The past year has been a great challenge for everyone across Italy, and it has forced us to change our perspectives — on pretty much everything. Like others around the world, Italians are still paying a high price for the pandemic, trying to balance their lives between the online and the real worlds. Frustration, dissatisfaction and fatigue are just a few of the feelings shared by the population.
With this in mind, I have chosen five Italian cultural productions that I feel best represent Italy in this particular moment. A famous comic artist, two books, an artistic project and a well-known magazine are the models that portray the expectations, emotions, and challenges of Italian life today.
A real-life perspective
A graphic novelist who best portrays our present moment? If you haven’t yet understood who I’m referring to, the character is Michele Rech — also known as Zerocalcare. His passion for comics results in the perfect combination of Roman slang, personal experience, and political analysis.
Only in 2011 did Zerocalcare start to share his work and thought on his blog. Yet, his capacity to catch wide public attention soon rewarded him with a growing number of followers. Through his cartoon series, he’s described a range of different scenarios with humorous sharpness: from family history and generational stories to reportage on the resistance of the Kurdish population against ISIS and a cartoon series about the quarantine in Rebibbia.
Especially in this last work, his unique style and irony was able to illustrate the perspectives of many Italian families during lockdown. Social isolation and mental health issues are just a few of the emerging issues. But then there’s the confusion caused by the ambiguous restrictive measures, the families struggling with economic problems, the impatience of younger generations striving for stability in their lives. All are described in a language that switches skillfully from a jolly tone to a more severe and critical one.
Zerocalcare’s ironic touches turn the spotlight on real-life struggles without worrying about a judgmental public, thus offering the audience something in which they can see their own lives.
The day after
Resilience has been the key word of the past year. And this has meant that the day after is not just a moment of the week, but an emotional status too.
Mario Calabresi, a famous Italian writer and journalist, dedicated his book La mattina dopo to precisely this idea. Published in 2019, the book tries to describe the feeling of disorientation that arrives the day after a serious event. The book tells a number of real-life stories, including Calabresi’s own personal experience — the loss of a loved one, a sudden development in a professional career, a shocking accident — from the perspective of the day after. As Calabresi explains, the morning after is when your life’s equilibrium is shaken by a new normality to which you have to adapt, because the past can’t change.
The central idea is that moving forward is the only solution to survive. As a result, I believe this concept reflects the feelings of many Italians who are striving to progress, step by step, in their lives. Our abnormal circumstances have triggered new business ideas, a renewed solidarity and the development of new services. In this sense, after the first moment of discouragement and panic, people have tried to find a new normality, and to establish new routines and future perspectives without dwelling too much on the past.
People just want to get back on track. They are finally acknowledging that, somehow, we are different to what we were yesterday — and that the dizziness from this new beginning will one day disappear.
Poi Vorrei is an artistic project that perfectly reflects the wishes to be realized the day after. On their website, the Poi Vorrei (I wish) is defined as an exercise done today while waiting for tomorrow.
The idea comes from Verona and it was born in the middle of the pandemic. The concept is simple: before the pandemic, seeing the loved ones or going for a trip somewhere were things taken for granted. Now, the inability of leaving your house makes you miss the smallest things and what was your daily routine. This inspired the creators of the project to open a site and collect resolutions for when the quarantine ends.
During the past months, the project went viral, receiving more than 60,000 messages. The surreal success of this project reflects the feelings of the whole population. The instability of the current situation makes everything harder to plan — but making a list of resolutions could be a good way to acquire new perspectives. The growing community of Poi Vorrei is an example of people’s attempts to have faith in what will come in the future. It encourages us to hope and to never take for granted the small things, ever again.
In parallel with the pandemic, 2020 was the year when our attention to the planet and the environment grew ever further. Carbon footprint, the Green Deal, and greenwashing are just a few of the best-known terms that have characterized recent debates in Italy. Meanwhile, the necessary shift towards more sustainable solutions is finally reaching business, including the fashion industry.
For example, the first cover of Vogue Italia in 2021 is entirely dedicated to the relationship between men and the animal world. Vogue is the most influential voice in the fashion world and, because of this position, in 2019 it shared a chart of values. With this cover, Emanuele Farnetti, Editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia, decided to stress the issue that animals do not exist for humans’ purpose, and that fashion, like other economic activity, needs to consider a switch to more sustainable productive strategies.
This push towards a more respectful approach to fashion, using provocative imagery and sharp storytelling, is the product of persistent pressure from society in favor of greener and longer-term economic development. Italy has already seen the effects of climate change, alternating between extremely hot summers and extreme weather phenomena, which have caused damage for local economies and have endangered the population. Vogue Italia is expressing the urge to preserve our planet, following the green and sustainable trend boosted by the pandemic and the social pressures coming from the younger population.
Why study math?
In addition to social and environmental tensions, the Italian democratic machine has also tried not to fall apart. And on this note, Chiara Valerio, the author of a pamphlet entitled La matematica è politica, has tried to understand the combination of connections contained within politics while talking about about math.
As a mathematician, she elaborates how math and democracy are two intertwined worlds affecting each other. In fact, she describes math as an exercise that everyone should do to minimize the ambiguities of the real world. The tendency of the subject to favor argumentation, research, and verification helps you avoid submissiveness and stop passively believing everything that you are told.
The efforts to exercise the democratic process underlined by the author are in accordance with the current political turmoil in Italy. In the same way you solve a math problem, democracy requires you to question everything, as most truths change in relation to the time and the context they’re in.
At a time when Italians are struggling with fake news, government decisions and strategies to tackle the pandemic, it may be the right occasion to exercise democracy in the way Chiara Valerio suggests. Math and democracy are processes based on perspectives and, for this reason, it is harder to make them converge in the center. However, if each of us is able to exercise the duties and responsibilities that define democracy this confluence will be closer.
Acknowledging new perspectives
Each of these five points are inevitably affected by the pandemic of the last year. Yet, they nevertheless exemplify the great changes that Italy is undergoing more generally. In this sense, whether you decide to move quickly forward without regret or you take time to acknowledge the morning of your day after, in order to understand the new normality, we need to be sure to acknowledge new perspectives.
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