A Spent Nation

Apologies for today's "trifecta," but Tim Parks has a piece in the Wall Street Journal Online that is an acute reflection on the crisis in Italy. I found it a helpful "state of the question" and thought others might as well. Parks concludes:

Here then is an extraordinary situation. We have a country of unspeakable beauty, home of unparalleled art treasures and some of the world's most beautiful cities (Verona where I live being amongst them), inhabited by a people who are on the whole handsome, industrious, well-educated, lively, talented and sharp. Yet their public life is poisoned by a collective dynamic that has been going on for centuries and centuries, whereby it seems impossible for anyone or any group to make the smallest sacrifice in favor of the general good. The fact that every intelligent Italian appreciates this doesn't seem to help at all."So now Italy lies half-dead, waiting to see who will heal her wounds," wrote Machiavelli at the end of "The Prince" in 1513. He was talking about foreign invasion, but the blame for that, he said, lay with the inability of the Italians to govern themselves well and work together. "You can see the country is praying God to send someone," Machiavelli went on, "Word's can't express the loving welcome such a savior would get...What doors would be closed to such a man?...What Italian would not bow his knee?"Indeed. Italy had to wait 350 years before Garibaldi's Sicilian adventure united the country. And another sixty odd years before Mussolini presented himself as a messiah of unity and national strength. Now, thankfully, even dictatorial solutions are no longer feasible; the international community would not permit them. Utterly exhausted and disenchanted, Italy peers into the dark.

Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is a longtime Commonweal contributor.

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