us that none of his friends were the least bit bothered by Berlusconis alledged antics with prostitues but were very dismayed and irate at the fact some of it took place in the equivalent of 10 Downing Street. He was concerned about the security risk - how did they smuggle cameras and sound recording equipment in? A very different perspective to the international press.

 Chronologically: referenda - there have been and there will continue to be - unfortunately the powers that be take no notice of the results.Bottom pinching - alive and well - try going to Naples and rising on a bus - there will be much more than just bottom pinching.Rise of the independent woman - yes -thank God it seems to be moving in that direction.  The down side is that in here Siracusa - you are seeing the depressing Friday night syndrome of young women three sheets to the wind passing out in the streets - one of the reasons I escaped London was walking through Leicester Square and having to avoid the incoherently drunk vomiting - and its infinitely more depressing seeing a young woman in that situation than a young man no matter how liberal I may be.As an ex telly person from the UK I have always firmly believed that Itlaian TV is lodged in the 1970's in its attitudes, production values and imagination.  Even the ads are 'old fashioned' its all 'Buy this' - the idea of subtlety like the audi ads for instance passes people by - there are programmes which bear a depressing resemblance to the Black and White Minstrel show.  But having said all of that, very few women are depressed or upset by the use of bimbettes to punctutate every progamme - perhaps its just received wisdom.  And that brings us back to the power of Berlusconi  whose channels reinforce the stereotypes - for him TV is the opiate of the people and 80% of Italians take what they see on TV as gospel truth. Convenient if you have numerous TV stations and Emilio Fede. I suspect the influx of eastern european and asian brides has two reasons.  Firstly macho posturing hides a deep insecurity of the Italian male,  its a matriarchal society and all men know its the women who really wear the trousers.  And secondly, a Russian bride wont bring a mother in law with her, and you dont have to marry the family.  Here in Sicily, foreign women, blondes, are still seen as exotic creatures with exciting liberal attitudes - which is fine if you want to get them into bed but more worrying for the Sicilian male if you marry them - hence the high divorce and 'cornuto' level amongs these marriages. 

I worry when I hear calls for "progress" when what they really mean is "progressing towards UK and US social values".Having lived here for just a year and a half, all I can say is that howsoever Italy became the place it is, whoever made it so is not doing a bad job. May it long continue, and maybe those who advocate major change should adopt the USA's favourite bumper sticker message "love it or leave it".Just my opinion, but then I firmly believe everyone is entitled to my opinion TK

Quick one, one press freedom: my Italian next door neighbours have started regularly asking me for updates on Italian politics, because they don't trust their own press any more.On immigration: The Lega Nord had election posters depicting a native Indian in full feather regalia with the caption: ^They did not control their immigration, now they live in reservations!"