TORONTO - By virtually any barometer, Italy is a major player for Canada. It is the 9th largest economy in the world; a significant trading partner for us (one in need of our valuable natural resources); the 4th most popular destination place for tourism; a centre for culture, innovation, design and cutting edge manufacturing, and, now most significantly, given our interests in having the CETA ratified, the 3rd largest economy in Europe (about 50% bigger than Canada by GDP).
Italy’s Diaspora comprises 5% of Canada’s population, one that continues to distinguish itself for its fierce attachment to Canada, its progressive forward-looking sense of nation-building, its self-reliance and its global perspectives.
Building on those assets, over the last several years, Canada’s relatively youthful leadership had begun to foster closer ties to their Italian counterpart. This was until recently, most notable in the relationship that was developing between the two Prime Ministers Justin Trudeau and his younger colleague, Matteo Renzi.
Alas, things have not been going well for that alliance and convergence of interests lately. Renzi, once (and still) a dynamic agent for change, is being challenged by the public and his Party, the ruling Democratic Party.
Italy, despite its culture and refinement, may well be home to the most unruly of populations. It is a characteristic cultivated over the millennia as the Peninsula became subjected to one invader after another. Over the latter part of 2016, dissatisfaction with Renzi gave birth to a slogan his political enemies used to “malign” the youthful Renzi: authority yes, but not authoritarianism.
It seemed that Nature and International events joined in a conspiracy to undermine his “decisiveness”.
The surprise Brexit outcome, and later the improbable victory of Trump, gave new life to the objections of an ever-intemperate Opposition. It claimed that Europe was of little use to Italy’s growing problems: a stagnant economy; unheard of levels of unemployment among women and millennials – approaching 55% in some regions of the South; 300,000 refugees literally “fished out of the waters” of the Mediterranean in the last two years (Canada has accommodated 30,000 in the last 16 months).
In August (and September), earthquakes levelled several towns and caused hundreds of casualties. That would test any leadership. Last week the price tag for rescue, reconstruction and restoration came in at a staggering 32 billion Canadian dollars.
Then, in December, he lost his bid to transform the political architecture of the Italian government, when the YES side suffered defeat in a national referendum. Some of the Leaders in his own Party urged on the NO vote. Italians, initially pleased to see Renzi as potentially the lead player in the remaking of Europe, turned the Referendum vote into a proxy battle against globalism and immigration.
Renzi resigned the Premiership, installed one of his loyalists as Prime Minister, shuffled his Cabinet and initiated the process for restructuring his Party. But, “it never rains unless it pours”. One of his close associates lost the vote to become President of the European Commission, to another Italian with Centre-Right background, in January.
During a PD convention to determine the party’s future last weekend, Renzi became the punching bag for every one who had a bone or a nit to pick with him. Renzi gave better than he got.
Practitioners of political science in Italy are artists in oratory and professionals in ideology and philosophy. It is a potent mixture that masks an otherwise naked thirst for power. There are “public intellectuals” by the dozens, none of them political waifs or ingénues.
Italians prefer their political strife to be resolved in the open. It makes for great theatre. But the PD is weakened and in tatters. Italy’s value to Canada as an ally in Europe and the World stage will suffer a temporary setback, at least until there is a political reset.
That’s how Gad Lerner – journalist, writer and noted Italian intellectual – characterized Silvio Berlusconi on live TV, January 24, 2011. The then Prime Minister, then embroiled in the Bunga Bunga scandal had called into the program to berate the Lerner for what he considered inappropriate attacks against himself, Berlusconi. Lerner responded with the epiteth: “… you are a cafone”.
In the Italian language, cafone has taken on the meaning that reflects behaviour that is rough, vulgar and absent of any signs of “cultured” upbringing – irrespective of social standing, financial status or geographic origin.
In his letter, which we published without edits in yesterday’s paper, Rocco Galati maintains that the term is used by Northerners to give offense to Southeners. The term is in fact used to indicate discourteous conduct, lacking in tact and embedded in ignorance not evidencing any the effect or trace of Castiglione’s “Galateo”, or decorum.
This fundamental difference of perspective on the use and origin of the word has lead to apparent differences on assessments of socio-political impacts.
For example, Silvio Berlusconi has been the recipient of this direct insult on several occasions. One of them became a quasi-reference point for others subsequent to a less than classy retort hurled by Berlusconi at fellow Parliamentarian, Rosy Bindi. The same Gad Lerner wrote, ”… had I been Rosy Bindi, I would have slapped out that incorrigible cafone”.
Beppe Grillo (not an infrequent visitor of vulgarities), Leader of the 5 Star Movement, on the 5th of April, 2009, posted an article on his blog about Berlusconi titled “The Ultimate Cafone ”.
From the writings of both Lerner and Grillo, there is no evidence of an allusion to Regional origins of Berlusconi (Lombardi) or of his social origins. They were drawing attention to his gruff, uncouth and unacceptable demeanour. In our view, Vittorio Zucconi was doing the same with Trump.
But they are not alone. On June 26, 2014, Senator Candiani, irritated by Matteo Renzi’s apparent disinterest in his intervention before the Senate, called the then Premier (a Tuscan) a “cafone maleducato”. He must have started a trend. The following July 29, Ernesto Abaterusso (regional Councillor from Puglia) called him an “arrogant, cafone Premier”. On the 1st of February, 2017, the Publisher of l’Unità, Sergio Staino, called him out as “Renzi cafone and liar”.
Clearly, few escape the discriminating eye of critics in Italian politics. On April 10, 2012, Ivano Marescotti of il Fatto Quotidiano had already referred to Umberto Bossi, Leader of the xenophobic, secessionist Lega Nord, as a “…loudmouth opportunist, cafone, racist and ignorante”.
Alan Friedman, celebrated journalist/correspondent in Italy for the better part of 30 years, perhaps having “absorbed” some of the Italian values, on March 4, 2016, characterized the Republican candidate in the primaries, Donald Trump, as “an underestimated cafone ”.
No one is immune from the penetrating scrutiny and judgement the word affords its user. In 2014, famous singer, Laura Pausini, from Emilia Romagna, was engaged in a celebrated encounter with a fellow beach-goer because she was “doing her nails” in public. The woman called her a “cafona”.
It is the same term that Marisa Bruni – mother to the model Carla, wife to president Sarkosy – levelled at now French President Hollande, whom she called disdainfully “a ridiculous cafone ”.
Some people wear the “title” as a badge of honour. Flavio Briatore, former Number one at the Renault racing team, laughed off the insult by self-identifying as “a winning cafone . Sound familiar?
In Italy, the term cafone is not exclusive to insults that appear regionally based. A “cafone ” can be a Venetian or a Furlano, a Calabrian or Emiliano, a Trentino or Sicilian. Cafonesco behaviour no longer connotates social standing: a Parliamentarian who vaunts his influence is a cafone ; the millionare who double parks his Ferrari on the streets of Milan is a cafone ; the person who does not mute his cell phone in the threatres of Bologna is a cafone , as much a cafone as the cigarette smoker in Florence who litters the streets with butts.
There are divergent views even on the origin of the word. One of them, repeated by Indro Montanelli, (venerated historian and journalist) in his history of Rome, where he attributes the genesis to a Roman centurion Cafo – who laid siege to Capua and subsequently parcelled out the spoils (territory) of his victory.
His followers, known as “Cafones”, and their manner became part of the lexicon of certain Southern Italian localities which terminology lead to usage in other parts of Italy.
It is true that in some parts of the Peninsula, more notably in the South, the term still carries with it a description of those who work the land – independent agricultural enterprises.
But the term long ago lost any allusion of disdainful reference by Northeners towards Southerners – if in fact this was ever the case… unless they were in the style of the “cafoni” above.
Too bad the English language does not have as eloquent and descriptive expression that prompted our reflection on Zucconi’s article.
TORONTO - I read with naked dismay, disdain, and disgust the editorial of March 20th, 2017 with respect to “Cafone-in-Chief” and the “cafonesco (“uncultured peasant behaviour”).
The reason for my reaction? Your paper’s delighting in the phrase and reference coined by Mr. Zucconi.
As a person born a Calabrian peasant in Italy’s 1959, I, like the rest of us from the Southern Italic Peninsula, know all too well, starting with the teachers in elementary school in Calabria, the origin and modern-day use of the word “cafone” in the “Italian” context. “Cafone”: used as a derogatory word, like “Terrone”, by (would-be) Northern Italians against us Southerners, to simply denigrate.
Notwithstanding my current occupation as a constitutional lawyer, I am proud of my peasant roots, family, and culture. Moreover, the use of a racial slur, in the Italian context, historically referring to, and oppressing Southern Italians is neither “cultured” nor “refined” as your piece puts it: it is revealing.
It is clear to this educated “cafone” that the moron Zucconi, and you Mr. Volpe, obviously have more in common with Trump than you may want to consciously like, think, or know. Perhaps that is why he bothers you so much. For me, Trump is yet another inept, incapable politician to made it to the highest office. He is not alone in history. Wrapping him up in the Italian “cafone” wrapper is mind-boggling and offensive to us. [After all, who ever referred to Berlusconi as a “cafone”?].
That an Italian journalist, from Italy, would use that historically repulsive reference is unforgiveable. That an Italo-Canadian paper whose readership is likely “cafone” in the majority, is beyond explanation to not only our dead parents but our living (grand) children.
Mr. Zucconi may as well as, in the American context, used the word “minstrel” with the “N”-word in front of it. Would you then have had the same reaction and approving editorial? You owe your readers an apology. Nothing else can restore your paper’s integrity and credibility.
And, may I also suggest some therapy for Mr. Zucconi, and you.
Rocco Galati is a Constitutional lawyer from Toronto
Cafone-in-chief. Webster’s Dictionary will have to add this new word to the American Language, thanks to Vittorio Zucconi, journalist for laRepubblica, now resident in Washington D.C.
He had to dig really deep to come up with a “different” word to describe the latest gaffe or unexplainable deed or utterance from the Donald.
They have been all used up. The English language is running out of descriptive words to capture the President’s narcissistic insensitivity. Descriptive expletives and assorted profanities may be ok, but not for public application on serious matters discussed outside the confines of a scuzzy bar’s repository for biological effluence.
We are after all talking about polite society in the world’s richest, most powerful country. A certain “refinement” of language and conduct is generally considered mandatory.
Zucconi and other journalists were left scratching their heads by the Donald’s refusal to engage Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel’s in the ceremonial “hand-shake close” to a photo-op at the White House.
She was his guest. Her country is host to 38 American military bases (one scheduled for closing) – marshalling areas for some 60,000 US military personnel who support US policy in Europe and the Mediterranean basin.
A surly, fumbling Trump – the grandson of a German refugee – chose instead to pout and stay distant.
He is the Commander-in-chief, the Comandante in capo. The position demands something more than churlish, uncouth, boorish, unrefined, inward-looking, “hayseed” or oblivious and uncultured peasant behaviour … “cafonesco”,,. cafone, Zucconi must have thought.
Why not play on the language of the President’s most significant role to convey the character of the individual [now] entrusted with the task of leading the world’s most potentially destructive military machine. he wondered.
Voila’, “capo cafone”, “cafone comandante”, “cafone in capo” or better ... “cafone-in-chief”. It has a nice ring to it and bilingual at the same time.
Watch out Zucconi. Webster’s will not be the only people calling on you.
TORONTO - The British were delivered a dose of humility when General Motors dumped their iconic domestic cars Opel and Vauxhall … to the French-Chinese conglomerate Peugeot SPA. Anti-Brexiters see this as a first sign that British goods will have a tough time entering the European market when a tariff wall is erected.
Hard to come to any other conclusion. Eighty (80) percent of all vehicles manufactured north of the Channel are slated for export, and 55% of the export is to the European Continent; 14.5% to the USA.
Whatever the final ticket price, it would go up by at least the tariff amount, say an additional 10%. But the Free Trade Agreement with the EU also meant that component parts for the production plants could move freely back and forth across the Channel. Not any more.
Add to that the long term impact of the exchange rate on the Pound Sterling and GM’s assessment of the Brexit fallout must have concluded that the additional costs were just not worth it. Its European operations had not shown a profit since the turn of the century. Even in a record-breaking production year (2016) the British market absorbed a meagre 345,000 vehicles of the 1, 750, 000 cars that came off the line.
If there is/was an industry sector more reliant on export markets it would be difficult to find. Even in Canada, the NAFTA allows for [relatively] free movement between and among partner countries of vehicles and/or components that satisfy local content rules. All other factors being equal, this alone is an inducement for assemblers to stay close to supply chains and transportation hubs that allow them to minimize controllable costs and build critical mass for economies of scale.
With Trump in the White House, the American Auto Sector is coming to grips with the reality that it may have to retrench, consolidate and focus on the American market. Canadians know all too well how a Free Trade Agreement can render a National economy and National Industry marginal. GM has been “making noises” about leaving the Canadian operations behind, despite the fact that its Canadians plants consistently rank at or near the top in terms of production efficiency.
Europe is a “mature market”, saturated from the point of view of auto ownership. Countries like France and Italy long ago surpassed a benchmark that saw two vehicles on the road for every three inhabitants. It is difficult to see where [Western] European cities would “fit one more car” – they do not make shoehorns that big.
The market is “so sophisticated” that it has become a “replacement marketplace” where consumers demand innovative and quality products to switch from what they might have. The transportation infrastructure cannot handle anything else and consumers do have choices.
Peugeot SPA (in which both the Chinese and French governments each have a 14% share) accepted that to grow, it needed first to absorb competitors in the marketplace, then expand its product to another market … China(?), India(?) … but not Britain. That would be a place to leave.
Peugeot and GM have mouthed all of the right words for the sake of unions and public consumption in respect of honoring existing contracts and commitments. No problem. They will be done in a year or two, possibly three as Brexit takes hold.
FCA is cut from the same cloth, so to speak. Should it merge with VW, the new entity will follow the well- beaten path of plant closures and lay-offs - in Italy as well as in Canada. Their Chrysler plants in Canada are among the oldest in the business.
Marchionne, their CEO, has already give several signals about his intentions. He demanded $750 Million from the Ontario government as a precondition to remain in Brampton; he has given Trump assurances that he will invest up to $1 Billion in the USA, and he has systematically moved small car production from Italy to other low labour cost production centres.
The truth of the matter is that Peugeot, GM, VW or FCA have no loyalty to their host or their workers; they will do anything they can to gain, retain or expand their market share – the quality of their product is consistent with the level of consumer protection enforced by a willing government. Their mantra for success is innovate, cheat or change the law.
The latter three have been caught cheating. Now it appears that Donald Trump may not indeed change the law.