Empathy is the invisible force that holds society together. Roman Krznaric

Steady as she goes

Merkel will probably succeed to stay on course but Italians prefer to focus on a sunken ship. This tells a lot about the boring German election campaign and Mediterranean disinterest.

One could almost suspect that the timing for the rescue of the “Costa Concordia” wreck has been masterminded to coincide with the last week of the German election. The Italian version of the “Große Koalition” (Grand Coalition), binding politicians from the left and the right, is stalling (at least it is not increasing taxes). The economy is declining as usual. There is no idea for a potential solution to overcome the crisis.

The German election could have provided Italians with a nice excuse to voice their dissatisfaction and protest against what too many consider “the culprit of the crisis”. Yet, very understandably, Costa Concordia is way more entertaining than an election where the winner is so clear, that she does not even have to come up with a decent campaign slogan – unless, of course, you consider “Germany is strong” a decent slogan.

Yet, let’s assume that the Costa Concordia had been safely left to lie on the bottom of the sea, for the satisfaction of hotel owners on Giglio Island (the Italian jewel in front of which captain Schettino decided to destroy his ship). Would Italians have cared more about Germany’s upcoming election? I guess no. It is surprising how radically the country is ignoring any possible news about the German elections. Of course, this is typical of Italians – there is actually some disregard for everything happening North of the Alps or beyond the sea. But in this case there seems to be a case of “active disinterest”.

Somehow the outcome is too certain to provide the necessary amount of drama that may be able to attract Italians. You have a race between Angela Merkel, who is a talented politician, but (luckily) not exactly the eccentric character that makes Italians go crazy and her opposer, SPD’s Peer Steinbrück, who had the marvelous idea to call Italians “stupid” for having voted for Silvio Berlusconi and Beppe Grillo last February. No name from the FDP or the Green Party is known in Italy.

The SPD would not change the course of things

Overall, Italians have realized that an eventual victory of the SPD would not change the course of things. Italians have understood that the German stance in Europe is the consequence of factual economic conditions rather than deliberate political choices. Of course, in the Italian media you will always be able to find articles describing how Angela Merkel is implementing a precise agenda to dominate Europe and exploit its citizens, yet the real fact – Angela wants to safeguard Germany form the euro collapse – does not change the nature of things. Italians have to suffer.

Now, another typically Mediterranean characteristic has emerged: patience. Italians, Spaniards and Greeks are not revolutionary people. They are good at rebelling against outside forces – be it, respectively, Austrians, Napoleon or the Turks – but are not prone to revolts to change social order. They seem to accept the order of things and just adapt to it. Moreover, even in case of outside dominance – as some people nowadays consider the “austerity” situation – it takes years before finding will and means to actually do something. In the meantime, a separated society develops, outside the “official” system of power.

It is happening now as well. The statistics of the Italians business association “Confindustria” claim that taxes on commercial profits have reached 68%. Of course nobody could be able to run a company under this condition, so the game has turned again into finding the best solution to evade taxes. A separated economy is emerging. In the end, the outcome of the German elections has few to do with it. Long live the Costa Concordia!

Read more in this column Stefano Casertano: Calling Russia's Bluff

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