Working in #Italy: political discourse

There are many reasons to learn Italian well if you are going to work in Italy for any length of time, but certainly one of the main reasons to do so is to gain better access and understanding of the Italian culture. One wonderful aspect of the Italian culture, in my opinion, is the depth and variety of political discourse.

While many Italian people speak English, having a discussion about Italian politics in English is somehow sub-par and doesn’t satisfy. Yes, you can have an American-style debate where you discuss each individual talking point, similar to what you might do in a College course. But, then you have not really experienced the true Italian art form of political debate in its fullest form. To do that, you need to first be informed on the political landscape in Italy (something extremely difficult for foreigners, but fascinating), then you have to have studied at least the equivalent of Political Science 101 at the University, further you have to have a reasonable vocabulary in Italian to be able to hold sway and make your opinion understood, and finally you have to be prepared for the emotional, at times gut-wrenching, discussion that will take place. It is among the most pleasant experiences you can have in Italy if you are prepared.

I will keep my own political beliefs to myself since my particular political persuasion is not the primary point of this article, which is instead about political discourse in Italy, and not about politics; these are decidedly different things. It helps to have a very high level understanding of the historical formation of the Partito Comunista (Italian Communist party), which developed as a counterbalance to the right-wing sway during the time of Mussolini. Since the party developed in that very particular atmosphere, the underpinnings of Marxism that defined the communist parties in places such as China and Russia were less of a factor in the formation of the party, even if the party obviously has elements in common with other communist movements.

So, it happened that late one night after work and dinner that I came to ask an Italian woman, one of the Italian consultants on our team onsite at our client location in Rome, about why she considered herself a communist. She and I had witnessed a political demonstration earlier in the day and my colleague had taken that opportunity to avow her political alliance and demonstrate her solidarity with the people in the streets ( she called out to them as we passed by). So, to start off our discussion, I was genuinely curious to understand more about communism in Italy, so I asked her: since you come from a comparatively wealthy family (she had told me about her family previously), and obviously are not struggling to survive financially (we had just had a luxurious meal in Trastevere district and she was a highly paid consultant), how is that consistent with your allegiance to the Partito Comunista? It would be impossible for me to repeat the finer points of the discussion itself, especially since it occurred so long ago. Suffice it to say that after several glasses of wine and several hours of discussion, sometime around 4 AM we had come to no particular conclusion on my initial query. Rather, we had truly enjoyed the discussion, and perhaps more importantly, we had formed a bond and mutual respect that lasts a lifetime.

Ci sentiamo presto, Lina

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