July 14, 2003

Roberto Pazzi in the NY Times:

Germans and Italians are made to love each other, but never to esteem each other. They are doomed to attract each other without mutual understanding. They fill the empty spaces in the others' mind. A military alliance between two such different peoples, apart from the representation of the two mad dictators in Chaplin's film, is unthinkable. The Germans are the people of Luther, Leibniz, Bach, Goethe, Hegel, Marx, Schopenhauer, Wagner and Nietzsche. Germany's psyche is tempted, as Thomas Mann warned us in "Doctor Faustus," by a Luciferine dream of the Absolute, an intoxicating dream in which the Self dissolves into the All.

Italy, however, cradle of Greek and Latin Mediterranean civilization, is still infused with the Euripidean assumption: character is man's destiny. Italians have always been incurable and marvelous individualists, resistant to any dream of the absolute, including the Christian one. Their Catholic faith is but a veil covering the pagan cult of beauty, imagination, youth, glory, etc. We call it success, but really it's the need of an exceptional Self — a Greek hero like Ulysses or a saint like Augustine of Hippo — to distinguish oneself from the crowd.

Just look at our prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. He's a rich man who derides professional politicians and who has made millions of Italians dream of emulating his luck by voting for him. What better expression of the Italian individualistic soul could there be?

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