Italy in Revolt: First Protest against Monti's Government... a Flop!

Italy in revolt! Today, January 27 2012, starting at 12:30 pm, people converged on Piazza San Giovanni in Rome to protest against Monti's package of measures to fix the debt problem and stimulate the economy. The police, expecting the worst, had cordoned off the streets and a helicopter surveyed the scene:

Here the protesters march down the Viale Carlo Felice, coming from Piazza della Repubblica where they had convened earlier this morning:

Most of them are middle-aged, some are even old and there's only one group of young people, about fifty of them, walking behind a sign which says "Students and Workers United - General Strike". 

Note the hammer and sickle: long time, no see! 

Actually there were very few such reminders of Communism, although I did note some leftovers from radical parties, weakily waiving antiquated flags, and a couple of young TAV protesters (TAV is the high speed train that is supposed to link Italy to France and has roused the ire of environmentalists ). Perhaps they were few because at present, some 25 TAV protesters are in prison, after the violent demonstrations last summer that left hundreds wounded.

By one pm, the protesters had gathered in the Piazza and gleefully let off some smoke bombs, just to add a little ambience:

Looks threatening but it's only pink smoke! 

Here they are listening to their union leaders (these were mostly from the public transport system unions - local trains, buses and subways are stopped today for a 24 hour strike - a nuisance of course, but everyone's used to these strikes that conveniently start after 8.30 am so people can get to work and are suspended between 5 and 8 pm so people can go back home):

As you can see, there are very few people...And if you look at the piazza in the other direction, that's what you see:

I'm not kidding you: the piazza was empty! 

This protest was a total flop - maybe four or five hundred people came, no more. A far cry from the way Piazza San Giovanni had been filled to the brim some two years ago when there was a mega protest against Berlusconi. You couldn't even edge in your way into the piazza from the side streets!

All told, this was just a pleasant outing on a sunny day, with a couple of t-shirt vendors. Here's one:

And here's the t-shirt I would buy (it reads: "and I pay!"):

Yes, echoes of Occupy Wall Street: it's always the common man - the 99 percent - who ends up paying! By the way, that's a picture of the famous actor Toto, still an icon in Italy (and rightly so).

You know what are the real problems of life in Rome this week? Lack of fruits and vegetables! Because 10 percent (that's right only ten percent) of truck drivers have blocked the roads from vegetable collection points, we are getting no fruits and vegetables from Southern Italy (the area that produces the best tasting stuff!). 

So supermarket shelves have looked like this all week:

And like this:

The asparagus you glimpse on the right come from Peru, by air and via Milano. Because we get all the stuff from Milano: Northern Italy hasn't been blocked. 

A pity, because the tomatoes, eggplants and other veggies all come from Spain that unfortunately is very good at using modern agricultural techniques and packaging/distribution methods and very bad at producing tasty produce: tomatoes and eggplants are all precisely the same size and color and utterly tasteless. Actually, when you eat them, you can't tell the difference between a tomato and an eggplant!

Apart from the unpleasantness of being unable to locate good produce, what makes me really angry is that a minority of truck drivers can manage to block half a country - some twenty five million people -  and curtail our rights as consumers to get the food we are used to eating. 

All because they have to pay a little more tax and participate in salvaging the Italian economy. Haven't they got any sense of civic responsibility? What kind of people are these, always thinking of making more and more money? Because I'm quite certain that these truck drivers make a nice, steady income. They just won't admit to it, that's all. And nobody is investigating their real income, neither journalists nor the Finance Police (Guardia di Finanza - true, sometimes they do check on people, but it's all rather sporadic). Truck drivers are part of the privileged class (along with restaurant and bar owners) that never pay the taxes they really owe the government.

This said, the problem in Italy is that the ultra rich don't pay either. Landowners, doctors, lawyers, accountants etc - nobody pays the taxes owed. 

Tax evasion is so universal that it is the real disease Italy is suffering from. 

If the one percent gave the good example of paying the taxes it owes - the way it does in Northern Europe, in Norway, in Germany etc - then maybe the 99 percent  (and among them the restaurant owners, the taxi drivers and trucksters who constitute niches of privilege) would follow suit...And Italy would at last function as a modern state.
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