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Silvio Berlusconi barely survives a confidence vote, and riots erupt in a country plagued by politicians who listen only to themselves

TURIN – A political system shut off from the country produced exactly what's been predicted for months: shouts, insults, head counts, celebrations. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi barely survived a no-confidence vote. And outside, the city burns. The doors of the palazzo of Parliament are locked, separating two worlds that seem to be light years – galaxies – apart.


The columns of smoke, explosions, the deafening noise of the clashes, the cobblestones hurled, helmets, bats--they conjure the past, of course, the 1970s. But that is not where we should turn to understand what is happening. Better to look toward London, the youth attacking the banks, targeting the car of Prince Charles and Camilla; or to Greece, where the fires continue to light up the streets.

All around us, we see young people out of control, disconnected from the political parties that should be the bridge between a populace and its public representatives. Instead, they set out to destroy, convinced they have the right to take to the streets to vent their anger at a life that promises no stability, in employment and elsewhere.


The images of Rome are scary indeed, and yet so aptly depict the separation between a political system barricaded inside its walls, as its rituals so dramatically deteriorate, and a country going off the rails, without dreams or direction. The young people "playing war" with their helmets and hoods, petrol bombs and sticks, surely do not represent Italians. But the country's leaders should be able to look beyond those fires to see a silent majority that is not only fed up, but unable to continue deluding itself.


Instead politics is blind, focused on building a "red zone" for its own safety, not only to keep out the troublemakers on the street, but all Italians. And inside, they just continue to fight, bark at each other, excite their own minds without enacting any solutions.


So the country just lurches along, because for too long it has not truly been governed. No one bothers to confront and contain the delirium of the extremists, to reassure those who are afraid of the future, to stop the violence that risks reemerging. We cannot risk losing another generation, even if we speak of small fringes, even if we are against terrorism and guns.

The noise of Tuesday's clashes requires the ruling majority to take a leap of dignity, and a change of tone from the opposition: you can't call from the rooftops that the Italian police are like Pinochet's troops, without expecting to stir up the streets.


December 14th is finally over, and Berlusconi remains in the saddle, having won the latest battle in his war with Gianfranco Fini. But a government saved by three votes, secured the night before, has little to celebrate. Its only concern now should be rediscovering the ability to listen to the country, not just surviving one more day.

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