Friday, September 04, 2009

Italy's tragic future

Silvio Berlusconi is a modern dictator. He controls all the most important functions of the state and is THE key player in the private sphere. Modern dictators are characterized by an ability to disguise their authoritarianism through subtle strategies of marketing and communication. Mr B is unusually suited for this role. Since 1994 he poisoned Italian political life, after having wrecked the italian cultural environment with its commercial televisions. Its legacy, unfortunately, will be massive both culturally and politically. But not in a positive sense.

Thankfully, in the last six months or so the international community begun to realize how deeply corrupt and unacceptable Mr B is. But one should not focus on one single aspect of his public or private life. His holistic philosophy of power and his (lack of) vision for Italy make him a very dangerous client. First of all his philosophy is a new enhanced form of demagogy. Everything is geared to please the crowds and to enhance the god of Audience, interrogated through polls.

His philosophy of action is pragmatic in the worse sense. It is always geared to increase wealth in the private sphere and increase power in the public sphere. Now, I am sure that some may see the former as a good thing. But power for the sake of power is certainly not desirable. The reason why power for power is bad is that it does not follow any coherent design on how to improve on Italian welfare. Pragmatism in Mr B's sense is highly volatile follows the fads and moods of the population far too closely. In the short run, its pay-offs are clear in terms of electoral results and popularity. But the country suffers, and suffers greatly.

Italy's constantly on the brink of a nerve crisis. More of Mr. B will only exacerbate this situation.
The problem is that at the moment Mr B succesfully wiped away any form of political opposition and there are no signs of renaissance on the left. When Mr B will disappear, he may take with him what's left of Italy.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

No to Barroso

Does anyone out there know who Barroso is? More importantly does anybody know what was his best achievement during his four years as President of the European Commission, the highest institution within the EU?

Very few will be able to answer those questions. And even those 'in the know' will have trouble chanting the praise of a strawman.

Here comes the most important question? Why do European Member States want to re-elect him as President?

Sadly, the only possible answer is that Barroso does not do any harm to anyone. That is, he does do nothing except enjoying his relatively privileged position. This is a good reason enough to say NO to Barroso.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Obama's Transatlantic Speech

Berlin was like a honeymoon between America and Europe. But Obama's honey words, were a little too sweet:

That is why America cannot turn inward. That is why Europe cannot turn inward. America has no better partner than Europe. Now is the time to build new bridges across the globe as strong as the one that bound us across the Atlantic. Now is the time to join together, through constant cooperation, strong institutions, shared sacrifice, and a global commitment to progress, to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It was this spirit that led airlift planes to appear in the sky above our heads, and people to assemble where we stand today. And this is the moment when our nations – and all nations – must summon that spirit anew.

Nothing wrong with that, but where does it really lead us in practice?
Obama offered a long list of to-do things:

This is the moment:
- when every nation in Europe must have the chance to choose its own tomorrow free from the shadows of yesterday.
- when we must build on the wealth that open markets have created, and share its benefits more equitably.
- for trade that is free and fair for all.
-we must help answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East.

-when we must come together to save this planet.
-to stand as one.
-And this is the moment when we must give hope to those left behind in a globalized world.

I am not sure that THIS is the moment as it has been so for so many years before. Moreover, it will probably be better to say a little about THIS IS HOW we are going to deal with those problems.

The conclusion leaves it all open:

People of Berlin – and people of the world – the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope. With an eye toward the future, with resolve in our hearts, let us remember this history, and answer our destiny, and remake the world once again.

Monday, January 28, 2008

ITALY: the neverending crisis

Italy is once again in trouble. After Prodi's descent to hell, with the crisis of his government,
we are now deciding on what to do. Here we face a dilemma: either we do the impossible, that is bring together parties that have conflicting interests in order to draft new rules of the political game (in particular bad shape is the electoral law); or we go to elections immediately thereby jettisoning any hope of a stable and efficacious government. It may be stable but not the two at the same time which is what the italian political system is badly in need of.

What will happen? Nothing much. The (bad) news is that Italy will remain unstable and ungovernable.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Secular Europe? Think twice

On 21st of Dember, Tony Blair converted to Catholicism: see here;

On the same day, Sarkozy held a speech in front of the Catholic bishops in Rome arguing that religion should play a more important role in the french public sphere: see here;

The time is high to engage in a more robust conversation on the place of religion in the european
public sphere.

A good place to start is The Immanent Frame, an SSRC blog that deals with issues of secularism, religion ant the public sphere

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Still Born God

is a great new book on religion and politics in the West.
Its author, Mark Lilla, is a fantastic scholar in the history of ideas.

The book argues that the West (Europe) was marked by a Great Separation
between political theology and political philosophy. Before Hobbes, European
politics was essentially framed in religious terms. After Hobbes, politics
becomes free from religion. Religious scholarship, as a result, is also profoundly changed.
Instead of focusing on God, it focuses on why men need religion. It is not anymore
about what exist out there, but what we need from inside us.

The book does not attempt to engage on present heated controversies on the role of religion in the public sphere and other such issues. Instead it calmly takes us through a rewarding jouney from the middle-age to the XX century illuminating the relationship between religious and political scholarship.

Highly recommended

Friday, November 23, 2007

Peace studies in Spain and Latinamerica

I have recently been teaching a master course on Development and Human Rights at the International Master on Peace Conflict and Development in Castellon, University Jaume I. During my stay in Castellón I have the chance to meet a group of people from Spain and Argentina that are actively working in the field of peace studies. This area has developed extensively in Spain in Latin America in the last decades and it constitute an intesting and expansive field of research.

In Granada we have Francisco A. Muñoz at the Instituto de la Paz y los conflictos. More information on this area quite be obtained at his blog titled: naúfragos y navengantes de paz y conflictos . Angeles Arjona works at the University of Almeria. She is sociologist and she is doing and interesting work on interculturaliry and inmigration in Andalucia. You can check Laboratorio de antropologia social y cultural. Alicia Cabezudo has been working for more that two decades on issues on education on human rights and education for in different places in the world. She is also lecturer at the University of Buenos Aires and Rosario in Argentina.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Berlusconi launches a new Party

Changer tout, pour ne changer rien. To Change everything in order to change nothing.

This is sometimes used to describe the French revolution, but it would apply equally well to Italy in the last few centuries.

At the next elections--which will probably happen in 2008-- we will have two new major parties. The Democratic party representing a centre-left coalition.

And the Party of the People of Liberty. A rather clumsy name for Berlusconi's new party. The move is easy to understand. Berlusconi wants to anticipate any move of his allies who are trying to dethrone him.

Berlusconi, as a result, is launching a coalition of the willing in order to run alone with his new party at the next elections.

These changes, needless to say, are only cosmetic. All remain the same in Italy

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Secular Age

For all of you who are interested in issues of law, religion and politics in the Transatlantic world (and beyond)., I can warmly recommend Charles Taylor's new book 'A secular age.'

Taylor distinguished three possible meanings of secular, which I would classify as follows:

1-Political secularity: when religious belief is removed from the public sphere to the private sphere as a result of a political compromise

2- Social secularity: when belief fades away from our daily life and does not provide anymore a benchmark for our behaviour

3-Historico-philosophical secularity: it is interested in the evolution of the intellectual framework within which religious belief is understood.

Taylor focuses on the third meaning and explores in an open way what made us move from 1500, when believing was not an option, to 2000 when believing is but an option.

To explain such a paradigm shift, Taylor engages in a story-telling exercise which attempts to unravel the changing conditions of our own religious practices. Pivotal to his story is the emergence of 'exclusive humanism', a way of conceiving human flourishing as an end in itself. According to exclusive humanism each individual is master of his destiny and is empowered to give full meaning to his own life.

This new understanding of human flourishing replaces the Christian one that understood human flourishing as a consequence of god's love, agape. Each individual would therefore have to abandon himself in the hands of god in order to let his life flourish.

To go back to the central question then: what made the shift from 1500 to 2000 possible? the answer is in the book...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

When the Church truly and definitely concern with spiritual matters

A couple of days ago, the Catholic Church beatified 498 Catholics murdered between 1934, 1936-1939 in the course of the Spanish Civil War. This event would not be so controversial if the whole amount of people beatified would not have belonged to one side, the Francoist one . It is curious. All these 498 persons have in common that they were murdered by Republican forces that at that time were the democratic and legitimated government in Spain. Franco imposed his rule against the will of the majority of the people in Spain, but the Catholic Church approved that. During the first years of the dictatorship, cardinal Isidro Goma said that the military coup launched by Franco was " una cruzada cristiana" ( (Christian crusader).
Some persons in Spain think that it is time for the Catholic Church to apologize for this horrible historical mistake. Some persons think that the role of the Catholic Church in Spain was the one of a victim and tyrant. According to the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory, in Spain there are more than 30,000 persons buried in common graves ( and these are not precisely victims of the Republicans forces). If the beatification process of these 498 persons considered as " martyrs of the twenty century" is non-partisan and political, Why we do not have among these "beatos" any person murdered by the Francoist forces? The official posture of the Catholic Church is because nobody has started the process. Many of these persons have name and surname, their cases have been extensively reported, but some sectors of the Catholic Church remain silent. In this regard, I do not necessarily agree with Lorenzo that the Church should strictly care about spiritual matters, mainly because when they try to do it, there is most of the times a strong ideology behind.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Why the Catholic Church should mind its business

The Catholic Church tries to conquer the hearts of some people by raising its voice on social issues such as housing and employment. In Italy, this move has been greated with appreciation by the moderate and extreme left wing parties. Here's a report.

But the political position of the Church remains deeply ambiguos: "The essential point is again made by Benedict XVI: from Jesus there comes “full respect for the distinction between, and independence of, what is Caesar’s and what belongs to God”. The Church has a “mediated” task while the “immediate” one falls to the lay faithful. Thus “if on the one hand it acknowledges it is not a political actor”, on the other “it cannot avoid taking an interest in the good of the entire civil community” by “forming in the political and entrepreneurial classes a genuine spirit of truth and honesty”.

In many ways, this position is not healthy at all in a secular democracy. The Church has the luxury of taking strong positions on very controversial issues without ever having to be accountable for them. In short, this is the worst form of demagogy.

Of course, it is very nice to say permanent jobs for everyone and housing for everyone. But unfortunately there is shortage. Political institutions make hard choices between job protection and enhancement of the market. But the problem is: if the job protection is too strong, then it wil be much more difficult to create new jobs. So what looks like a nice ideal, may turn out to be a damning precept.

What is worse is that the Church can say whatever it pleases anyhow it will never have to do the job. That is the reason why, the Church should truly and definetely concern itself only with spiritual matters. It can intervene, as it does, to improve social conditions on a daily basis. But it cannot engage in sweeping policy debates as this is totally outside of its realm, and makes hard choices even more unpalatable for governments which are already facing tough enough social dilemmas.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Brown and the EU Treaty

Gordon Brown and the EU are two distant planets. But Brown should speak more clearly about it. Recently asked about the new treaty he defined it as a modest piece of housekeeping.

This is not correct. The treaty born out of the abortion of the more pompous sounding constitutional treaty keeps intact most of the institutional and procedural reforms of the previous treaty minus the symbolic constitutional talk.

But the promised reforms are still beefy and certainly not modest as Gordon claims.

The explanation is the following: Brown is not an EU supporter. But he fears even more the possibility of a referendum, which he would very probably lose as the british are hard to convince on EU matters and also because Brown does not believe in it anyhow.

Brown should speak up more clearly and take a clear position vis-a-vis Europe (and regarding his grand political views). Otherwise, he will always sound false.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

New Blog on International Law

Have a look at this new blog on International law. It is called International Law Observer and covers a fairly broad ground!