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L'Onda

by de Gondi Mon Nov 3rd, 2008 at 04:39:19 AM EST

The Wave hits Italy. The number of students that converge on Rome is beyond expectations. The demonstrations are so vast that they spill over the city. There are no longer two processions as authorized by authorities but three since the official itineraries cannot hold the crowds of people. Numerous rivulets break off into the side streets and flow down towards Piazza del Popolo. Buses are blocked outside the city and the students and teachers began to march along the beltway. One of the most impressive marches flows towards the Minister of "Public Instruction" (si fa per dire).

Mariastella Gelmini as Beatified Ignorance
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Front-paged with an edit by afew


The decree is law. A law passed in a kangaroo parliament without discussion, without amendments- except the leghista amendment that creates special classes of "temporary discrimination" for children who have not learned Italian- specifically designed to destroy public education through the back door of financial cuts and draconian budget guidelines. Within two years, figures at hand, many universities will be forced to sell their real estate, choice properties in the historical centers of Italy's prestigious cities. There are plenty of buyers waiting on the sidelines.

The first attack is on elementary schooling, the one system Italy can be proud of, the only school that distinguishes itself in the OCSE analyses for its quality. It's a child's first impact with schooling and socialization, the basis for a child's future attitudes to learning. It was in the hardcore red region Reggio Emilia shortly after WWII that the Reggio Emilia Approach was developed, then copied throughout the world.  

Piero Calamandrei, one of the fathers of the Republic, had already described in 1950 the present scenario. His speech has become a byword among students today. And that is emblematic of the desolate political landscape in Italy. The silence of Berlusconi's parliament of appointees is countered by speech in public, speech that recognizes no political affiliation to the right or left, speech that testifies to the vitality, richness and intelligence of the new generations, speech that recognizes the greatness of its teachers and maestros, and asks in synthesis, why are you doing it? Is there anyone out there, listening?

Facciamo l'ipotesi, così astrattamente, che ci sia un partito al potere, un partito dominante, il quale però formalmente vuole rispettare la costituzione, non la vuole violare in sostanza. Non vuol fare la marcia su Roma e trasformare l'aula in alloggiamento per i manipoli; ma vuol istituire, senza parere, una larvata dittatura. Let's advance the hypothesis, very abstract, that there is a party in power, a dominant party, that formally wishes to respect the constitution, but in fact violates it. It doesn't want to march on Rome and transform classrooms into dormitories for its maniples but wishes to install without resistance an embryonic dictatorship.
Allora, che cosa fare per impadronirsi delle scuole e per trasformare le scuole di stato in scuole di partito? Si accorge che le scuole di stato hanno il difetto di essere imparziali. C'è una certa resistenza; in quelle scuole c'è sempre, perfino sotto il fascismo c'è stata. Allora, il partito dominante segue un'altra strada (è tutta un'ipotesi teorica, intendiamoci). Comincia a trascurare le scuole pubbliche, a screditarle, ad impoverirle. Lascia che si anemizzino e comincia a favorire le scuole private. Non tutte le scuole private. Le scuole del suo partito, di quel partito. Ed allora tutte le cure cominciano ad andare a queste scuole private. Cure di denaro e di privilegi. Si comincia persino a consigliare i ragazzi ad andare a queste scuole, perché in fondo sono migliori si dice di quelle di stato. [...] So what does it do to take over schools and transform public schools into party schools? It realizes that state schools have the defect of being impartial. There's a certain resistance; in those schools, even under fascism, there had always been. So then, the dominant party takes another road (this is all a theoretical hypothesis, you understand) They begin to let the schools fall apart, they discredit them and impoverish them. They let them become anaemic and they begin to favour the private schools. Not all the private schools. The schools of the party, that party. And so attention begins to go to those private schools. Money and privileges. You even begin to recommend to kids to go to those schools because in the end they're better than state schools. [...]
Attenzione, questa è la ricetta. Bisogna tener d'occhio i cuochi di questa bassa cucina. L'operazione si fa in tre modi: ve l'ho già detto: rovinare le scuole di stato. Lasciare che vadano in malora. Impoverire i loro bilanci. Ignorare i loro bisogni. Attenuare la sorveglianza e il controllo sulle scuole private. Non controllarne la serietà. Lasciare che vi insegnino insegnanti che non hanno i titoli minimi per insegnare. Lasciare che gli esami siano burlette. Dare alle scuole private denaro pubblico. Questo è il punto. Dare alle scuole private denaro pubblico. Watch out, that's the recipe. You've got to keep an eye on low grade kitchenry. The operation is in three phases. I've already said it: Ruin public schools. Let them fall apart. Cut back their budgets. Ignore their needs. Let up vigilance and control over the private schools. Disregard seriousness. Let teachers without minimum credentials teach. Let the exams become a farse. Give public money to private schools. That's the point. Give public money to private schools.

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"But if a tyrant (or a maniple of democratically elected idiots) usurps power and prescribes to the people what they must do, is this too law?" Alcibiade

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Thanks to my daughter, faculty of architecture, for patiently answering my many questions, exchanging views, keeping me informed on what's happening, on all the brainstorming going on in the faculties...
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sun Nov 2nd, 2008 at 06:22:19 PM EST
Thanks for this diary, de Gondi. This is wonderful and gives me hope for this young generation. What a pleasure to see them out on the streets in solidarity and fighting(in a good way) for what is important for them.

What also seems amazing that there seem to be no battles with other groups - just one big demonstration.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 3rd, 2008 at 02:33:48 AM EST
The only battles between groups occurred between the far rightwing student organizations and some students who reacted to fascist attacks, such as in Piazza Navona on the 29th.

Before that episode the students accepted their presence on the condition that they not clearly identify themselves politically. One of the ground rules of the movement is a refusal to be associated with political parties or the classic dichotomy Left-Right. It is obvious that the nature of the movement is "left" or "progressive" in that it is projected towards the future and concrete problem-solving of the disastrous situation in which the actual Italian educational system wallows, a situation in which both the right and left political establishments share responsibility.

What happened in Piazza Navona was a clear provocation by the fascist block to take the head of demonstration whereas the students refused the presence of banners and slogans with an established political identification. At that point the fascists attacked the kids, beating up several with belts wrapped around their fists. They effectively created their own space within the Piazza. Their insistance at chanting fascist slogans especially to the Duce and their militarization of the area they had carved out lead to the subsequent fighting about 45 minutes later. It was only then that the police intervened.

Pictures published yesterday as well as sworn testimony that is confirmed by the photos can be seen on la Repubblica's site.

Yesterday Tremonti's site was hacked. "If you block our future, we're going to block your sites."

This evening it has been proposed to meet in Circo Massimo to write what the students call "human graffiti" in honour of Berlusconi's bill to crack down on graffiti with stiff prison sentences, stiffer than those for fraudulent bankruptcy which Berlusconi is seeking to depenalize. Demonstrators are invited to light candles during the night and write slogans against the "reform" with their bodies. We'll see if it happens.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Nov 3rd, 2008 at 03:58:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great diary, de Gondi, thanks. Would you mind if I moved one of the photos up to the top (Beata Ignoranza is nice) to make a pictorial intro on the front page?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Nov 3rd, 2008 at 04:13:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fine.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Nov 3rd, 2008 at 04:34:05 AM EST
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very inspiring, thankyou.

to see these young people demanding good education is a great sign. they are refusing the dumbed down existence the right would prefer.

that speech from 1950 was a knockout!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Nov 3rd, 2008 at 04:37:47 AM EST
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Everything Calamandrei did was a knock out. An extraordinary sense of humour in the face of tyranny. If the States had the plain-talking Federalist Papers, Italy has the works of the Roselli brothers, the Calamandrei's, Ernesto Rossi, Gaetano Salvemini, etc, etc.

Even his non-juridical writings on Benvenuto Cellini are fascinating.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Nov 3rd, 2008 at 04:48:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It was last night the human graffiti event! The photos are now on line.

I really messed up on that one.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Nov 3rd, 2008 at 06:04:20 AM EST
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To be honest, all this brings tears of joy to my eyes.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Nov 3rd, 2008 at 06:23:20 AM EST
You couldn't put it better. Especially for us who lived through the student movements of the 60's and 70's- and still conserve a drop of realistic optimism despite everything. It's nice to report- and feel in some way a part of a good future.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Nov 3rd, 2008 at 09:04:26 AM EST
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I was a film student, and then later film-maker, during that period.

I suppose it is the same for all 20 -25 year olds, but that period still echoes with me every day in some form. I suppose it is the time when you really feel life is beginning. Up to that time, it's all about me - who am I?: but then you discover this big old world and that you are part of it, responsible for it in some small way.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Nov 3rd, 2008 at 11:31:57 AM EST
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I'm in my late 50's. I was in Paris from 69 to 72. I went through the student movement there as well as the Italian movements throughout the seventies. It was different. Violence became routine and assassination became a perverse logic between warring factions.

There's a program on commemorating 68 in Rome that's a play on an old expression, "The misdeeds of your fathers will fall on you," a cruel admonition of ancient times when guilt was hereditary. It's been changed to "The dreams of your fathers will fall on you."

The students of today say they've studied well our past dreams and mistakes and have planned accordingly. Our worry is that power is ruthless and will do anything to radicalize or subvert this outburst of young  protest and human creativity.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Nov 3rd, 2008 at 11:52:51 AM EST
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Sven Triloqvist:
To be honest, all this brings tears of joy to my eyes.

'Per Amore della Filosofia'

Yes indeed.

Superb diary, DG.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Nov 3rd, 2008 at 02:23:40 PM EST
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L'Onda, eh, the Wave, that's what they're calling it?

Huh!  I am so glad I found this site.  Three weeks ago I was an American tourist in Italy for the first time.  When I got to Florence I see all these protests (what, 50,000 people in the streets at 10:00 on a Monday night - what the hell is this?)  Followed by "Occupation" banners flying from every school window, classes in the Piazzas over the next few days?

I don't speak Italian but I eventually learned from various English-speaking protesters that these were protests against the Berlusconi government's draconian cutbacks to the education budget.  I started buying Italian newspapers which I couldn't really read but could pick out the occasional word or phrase from and learned some things.

But I could never get a clear sense of where this thing was headed.  Upon returning home I looked for Internet info and couldn't find any in English.  (Presidential election sucks oxygen out of everything else, I suppose).  I started going to www.repubblica.it and running their stories through Google's miserable Italian translator.  Better than nothing, I suppose, and learned of the continuing growth of these protests.

I'd be very interested in following this further and would appreciate any further posts here, as well as links in English to material elsewhere.  

This is a very significant story and no one in America knows a damned thing about it.

I have put together a little web page with some pictures I took last month of these events, that mostly reflects my impatient confusion, but you may find it interesting.

by sTiVo on Mon Nov 3rd, 2008 at 05:13:10 PM EST
welcome to ET, sTiVo, i'm glad you found us.

it is thoroughly mindblowing to see italy 'getting up off its knees' (to cop one from berlusconi!).

if you click on de Gondi's name, you will come to his diary page, with several excellent diaries on italy.

hope you will feel like sticking around and telling us about what interests you, hopefully we will all be celebrating heartily the sea change in usa politics pretty soon!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Nov 3rd, 2008 at 07:34:37 PM EST
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Thanks, melo, that is the question I'd like to know the answer to.

Is this changing Italian politics and if so, how?  Less than a month ago, an Italian Bed & Breakfast owner who had grown up in America told us, "Everyone likes Berlusconi but the extreme left".  Odd fellow, he hated Bush but loved Berlusconi.  I knew at that time nothing that would give me reason to doubt him.  But a few days later, it sure didn't seem that way it to me.

Anyway, nice to find this place.

by sTiVo on Mon Nov 3rd, 2008 at 10:34:32 PM EST
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Welcome to ET, sTiVo!
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Nov 4th, 2008 at 02:50:55 AM EST
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The word inexplicable does come to mind when thinking of an electorate who can stay in love with Bush or Berlusconi for so long. But it is 'xplicable' though, since this raping of the system happened in California in the beginning of Reagan's Reign of Terror and in europe before as de Gondi describes...

I can only think that the avarice of the über rich make them so very afraid, and their solution is to eliminate potential threats. Step One: Pushing the feet from under the middle classes...take away the quality schooling, through more into wars, create the need for debt, loan the money and suck interest on the money you loaned to make more bombs.

Great to see your shots of the students. Fills one with hope, it does.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Tue Nov 4th, 2008 at 03:06:55 PM EST
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siegestate:
I can only think that the avarice of the über rich make them so very afraid, and their solution is to eliminate potential threats. Step One: Pushing the feet from under the middle classes...take away the quality schooling, through more into wars, create the need for debt, loan the money and suck interest on the money you loaned to make more bombs.

fear >> avarice >> more fear >> more avarice

how to break this cycle in mens' minds?
you are totally correct about eviscerating the educational system to create a populus deprived of the tools to think critically, and ignorant of the lessons of history, the better to manipulate.

the students' calmness and good behaviour, plus the hope in every italian family that their childrens' education was the only way forward through the shark-invested waters of employment, where nepotism and cronyism have blocked meritocracy for so long in italy.

these are not antisocial dropouts, or anarchist crazies, these are bravi ragazzi, good kids, their parents' pride and hope, merely asking unpolemically to be left the right to a good education, something dear to everyones' hearts, in an increasingly competitive world where ignorance is the most cardinal (and mortal) sin left.

the sheer revolting devilry of berlusconi is on full display here, while a few days ago he was boasting about being able to 'keep it up' all night long better than younger men.

if anything can help a deluded public see through this evil corporatist's machinations, seeing normal, well-behaved, aspiring young people who don't want to settle for factory slavery (with an average of 4 people dying a day due to sloppy practices and lack of regulation enforcement) or pride-killing unemployment limbo as a future, with organised crime offering better career advancement than hard work and dedication, which is all therse students are asking for.

cossiga's recent outburst drew attention to the entrenched 'casta's' outlook and old strategy, double-daring berlusconi to strip mine his political capital by sending in the gestapo and breaking heads, the heads of the country's children, themselves just trying to do what all young people all over the world are trying to do, follow their elders' advice and learn about the world.

it is very revealing how many people are sheltering and feeding the students on their long, risky vigils.

 public opinion, with the exception of the usual fruitbat suspects, could not be more solidly on the side of the students.

it is also highly relevant that the american media is avoiding this story.

between barack's election and these demonstrations in rome, i'm daring to hope more...

you can't fool all the people all the time for ever, and now is as good a time as any for a massive sea-change in global politics.

barack knows it, these students want to be part of it, all over the world people will continue to take heart at these manifestations of the best in humanity, and live their own lives with more permission to dream a future all can belong to and find a good place within.

you can delay human consciousness, but like a mushroom breaking up through cement, it can never be entirely denied, it will find a way.

today is a new dawn, i thought as i watched the sun come up, after a long night watching news with a loved one, many tears of joy shed together, exhausted, but exhilarated,

yes we can...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Nov 5th, 2008 at 02:37:55 AM EST
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>>it is very revealing how many people are sheltering and feeding the students on their long, risky vigils.

Can you describe the risks?  When I was there, this did not appear to be a high-risk activity.  Has the situation changed?

by sTiVo on Wed Nov 5th, 2008 at 03:13:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
well, going from my experience protesting the runup to the iraq war in rome, there is not much support to handle that many people coming in from outside the city, food and water-wise.

as for risk of violence, it is real, unfortunately, though so far the police have seemed to be holding back in that regard.

these students are taking a major risk, because they could easily be black-flagged by some rightist phalange, which would create violence to then justify busting heads.

the other risk is that the police reieve orders similar to the leaked letter from cossiga the other day, which revealed the nasty intentions the powers that be have not hesitated to resort to before.

i believe that it is only the fact that the public is behind the students' demands for educational quality that has held back the squelching of this protest by vile means, it will cause berlusconi to lose a lot of face either way, whether the ministry has to rewrite the law, or whether he has to turn uniformed thugs onto adolescents.

he's in a tough spot, and fully deserves it, as italian education was badly in need of constructive reform, and investment, not gutting. he was also sneaky about how he slid it through, typically...

if you don't already, you can learn quite a lot from www.beppegrillo.com, which is in english!
i'd like to second de G's comment about your blogging about italy, thanks!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Nov 5th, 2008 at 04:19:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A great welcome aboard here! The Italian school movement has been discussed in the salon. Jerome put up a discussion the other day to which I added some comments. I'll be glad to answer any questions as best as I can.

Your site is great and I recommend that everybody have a look. I'm really heartened that you took an interest in the movement despite the language barrier and put up a site!

The movement continues and has effectively blocked the government, mostly over its short sighted terror of not being loved by the majority of Italian citizens. This morning la Repubblica has published a copy of the bill "Gelmini" was going to introduce these days- once again with the decree mechanism, a legal loop-hole that allows a government to legislate on the pretext of "emergency" without any serious parliamentary discussion.  Shoving improvised measures through parliament without discussion and insulting academia with pithy remarks and slogans might work in a Berlusconi's reality shows but in real life. It's this stark contrast between the government's televised power and the rest of us- especially those who refuse spectator politics- that gives this strong sense of life, I would even hesitate to say an irruption of bios onto the political scene. It's symbolic that a large sized Pinocchio was used in the fighting in Piazza Navona. To see a broken Pinocchio lying among the upturned chairs sums up what is happening. Pinocchio, the wooden marionette who became a boy.

Often they say that Berlusconi is like Pinocchio because of his compulsive necessity to lie. Berlusconi is far more like l'omino bianco the smiling master driving his coach of asses who takes children to vicariously participate in his gah-gah land of showgirls and hustlers. As he smiles he calmly walks over and bites the ear off a crying donkey. De Tocqueville dreamed of this smiling monster 150 years ago, the dreaded side of democracy.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue Nov 4th, 2008 at 05:14:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Powerful.

If I were in Rome these days, I guess I'd join them.
Not being Italian and over university age does not mean it does not concern me directly. A movement fighting against education is always scary. And we all know where it can lead.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Tue Nov 4th, 2008 at 04:40:51 AM EST
OK, so what is this?

My poor non-Italian head is spinning.

Sounds like the government is making some kind of retreat, delaying, rescinding, at least some of the cutbacks.

"English" Translation
Original Italian

Sounds like the government is now trying to distinguish between "ant" schools (good - financially solvent) and "cicada" schools (bad - insolvent)?  Do I have that right?  

by sTiVo on Thu Nov 6th, 2008 at 07:08:53 PM EST
Yes, you have got it right. However, the government has been effectively stalled on the reform after the protests, protests which are still going on.

The present position is to let time pass and hope that will take the wind out of the movement, move it off the front pages.

The best thing would be that the government stops its infantile smear campaign and confront itself with the deans, professors and students on specific issues to constructively reform the educational system rather than push through discredited, old systems.

As for this ad-on that will allow financially solvent institutes the possiblity to hire researchers or receive more fundings, it would appear all right in a proper context. The problem is that it is being proposed as part of a budget bill without any effective guidelines to determine what institutes are solvent or not.

As Calamandrei would put it, the "solvent" institutes are likely to be cherry picked- certainly not on educational criteria.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 04:16:00 AM EST
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