Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Can we be racist towards ourselves?

My last post sparked some controversy apparently:

With all due respect to your blog, I must remark that some of the posts on the Italian elections did not represent a fair (I am sorry to say nor informative) presentations of the political reality in Italia. They are highly opinionated and in my mind neither give an interesting view point to the reader. Moreover they are racist towards the Italians, " Spaghetti Elections"??? not to mention other words you say. Often your political assesment of the situation is not bad, but I must make a strong remark against the low level style of expression...
Paolo C.

Here's a reply, with an open question that I find interesting.
Thanks for the feedback Paolo.

I'd say I am glad that the my post stirs a bit of controversy.

Also I am glad to see that you have some patriotic feelings. I'd love to be patriotic too, but at times I look at the political scene and I am slightly worried.

Italy is a great country but its politicians do not represent us well. Neither Prodi nor Berlusconi.

Spaghetti Elections is a slight adaptation of the more famous Spaghetti Westerns. I can assure you that Sergio Leone's movies are amongst my favourite. And they are considered such by many.

I personally don't see a bad connotation to it. But I guess that it is a matter of taste. And you're free to say that I have bad taste!

The open question I hinted at is the following: can we be racist towards ourselves?
Hard question. I find myself being very critical of Italy at times. Yet, I think I deeply love it, and miss it.

Racism, as I understand it, is an unjustified negative judgement on the ground of some physical or cultural features with the intent of discrediting an individual or a group of individuals.

Now, it is not disputed that my judgment is at times negative as I said. Is it unjustified? I hope not. But there may be substantive arguments that show this.
I do believe that some cultural features of our polity are bad and I don't refrain from saying it.

Am I trying to discredit Italians, including myself? I don't think so. It would be a self-defeating strategy if this were true. And I certainly do not want to do that.

Is criticism towards one's country a way of discrediting it? I don't think so.
The problem seems to be language. Certain expressions triggered the controversy.

Spaghetti is one of those. First, I think that spaghetti is an eminently positive thing. But again, I know that italians living abroad do not like stereotypes of the kind: spaghetti, mafia, mandolino.

To this extent, the expression may sound derogatory, I can see that. But again no matter how much I love my country, I can't refrain from thinking that the past elections gave a very sad image. Something we should be upset about; something we should try and avoid for the future.

No comments: