Sacrifice and Tears in Italy

Italy's Minister of Labor and Welfare Bursts into Tears While Announcing Pension Cuts in Rome. Freeze frame of APTN video shot by Pietro De Cristofaro.

Mozzarella Mamma Blog Readers, I was looking forward to completing a blog post today on Italy’s Tiger Mamma, but my plans were foiled when I got called into work to cover a press conference by Italy’s new Prime Minister Mario Monti announcing his new austerity measures that are supposed to pull Italy back from the brink of economic self-destruction and keep the Euro from disintegrating. So at eight o’clock this evening I found myself sitting in a press conference  listening to Monti and his ministers describe how it is going to be done.  The most dramatic moment was when Monti turned over the floor to his Minister of Labor and Welfare, Elsa Fornero.  She began to lay out decisions they have made on how to change Italy’s pension system.  She seemed to me to be straight-forward and matter-of-fact until she said, “”we had to — and, yes, this cost us psychologically, ask for a sacri…..”  and then she scrunched up her face, turned away from the microphone, put her hand to her mouth and began to cry.  Prime Minister Monti finished her sentence for her adding, “I think you all understood she wanted to say ‘sacrifice.'” Yes, we had understood.  All of Italy has understood.  It is time for sacrifice and it hurts to hear it.

Because the press conference was delayed, I was asked to rush down to Rome’s super-chic Via Condotti and film people Christmas shopping and ask them how they thought the austerity measures might affect their holidays.  It was uplifting to see the streets were packed with people.  We filmed two couples eyeing the diamonds and sapphires in the window of Bulgari. They had quite a chuckle when I asked them if they were thinking of buying anything. I interviewed two young women checking out a spectacular gown in the Armani window (one of them Natasha, told me she wouldn’t have had enough money to buy it even before the economic crisis).  A school teacher I interviewed said what I suppose we all know, “you don’t need money and fancy gifts to make Christmas special, just look around you, you can feel the spirit of Christmas.”

My post on Italy’s Tiger Mamma is coming soon.

Post in: Italiano

8 Comments

  1. Avatar
    jwthomas
    2011/12/05

    Oh, the price of allowing the former President/Prime Minister indulge himself from the waist down for so long. Had he used his head a little more some of this might not be so bad.

    Reply
  2. Avatar
    Alan
    2011/12/05

    . . tears from the crocodile pool – as the sign on Bill Clinton’s desk said ‘It’s the system stupid!’
    or ‘When you are up to your arse in crocodiles it can be difficult to remember that the original objective was to drain the swamp.’ – Karl Marx (well, not actually Marx – I just wish . .)

    Reply
  3. Avatar
    Liz Cameron
    2011/12/14

    so, what did the gendered commentary begin with the next day re: the tears? how did the media react to this? was it akin to the flurry over hillary clinton’s tears during the NH speech? you have talked about the veline, and the bunga stereotypes and the boobs and legs and all that re: representations of women in the popular media – what does the mozzarella mamma have to say about how women are portrayed who have “power” positions such as this – other than the tiger mamma? what are the archetypes? post, please? xo

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2011/12/14

      It would take a book chapter to respond to this comment but it raises a lot of important questions that I will address quickly. The Minister who cried is a very tough cookie. After nearly 18 years of Berlusconi, Italians are less used to hard-hitting female Ministers, and then a hard-hitting one who cried threw them for a loop. I think some (including my husband) thought they were crocodile tears. She is making massive cuts to the pension system, lots of people will pay the price for it, but probably not her. Others–including me– thought they were sincere. Everyone in Italy is extremely concerned about the economic crunch and the sacrifices that will need to be made. As far as the comparison to Hilary Clinton tearing up in the NH democratic primary– at the time I was a little more cynical. I thought Hilary might be doing that for electoral purposes. It is worth noting that the current Italian government is an unelected technocrat government so Minister Elsa Fornero is not running for office. I will stop here before I get really going on the subject and fill up all the reply space.

      Reply
  4. Avatar
    Zachary Nowak
    2012/05/06

    I seriously doubt it, but the Minister could have indeed been sincere. I’m sure that moment of public anguish for Italy’s increasingly-squeezed middle class will pass. Did I miss something, or did the Minister forget to announce that all ministers on the Council will have their salaries reduced by 15%? Nope, not in that speech or any other speech from members of the Monti government. It’s hardly an original observation, but it’s hard to accept the decisions of la classe dirigente in Italy when its members do not seem to be giving up anything.

    It’s free to cry, and can even make you look good. Sincerity (or lack thereof) is ultimately irrelevant.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2012/05/07

      Thanks for your comment Zach. Watching her in that press conference I was convinced she was sincere, then I went home to my Italian-Economist husband who said, “no way, all a fake” and had more or less the same reaction as you did. I think I am too naive when it comes to politics.

      Reply
  5. Avatar
    Zachary Nowak
    2012/10/07

    Rereading this months later, it irritates me even more. After the ministra said that young Italians need to move away from mom and pop (implying they are at home because they want pasta every night, not because they can’t afford rent on their own because they have no job), I heard that she and her husband work at the uni in Rome…where their daughter works.Go friggin’ figure. Sincerity from these idioti? Right. I’d sooner believe Berlusca.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2012/10/08

      Zach — Yesterday I wrote a post about a panel I was on in Ferrara talking about parenting, but I didn’t mention that while in Ferrara I was also asked to be one of 4 journalists to sit on a stage and fire questions at Susanno Camusso (for those who don’t know her, she is the leader of the most powerful trade union in Italy and one heck of a tough ladey) on the question of precarieta’ (temporary work) in Italy. It was a fascinating debate that would have been good for the Minister of Labor, Elsa Fornero’, to hear. The situation is so difficult in Italy right now for young Italians. I was amazed my first night in Ferrara when I had dinner with 10 Italians — all between 30 and 40– all well-educated, some with master’s degrees, all working temporary jobs, none of them married, and none with children. It is almost as though a generation has been caught in Limbo with no way to move forward with their lives.

      Reply

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