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crisi

crisis

While “selfie” was hailed as the word of the year in the United States, Italians chose a far darker term. In a poll by La Repubblica, la parola più rappresentativa (the word most representative) of 2013 was crisi (crisis)–a reflection, the editors noted, of the drammi, tragedie e disvalori di un anno da dimenticare (the dramas, tragedies and negative values of a year to forget).

Italy’s crises came in several forms in 2013. La crisis economico-finanziaria (economic-financial crisis) dates back to 2008 and la grande recessione (the great recession), la più lunga dal secondo dopoguerra (the longest since the second world war).

There is also la crisi occupazionale e abitativa (the employment and housing crisis). In Bologna, for example, in five years la disoccupazione (unemployment) has increased by more than 120 percent. The number of those sfrattati e senzacasa (evicted and homeless) throughout Italy has also increased.

The crisi politica (political crisis) extends beyond what the paper refers to as la decadenza del Cavaliere (the decadence of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlosconi, nicknamed “the Knight”). The nubi all'orizzonte minacciano tempesta (threatening storm clouds on the horizon) include conflict between scissionismi (secessionists) and populismi (populists).

Then there’s the crisi sanitaria (health crisis). In un'indagine (a survey) of 60,000 famiglie (families), 11 percent said they had to go without "almeno una prestazione sanitaria”{ (at least one health service) that they needed in the last year.

The crisi territoriale e sociale (territorial and social crisis) involves the growing disparità (disparity) tra il Nord e il Sud della penisola (between the north and the south of the peninsula). Also increasing are le ineguaglianze tra i più ricchi e i più poveri (the inequalities between the richest and the poorest—or, more poetically, those who have un'identità, una dignità e un lavoro (an identity, a dignity, and a job) and those who, non avendo nulla (having nothing), are invisible agli occhi del mondo (to the eyes of the world).

Finally, there is la crisi di valori (the crisis of values). This is not new. Five centuries ago the noted Italian writer Ariosto described Italy as a fetid den of every known vice (vizio). These days the fetid vices include “hatespeech e le nefandezze d'ogni specie” (hate speech and atrocities of every kind).

Italy’s crises, the paper concluded, threaten to “rubare il futuro alla speranza, alla fiducia, alla ripresa…a renderle quasi impronunciabili” (to rob the future of hope, of trust, of recovery … to make them almost unpronounceable).

As someone who believes in the significance of words, I turned to my etymologic dictionary for perspective. There I found that la parola “crisi” (the word "crisis") was used as far back as the 1600s to describe a “fase della vita individuale o collettiva, particolarmente difficile da superare” (phase of individual or collective life, particularly difficult to survive).

Italy has indeed survived molte crisi (many crises). Once again, its citizens must, as the demonstrators in the photo are demanding, take back the future.

My wish for bell’Italia in 2014: a year that merits a far better word and brighter future.

Words and Expressions

crisi d’identità -– identity crisis

i movimenti di protesta –- protest movements

il diritto dei popoli -– the right of the people

una civiltà affacciata sull'abisso –- a civilization facing the abyss

Dianne Hales is the author of LA BELLA LINGUA and the upcoming MONA LISA: A LIFE DISCOVERED.

For a timeless ode to la povera patria (the poor fatherland), click here.