Friday, 4 January 2008

Family values

Edi Vesco, the author, among many other things, of a guide to the Harry Potter novels for Italian fans, was murdered by her 18-year-old son last Tuesday. According to the son's own account, he first tried to rape his mother, then knocked her out with a spumante bottle and cut her throat. You can find more details here.

Minister for the Family, Rosy Bindi, said the murder was a sign that 'the family has become fragile'. This is the standard response to cases of domestic violence of this type, which are disturbingly frequent in Italy, despite the reiterated insistence on family values by the civil and ecclesiastical authorities (i.e. the people we elect to govern us and those we don't). An insistence that naturally refuses to admit any recognised legal alternative to the traditional family; indeed, that sees attempts to recognise alternative structures as the main threat to it. Ratzinger's annual address harped on in a multitude of languages (and one grating German accent) about the centrality of the one-man-one-woman-one-marriage-licence-n-number-of-children family model to a healthy society and, get this, international peace, as though war were the prerogative of unmarried, and possibly morally disordered, men (and not the god-fearing married variety).

Given that these brutal murders happen so frequently within the family itself, might it not also be the case that the family per se shares some of the responsibility for them? Not the ideal family (whatever that might be), but the family as it's constituted here and now, in modern Italy. In the current Italian context of no affordable housing for young people (or anyone else), no unemployment benefit or social support for young people (or anyone else), no job security for (young) people entering the work market, university degrees that aren't worth the paper they're written on, minimum investment in post-school training and a culture so devoted to acquisition it demands young people change their mobiles once a month or die.

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