Italians behaving badly

Italian Manager’s best hobby in danger

The Italian Court of Cassation is defining what is permissible touching at work through a number of lawsuits being brought by female employees against their managers with wandering hands. But while cafés and bars buzzed with the latest court ruling on which parts of women’s’ bodies are fair game, two prominent female politicians slugged it out trying to get to the bottom of the issue.
Last week the court ruled that managers are allowed to touch the bottoms of their female subordinates but only if “the touch is brief and non-repetitive”. A defendant charged with sexual harassment for giving a “pacca” (=slap) on a woman collegue’s bum, claimed his gesture was intended” to remove some hair from the plaintiffs back’.
Breasts however are definitely out of bounds, according to the same court in a different suit brought by students against their teacher. The teacher was convicted of having a “libidinous attitude” and was sentenced to 18 months of prison and has been banned from teaching. The court refused to accept the defendant's claim that the girls did not object to his touches by saying that the students had no time to react to his lightening fast strikes.
In February 1999 the same Court of Cassation ruled that to rape a women clad in jeans was not a crime as jeans were worn so tight that the accused needed the assistance of the women to remove her jeans. The case shocked the national and international media and in the Italian Parliament created cross party unity among women politicians. Signorina Alessandra Mussolini –MP and granddaughter of Benito Mussolini – was on the front line of protests leading debates against the ruling and general attitudes of macho male rule makers. She found support among all female MPs, at that time. Last week instead, engaged in a heated debate on the latest ruling of bum-slapping, Ms Mussolini accused the Minister for Women’s Rights – Ms Katia Belillo - of the government’s lack of action in protecting women’s rights. The debate degenerated in to a cat fight when Ms Bellilo said: “You shut up because your name is Mussolini;” and Ms Mussolini replied with a swift kick to Bellilo’s shin. 56 per cent of Italians watched the scene on their famous talk show “Porta a Porta”. This moved the public attention away from the real women issue. More focused on the problem were instead the women in Brussels, especially the women Ministers in the Netherlands, who have declared they would give a “brief and non-repetitive touch” to male Italian ministers at each official meeting until serious measure are taken in Italy to change the court decision.
Now attention in Italy is focused on the latest case where an accomplished Casanova manager of northern Italy is facing a charge of sexual harassment for kissing a colleague’s neck. The case hangs on whether the kiss was destined for the mouth – legally defined as an erogenous zone, or a cheek – a safe zone. The defence asserts the kiss accidentally ended up on the neck of the plaintiff.
Touching women is such an entrenched thing that there are specific words in Italian to denote the location and intensity of the touch - to the bottom or the breast, bottom slap or prolonged caress. “Palpare” is a word only used for breast, and a “pacca” can only be given on the bottom.


Italian drivers

In an effort to keep pace with more evolved democracies the Italian government seems to churn out reams of legal measures that, however well intended, are nether respected nor wilfully enforced.

Like the road speed limits - arguments, debates, agreements and police check points for the first weeks after the law come to force. Then violating the limits becomes the norm. What is abnormal is police stopping fast cars. Driving without safety belts or while talking on mobile phones is forbidden too - but everybody does it. Consequently Italians find themselves breaking the law daily, whether through ignorance or plain negligence. Consider for example the recent sign that says smoking smuggled cigarettes should cost you £2,000 - it's routinely ignored. Even smoking in hospitals, banks and post offices was outlawed - but you will always find a lawbreaker with a fag in his/her fingers and nobody to tell this person to stop. And even when caught very few will pay. Of the 2,257 billion government sanctions between 1990 and 1997, only 84 have been successfully executed. (Curiously southerners get away with far more than northerners - Palermo 0.2%, Milan 3.2%). Recently reports of caterpillars going to demolish more than 230.000 unauthorised houses that are destroying our landscape - the main source for our national industry - were front-page news. Sure, a few buildings will be demolished. Then - precedents teach - appeals, oversights, omissions, distractions, populism and new emergencies will put the government's act in a second plan if not undo or repeal it. Is there any hope of Italians resurrecting their impotent democracy?


The Italian police paradox
The competition amongst the Italian police corps is the main problem of the increasing criminality in Italy.

Between 1998 and 1999 the number of crimes has increased of more than 500,000. Only 6% of the stolen items are recovered (28% in Germany, 24% in the UK and 15% in France). More than three homicides out of ten remain unsolved - the worst statistic in Europe compared to Germany where 95% of the homicides have a culprit (Spain 94%, UK 92% and France 83%). In Japan a killer has only three chances out of 100 of not being arrested. Is Italy the country of the perfect murder? If so, it would be a paradox, because Italy has 30% more police officers than the other European nations (488 officers per 100,000 inhabitants, while the European average is 375). We have police investigators envied by other countries, but an investigative apparatus that nobody want. The investigation system does not work because jammed by too many officers. Too many police corps - Carabinieri, Polizia and Guardia di Finanza - that instead of co-operating with each other, try to double-cross one another in a twist competitive way that produce poor results. The corps are most of the time involved in the same cases and try to follow the major number of operations instead of achieving the best results. The operation bases that try to co-ordinate the operation and dislocate patrol cars on the territory exist, but because of the historical competition between Carabinieri and Polizia, if the Polizia send a car somewhere, the Carabinieri do the same. The motto is "get first especially if is a front-page case".

Moreover, the new computerise IBM system that was suppose to substitute the old - and mainly manual - Polizia's database STAIRS system by last January, is not ready yet. It will be ready (maybe) next year. Most of the police bases do not have computers - but neither pens nor paper, due to last L200 million governmental cut. 10 computers of the Bologna police station have been donated by the Catholic charity organisation of father Marella. In Florence the money for the pens and paper have been collected amongst the officers. In Milan, only 38 out of 107 patrol cars work properly. Some of them have been parked in the garage for months because of a flat tyre or a scratch. The new Fiat Marea patrol cars do not have room inside for the anti-bullet jackets. So in case of need the officers have to get out of the car and get the jackets from the boot. To have fingerprint checks can take 48 hours, but the alleged criminal can not be stopped for more than 12 hours. There are 1 million video-cams all-over the country, but only a few of them have been used to identify criminals. But something is changing: 400 police officers who where in charge of delivering documents or tickets are now in the street with a different duty. Postmen are doing their job. Who knows, maybe they will catch some more thieves.


Italians support criminals over the police forces. After several incidents in which officers were killed by the Italian-Albanian Mafia, Guardia di Finanza - the tax and border police who patrol the southern Italian coastline - threatened to open fire on the captains of small dinghies who smuggle immigrants into Italy. People protested to the Italian Home Minister, Mr Bianco, calling him a barbarian. He explained he intended that police only fire at the cruel Mafiosi who push immigrants from their boats for fun or to go faster when pursued by police vessels. None of these protesters lift a finger when an immigrant dies on an illegal inhumane journey, or when a police officer dies in the line of duty. No one throws a pebble at the Mafia dinghies. Moreover, stories of police officers shooting people who simply did not stop at their bidding, have recently filled the papers as if to reinforce this new anti-authoritarian feeling. Last week in a few articles, Rambo-like police officers injured several teenagers caught driving dad's car without permission or driving licence. They shot dead a 17-year-old Neapolitan boy, Mario for not wearing a helmet. [His family is alleged connected with the local Mafia. After the police confiscated his first scooter because he drove with out helmet and insurance, his family bought him a more powerful motorbike.] The policeman who shot the boy is now in prison because of the evidence of a witness who said it was no accident, but that the cowboy officer took out his gun and shot the boy who was taunting him with: "You can't catch me".
Naples exploded in anger towards the authorities, the police in particular. People assaulted police cars and threw stones at officers. The same week in the same city, in two separate incidents, Mafia killers took random aim into crowds of shoppers to kill their rivals. Innocents were killed and injured - one of them was 17, like Mario. But on this occasion, there was no public protest against the local Mafia (Camorra), and significantly, no witnesses. When interviewed as potential witnesses, bystanders follow the moral rule of the Omerta', - that is "I know nothing, I saw nothing, I heard nothing. I was not there and if I was, I was sleeping."

In Italy, reporting illegal activities is considered morally wrong. Those who report criminal activity are considered more of a wrongdoer than a shoplifter or a tax evader. By law, shops in Italy must give you a receipt that proves that they are paying income tax on each sale. No receipt in a café for a short expresso is a clear sign of tax dodging. But nobody in Italy complains when they do not get a receipt. It is accepted by the public, but not by the Italian special tax police - the most disliked police force in Italy, the Guardia di Finanza. For the average Italian finding a way to cheat the state, the government and the authorities is a sign of skill. Cheating is a heroic exploit': if you can do it, you are not a cheat, but shrewd. If you fail, you are the ordinary fool.

But where does all this anti-authoritarian feeling start?
The cheating culture starts at school. This is the first place where cheating is cool, trendy and part of the student's moral regime. In the US, university student organisations expel the students found cheating. In Italy they are heroes. Cheating in the Italian schools is such a common phenomenon that even teachers and examiners do it. Last weeks news was full of stories of the so-called new Italian "Bribeville", the early 1990s scandal that overturned Italian politics. While in the 1990s Italian businessmen started to denounce political corruption, now the Italians are tired incidents where professional students fail their exams unless they pay to get their diplomas in teaching, accounting or law. How widespread is the phenomenon? In one of the qualifying law exams under investigation by magistrates (in Catanzaro, South of Italy), 2297 out of 2303 tests given to the examiners were identical. Only six candidates didn't cheat. It's a good business too; to get a piece of paper that authorises a teacher to work in a nursery school, the candidates had to submit their test with £5,000 (L 15 million) to the examiners. What kinds of moral values will those teachers pass on their pupils?


The Scooter:

an Italian phenomenon

The Italian police have declared war on the 10 million motor scooters of Italy.

The town of Naples is leading the anti-illegal-scooters campaign using 200 officers and 80 checkpoints all-over town. Targets: First to stop the Camorra - the local Mafia - that use the two-wheelers for bag-snatching and (even) killing; Second to ticket all two-wheeler riders who do not respect the road code; and finally to ensure that the amount of the exhaust gas emissions is under EU limits specified by the directive 97/24 - "Euro 1". (30% of the fumes produced by the two-stroke engine of the scooters contain carbon monoxide and carcinogenic substances). But in Italy the scooter is the only way to move through the narrow medieval streets. It's one of last symbols of freedom that the Italians have; the fastest and most democratic means of transportation - it's used by rich and poor to get to work on time and it is the last hope in the fight against traffic congestion. Italian riders are often considered a veritable army of insolent, arrogant drivers that with no helmet, mobile glued to their ears, failing to stop at red lights, use bus and pedestrian lanes indiscriminately and then park on the pavement. Moreover 80% of scooters are illegal because they are modified so they can reach speeds of 60mph (20mph over the limit). Yes! Because both the grey-haired businessman and the reckless teenager likes his two-wheeler fast and trendy.

felice petrelli