The English Way (1)


from “The Best Enemies”, with David Niven and Alberto Sordi.

Elections are not very far and I may say that analyzing the Italian political situation, the name of the party that is very likely to win will be: “precariousness and confusion”.  But what are reasons that have brought our nation to the pathological political instability that has characterized us for decades? What’s wrong with us? We are a charming country with a glorious past, the cradle of civilization along with Greece and much more could be added, for sure. However, even if we started so well, we must have missed a few steps in the path towards a mature democracy.

One justification might be that we are a young nation: only 157 years old. We shouldn’t forget that before the unification, we had suffered dominations of any kind, whose heritage can be clearly seen in any of our regions in term of culture, food, music, language. By the way, in those centuries of oppression we had also gradually developed a higher degree of scepticism and distrust against any form of administration. Cunning, unreliability, deceitfulness, “virtues” that still distinguish the Italian stereotype abroad, were the weapons we had developed in time to defend ourselves from the foreign rules.

The problem is that once free and politically united, we haven’t been able to work together for the making of a common identity, because our chronic distrust runs in our veins and has always made us choose for the “individual” way, rather than the “social” one.  That’s why the process towards a responsible, efficient democracy here is slower than in other countries. It’s this lack of a common political and social exercise that still makes us always look for that charismatic one, who might solve all our problems. He has never showed up and never will. But as I told you before, we are young.

In other countries, on the contrary, the path towards democracy has seemed somehow more natural. The last invasion in England, for example, dates back to 1066,  when the Normans conquered and unified the country – fortunate event that might have happened in Italy as well, thus sparing us a lot of troubles, but for the Pope’s fierce opposition against the Normans’ advance from the South of Italy,  therefore; England, if compared to Italy, had an advantage of 800 years. It means they had plenty of time to make a lot of nice political experiments. From that moment on, and before any other country, England will undergo a gradual but constant weakening of the great powers of the Middle Age, Church and monarchy and the growing of a modern one: Parliament.

With the English Common Law, for instance, the king was not considered any longer above the law; therefore if the English ruler could be tried just like anybody else,  it meant that he had started to lose those divine traits that his fellow kings all over Europe would have kept for a longer time. Furthermore; with The Magna Carta the king could no longer impose taxes without that “general consent” of those who one day will become part of a fully elected Parliament. The nobles took advantage from this situation increasing their power, but they greed will bring England to the disaster of the War of the Roses.

The Tudors were necessarily firmer monarchs whose recipe for a stronger country was the balancing of powers. They weakened the nobles depriving them of their private armies, avoided summoning Parliament, increased trade, developed alliances with the other countries, but above all, smashed the power of the Roman Catholic Church taking advantage of the Protestant wave from the north of Europe. At the dawning of the seventeenth century England was an Anglican country with a well-defined Parliament and a growing middle class.

The Stuarts failed to understand the now rooted distinctive features of their country, and tried to make it more “European” if possible, but in this way they only succeeded in reinforcing its prior structure. After the Glorious Revolution, England was a modern nation with a monarchy controlled by an independent Parliament and a flourishing bourgeoisie. It was, therefore, ready to face the great changes the industrial revolution would have brought about before any other European country and destined to be a long-lasting power worldwide. But this is another story. As I told you before, we are young.


12 thoughts on “The English Way (1)

  1. Eh, I think you’re putting too much weight on the idea of longevity bringing solidarity and common purpose and trust.

    Plus, the problems you speak of are common throughout the world. In many ways, the strength of democracy is also its weakness. Namely, eventually, self-interest, greed, and special interests erode the very idea of it, especially if a large enough portion of the population feels left out. It gets even murkier when you bring international treaties and multinational corporations into the mix (again, the “common” people get screwed and eventually bad stuff happens).

    If interested, by various metrics, Italy is tied with the US as far democracy rankings:

    • Hi Emilio, so sorry I could not reply your comment before, but I have had no wi-fi connection for almost two moths and I find annoying using the smartphone. I was actually surprised to see that we are equal in our “flawed democracy” in that rank, but those are just figures, my perception, based on my knowledge of both country , of course, is different. For what concens England, if you think that their unification dates back to 1066 and the Italian unification actually happened in 1871, 800 year advantage must mean something. 🙋

    • It’s OK, and I know what you mean about the phone.

      As far as longevity, what I question is the idea that longevity necessarily gives way to improvements and getting better at doing things. I don’t think that’s true in individuals or countries.

      If it were true that longevity drives improvements, we would have all the ancient countries and regions still here and prospering. Also, you are comparing Italy to England when perhaps a better comparison would be Italy and the United Kingdom. If you broaden the view, one could argue that they haven’t quite worked things out yet. Plus, how much does geography matter? An island nation versus a country in the middle of things.

      Note, I’m not saying Italy is OK (I know little of affairs there) . . . I’m merely questioning the age thing (longevity) as it being a driver for any country’s situation.

  2. Sadly the England (not the only member of the UK I should add) of historic parliamentary democracy that you speak of is being rent apart by individuals and media wedded to neoliberal beliefs, who imply that upholders of parliamentary scrutiny are somehow ‘enemies of the state’ (that is, they threaten their fat profits and their undemocratic power). Thank goodness there are enough people (the “48 percent”?) who are calling these true enemies of the state to account.

    • Hi Chris, so sorry I haven’t replied your comment before, but I have had no connection for almost a couple of months. You won’t believe me, but a second after a posted the article on the evils of being connected, I was actually disconnected. So for all this time I experienced Dante’s retaliation law, but now I’m back to the connected world.
      48% plus non voters,plus those who actually have voted without really understanding or pondering the consequences are still a lot of people. Something must be done. You are the majority.

      • Time to have a second — a ‘proper’ — referendum now that people know (a) what a diabolical hash the current government are making of this process and (b) the dire economic, political and social consequences of leaving the union. ‘Take back control’ was the Brexiteers’ cry when what that meant that neoliberal and undemocratic media barons and tax dodgers and their would now have that control, the power to exploit us all and lead the rest of us willy-nilly into an unsustainable and bleak future.

        Sorry, rant over! Glad you have connectivity again — welcome back!

  3. Hi there Mrs Tink! You said you are a young nation 157 years old, that’s old compared to Spain after our cool little dictator died. And since you’re a teacher you’ll probably remember when our constitution was made after “little Franco” passed to heaven or hell who knows wich one of those, in 1978?… I think.
    By the way you were the craddle of civilisation, “where” past tense, as a matter of fact I’m thinking of running for president over there if they don’t leave me to run over here, I might even call myself the “Mussolini Cool Party”. It has a long history the name even though it sounds dumb, by the way you also have the mafia, and….it’s a great country managed in my opinion by bad politicians.

    Stay Frosty Mrs. Tink, love ya

    • Hi Charly, I could not answer before, because of a very capricious connection still. However, when Italy was united 157 years ago, you have to think about different peoples with different languages, as our many dialects have also produced amazing literature. With the coming of the television in the sixties, Italian started to be more used than the local “languages”. There many differences still for what cornerns the quality of life, job opportunities from region to region and, of course, North and South. Do you want to run for president here? Join the five star party and you ‘ll have your chances.
      Stay frosty Mr President.
      Mrs Tink 🇮🇹🙋

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