2013: The Pope Resigns, is it the Year of Abstention?

The Pope has resigned, saying he feels too old and sick to handle the responsibilities of his function as leader of one billion Catholics - earning the disapproval of die-hard extremists who view the Papal function as a calling, not something that can be turned down. Curiously, Sky TV in Italy has been running this month that 2011 film Habemus Papam, done by Nanni Moretti with that wonderful actor Michel Piccoli in the role of the resigning Pope. For those who haven't seen it, here's the official trailer, it will give you a taste of that excellent film:

No, I don't think this Pope resigned because of "something regarding his childhood". This is not stuff for psycho-analysis. This Pope resigned because he felt truly ill - I happened to be at St Peter's last Saturday at a ceremony celebrating the 900 years of the Order of Malta (1113 was the date of the Papal bull that recognized the Order founded by the Blessed Gerard). The cathedral was filled with over 4500 members and volunteers of the Order in full regalia, it was a wonderful sight but the Pope, although he spoke very well with a strong voice, undoubtedly looked sick and, dare I say it, like a shriveled old man. But the point is this: here is a man of true integrity and absolute moral values. If he sees that he cannot fulfill his obligations because of physical impediments, especially obligations entrusted on him by God as the leader of all Catholics, then for him, it is a moral duty to resign. Full stop.

I admire him for that.

This is nothing like abstention from duties. Abstention that alas, is stalking our lives as citizens of a democracy. Here in Italy, in less than two weeks, people are called to vote the next government and for many, the choice is impossible. They don't like the left and the candidate the right has to offer is Berlusconi who, as I argued in my previous post, has let them down. I am afraid that the biggest party in Italy is likely to be the one of abstentions...

The trouble is: abstention is a choice - just as much as voting is. When you abstain from voting, you are giving up your right to exercise your voice as a citizen. You are silent. You are letting others decide for you. Because you don't participate, your country is run by that many fewer people. A minority viewpoint could prevail. You are putting democracy at risk.

This year, there will be in Europe many occasions to vote: most notably, elections are coming up in Germany in September. Will Angela Merkel win? She is highly regarded in her country for having saved German taxpayers' money - yet she is the one politician most responsible for having plunged Europe in recession because of her relentless austerity demands. Demands that were largely the result of unfounded fears that austerity was required to avoid inflation and a repeat of what Germany lived through in the 1920s. And recession in Europe is not something that helps German exports: the US and Chinese markets are important for German industry, but Europe is even more important...Will people stay home disgusted and not vote, or will they go out and renew their government, making sure that it addresses current issues and not past ones, like that ridiculous fear of seeing the 1920s repeating themselves?

2013 could indeed be the Year of Abstention, the Year of Lost Opportunities for Change and that would be a pity...We don't want Berlusconi back, do we?

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