This was a great prompt to read as I sit on campus right after my second session of Italian Politics. Coming into the semester, I knew virtually nothing about how the Italian political system worked – let alone how it has transformed over the past hundred years. Furthermore, Italy is currently in the midst of their general election, sparking protests by the Duomo and news coverage in cafès. It’s interesting to see how the system here compares to our own, though the structural components are completely different, at the heart of the system lies the same cultural and political conflicts, regardless of physical location.
For the second half of Italian Politics today, we watched a documentary detailing the life, beliefs, and general reception of Silvio Berlusconi, a business man turned politician who served three terms as Prime Minister of Italy. The documentary showcased his controversial opinions, corruption, and even involvement with the Italian Mafia. Footage from the senate floor showed him lashing out at other politicians with personal jabs and interviews with his many mistresses made clear his “love of women.” Through it all, we saw accounts from locals explaining how they loved Berlusconi because he was “different,” “new,” and “one of the people.” Despite his unparalleled wealth from owning and operating multiple businesses including the largest media conglomerate in Italy, he was able to appeal to the masses and convince them that he understood their struggles. He was viewed as a rockstar and showman, even being named Rolling Stone Italy’s “Rockstar of the Year.”
Without getting too deep into the controversy that is currently absorbing Americans everywhere, I watched this in awe of the similarities between this fragment of Italian politics and our current political environment in the US. A wealthy man convinces the working class that has been pushed to the outskirts that he is their voice. With charm and charisma, he needles his way into the homes of these under-appreciated, underrepresented citizens and wins over an entire country. What’s even more interesting is that Italy and America are not the only cases of this series of events. It made me think of each country’s battles – whether it be in politics, culture, religion, etc. – almost all countries struggle with the same divides among its people. How do we balance unity and patriotism while still holding our beliefs and fighting for what we think is best? Is it even possible for every citizen to agree on these issues? The more I learn about foreign politics the more I am certain the answer is no. In that case, where do we go from here? It seems every country is looking to find the answer to the same question of joining a country together through intense segregation. I guess only time will tell which path is best.
As I continue to watch this election unfold I’ll be interested to see where the country leans this year. In a country that has experienced so many government transitions and party reformations, you really can never know what to expect. Especially when compared to America, which has had the exact same political structure since its inception in 1776, I’m often curious to see the changes other governments experience over time. Who knows what this election will bring or what I will continue to learn about Italian politics this semester. Whatever it is, I’m sure it will continue to make me contemplate the similarities and problems we face in politics across the globe, and hopefully I will soon be enlightened to any possible solution or sliver of optimism for the future.