Italian Reality Check
As I sit in my salotto to write this in my apartment in Garbatella, the same Roman neighborhood where Giorgia Meloni was raised, outside there is some sort of political gathering. I don’t know which one of the numerous Italian parties it is, but it is a rather pathetic gathering of maybe 40 people sparsely wearing red hats and masks in a kind of cobbled-up assembly. There’s a rather effeminate looking guy, even for European standards, yelling into a mic. There’s the sound guy at a tiny mixing desk. I see a couple people with rainbow ‘pace’ flags – as they are called in Italy. The guy yelling has what I can only assume are maybe his mamma and her friends kind of supporting him – emphasis on ‘kind of.’ He’s clearly invested in his speech but not getting much of a return on his investment.
These sorts of pitiable assemblies are common in Italy.
Angry person X who is tired of politician Y poorly attempting to convince tired person Z to also become angry. This is the context into which Giorgia Meloni has risen to the scene as expected Prime Minister of Italy. I say ‘expected’ because technically speaking the Prime Minister of Italy is chosen by the President of the Republic according to how many votes are attained by parties or coalitions (several parties in agreement to run together) in parliamentary elections.
But I don’t want to get into the anatomy of the Italian political hydra which seems to quadruple its bureaucratic heads every time you think you understand it.
For now, just know that Giorgia Meloni won a general election which is likely to result in her being the new prime minister. You also must know that the majority of voters did vote right of center for more conservative parties and coalitions. Meloni won within the complicated mess of modern Italian politics. She won within a country which is tired after a long pandemic of bureaucracy, in a country which is questioning its identity with respect to its role within Europe and its responsibility to its own people vis-a-vis an increasing immigrant population and a low birthrate and an ever-present abortion debate (and now war) within its continent.
I think it is fair to say Italians are politically tired.
Voter turnout was, according to Rai News, the lowest recorded since the Italian institutional referendum in 1946. This probably explains in part what I referred to as the many ‘pathetic’ party assemblies you see around town. No one really is standing up for much. Italians seem to know that things aren’t right, and the country has gone astray. Meloni won, therefore, in the least participated-in election with a 26% plurality in Italy’s ‘first-past-the-post’ voting system.
This is an important note for conservatives to understand because to run around saying ‘the silent majority in Italy has woken up’ is not exactly right.
She currently has very little actual support, relatively speaking from younger generations, very little from union workers which make up a large portion of Italy’s workforce. Reuters put it this way: Meloni’s base is the self-employed and the Catholics. The former an increasing demographic and the later a decreasing one.
The Meaning of Meloni
Nevertheless, this reality check I am trying to make doesn’t subtract from how important Meloni’s win can be for those of us who are willing to fight for a society built upon Christian principles. The thing about Meloni is this: in a tired society which doesn’t quite know how to speak its mind and is fragile in terms of understanding itself and its future, someone who’s voice resonates with the people has indeed risen. She is not merely an angry talking head in front of a mic. She actually says things that Italians resonate with. The things Meloni is talking about make sense and directly impact everyday people. And the way she says these things instill in her listeners a sense of pride.
But what is Meloni saying? I want to let her speak for herself. Meloni is the president of the Fratelli d’Italia party, the Brothers of Italy. In a Multi-party system the ‘theme’ or motto of a party is very important. If you’re an Italian voter, and you have several dozens of parties to choose from with politicians who are not even necessarily loyal to their parties, sometimes the only thing you can go on in terms of voting is to remember that motto blazoned across a bus or that they keep yelling outside your apartment.
The fratelli Di Italia party’s motto is “God, fatherland, and family.” It is a phrase they revived from a hero for Italian Republicanism, Giusseppe Mazzini. Mazzini is a common name seen around Italy. Hundreds of piazzas and vias are named after him. So he is a generally accepted ‘positive’ historical character. To put it more clearly, while the media is biting the bit to associate Meloni’s party with popular narrative villain Mussolini, Meloni’s political philosophy is actually more obviously rooted with popular narrative good-guy character Mazzini. Below is my translation of Meloni’s answer to a debate moderator’s question about her party’s motto. This is taken in September just before the general election. Emphasis added.
Moderator: ‘I want to stick with the theme of the identity of Brothers of Italy: God, fatherland, and family. Isn’t it an identity that slams a little with modernity? Doesn’t it have a bit of an ancient flavor?’
Meloni: ‘Look, I consider myself a conservative. So I don’t think of a Mazzinian motto like God, Fatherland and Family – because you have to remember that it’s a motto of Mazzini, I don’t think it’s a must that it clashes with modernity. What does it mean? It means defending an identity. What identity? That is: the identity of our society, a European identity. It means that the family is the core foundation of our societies, the main social safety net that we have. It means the homeland and our own identity binds us – even right here [among the debaters and moderator]!
It does not mean that when you claim your own identity that you will not dialogue with others! Look: the word respect comes from the Latin word respicere: to look into – deeply – into the other. And it is when you know who you are that you can look deeply into another. The fatherland is fundamental. The family is fundamental and also, in my opinion, religious identity is fundamental. Irrespective of the obvious!
Because we are even taught it, among other teachings – in Christianity – in the value of the secularity of the state. It is not about imposing on someone what you believe in. It is about remembering that the Christian values are synthesized to our civilization.
We believe in solidarity because it was taught to us by Christianity, we believe in the secularity of the state because Christianity teaches it to us, In respect, because Christianity teaches it to us etc. etc. etc. I don’t think you have to hide this identity in order to have respect for others. That instead is what the Left believes and in the paradox of removing crucifixes from the classrooms of our schools in Europe and then accepting that entire neighborhoods be in the hands of Islamic sharia, I frankly didn’t understand it.
Now, regardless of whether what Meloni says here is lockstep with Catholic teaching, it cannot be denied that what she says is concrete, especially when compared to the alternative. What alternative? Well, more of the same, which is not what Italians want. And while everyone may not have voted for Meloni, the Italian political climate is known for people shifting to supporting their political leaders. Meloni is indeed well liked generally speaking especially by women. Her rhetoric is no-nonsense style and battle-cry style emphasizing the power in the tradition within Italian culture.
Meloni looks, to me, a lot like realigning government with the cultural values of a nation. Italy is a nation. Italy is a nation of family people. Italy is a nation of godly people. When many Italians hear this, it is as if they can remember better times and then they can see how far they have drifted. This is why Meloni’s words resonate. As for how she says it, her clarity, competence, and humor in the face of critics gives her the stature of an almost biblical judge.
In fact, at the risk of waxing theological, I can’t help but think of her in light of the strong woman characters we have among the Saints like Catherine of Siena who made the clerics of her day look puny with her daily early morning walks to St. Peter’s basilica. Or I think of Deborah who told off Barak for being too weak to take on his call to battle Sisera. ”The road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Barak’s pusillanimity was fixed by God with Deborah’s magnanimity. Barak failed, Deborah succeeded. Barak is forgotten, Deborah remembered. Meloni speaks with the Deborah style.
This is why we inspire so much fear! Because we don’t want to be numbers! We will defend God, the fatherland, and the family! These things that disgust these people so much! Because we will not be slaves! We will not be mere consumers.
The new Prime Minister of Italy.
— Aaron Ginn (@aginnt) September 26, 2022
These are this woman’s words. She seems to speak directly to the heart. Giorgia Meloni has a lot to face as she takes on her new position, and while God is the judge in the end, I think it is fair to say her win is a win for Christian values in Italy.