In Italy—which is the next eurozone domino to fall after Spain, Greece, and Portugal—things are bad and getting worse.
The mood here is one of black pessimism and utter contempt for politicians. Italians simmer with anger, but no one has a viable solution to the problem. How could they? Italy is a prisoner of the euro. There is no solution.
So the Italians cling to the tangible stuff they can get their heads around—and the more easily visible targets.
One colorful detail can speak louder than a thousand statistics. In Italy, it was a toga party.
When photographs were published the other day by the online magazine Dagospia of politicians at a lavish and vulgar toga party paid for with taxpayers’ money, it caused a huge scandal even in Italy, which has surely seen every scandal known to mankind.
In these times of economic and existential crisis, Italians regard politicians throwing such a party as an utter disgrace.
The Italians, like the other Mediterranean peoples whose tragedy it is to possess the euro, are forced to endure austerity, which in reality just means more and more taxes and fewer and fewer jobs. Worse, such austerity is futile because it does not tackle the real problem: the crippling public debt. To solve that would require fiscal (therefore political) union of the 17 countries in the eurozone, which none will ever accept—or otherwise penury (not just austerity), which would provoke revolution.
So while Italians, like everyone else in the eurozone, are forced by their politicians to make all these useless sacrifices in the name of the terminally ill euro, those same politicians make absolutely no sacrifices whatsoever.
The toga party was held in 2010 and cost a paltry 30,000 euro, but that has not mattered. Italians see it as emblematic of political decadence. Like Nero, Italy’s politicians fiddle while Rome burns.
The party was held in the spectacular surroundings of the Foro Italico, the fascist-built marble Olympic sports stadium opened by Benito Mussolini in 1932, which is lined with enormous statues of athletes in the classical style.
The theme of the toga party was “The Return of Ulysses,” which has nothing to do with ancient Rome. The published photographs show bunches of grapes dangling into the mouths of scantily clad women and so on. But what made the wheel fly off was one photo of two male guests in togas wearing pig-face masks. In Italy, the word “maiale” (pig) has several connotations, including “sex maniac” and “politician with his snout in the trough.”
The other detail that caused outrage was what Franco Fiorito, the obese capogruppo (leader) of the party that governs the Lazio region, ate that night: Two huge plates of fettucine con i funghi porcini and four bistecche (steaks). But he turned down the pudding, saying: “I just can’t, I’m so sorry, I have to be careful alla glycemia (blood-sugar levels).” This was odd because earlier in the evening, Fiorito, whose nickname is “Batman” and who weighs nearly 400 pounds, had been spotted demolishing the contents of a box containing 24 baci perugini (Perugian chocolate kisses).
The toga-party revelations prompted the media to turn the spotlight on expenditure in Lazio and other regions, especially the wages and extras trousered by regional councilors.
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