Lorenzo & his humble friends

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool

An embarassing triumph

On today’s Repubblica I found one of those very good articles about football stories. Here the original version in Italian. Below my own translation to English.

And now only Jose Mourinho can save Pep Guardiola. A joke of football, and life: just the man from whom Guardiola had fled, and that forced him to take his first sabbatical in New York and then in the German championship, is now the only one that could allow Pep a triumphant arrival at Bayern, as to how things are going in Bavaria, Guardiola’s arrival could even be superfluous. Already. With the terrifying 4-0 to Barcelona, Bayern is almost already at the final at Wembley, unless the Catalans will manage an unprecedented comeback in the return match. Ergo, Jupp Heynckes’ Bayern, who was told to prepare to pack his bags because the best coach in the world (Pep Guardiola) was about to substitute him, well that Bayern may well win it all: Bundesliga won already, and with a record speed for German history; it is in the German Cup final and a step away from the Champions League. Not bad, as a reaction of agroup – and Heynckes – to the news that in July the team will have another guide. Only now the problem emerges seriously, and if Bayern wins all, what could add to an already perfect Guardiola? How would follow the champion of Europe, knowing that even with Heynckes has reached the maximum?

German newspapers celebrate the triumph of Bayern and have not started to analyze the immediate future,
but this is still an issue which will be debated. And with Bayern that since January has started to overwhelm any opponent, it is all too clear that the figure of Guardiola savior of this country, ‘sthe ferryman to Bayern magnificent destiny is a little vanished. So it is necessary for Pep that the march of Heynckes stops. And now the only man able to do it is Jose Mourinho, with his Real Madrid opponent engaged in the semifinals of the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund looking as the only team capable of standing up to Bayern, because this year in the Bundesliga Borussia none has not been able. So it’s up to Guardiola’s hope that the Real of his enemy Mourinho manages to ge to the final and beat Bayern, with Pep returning to the role of potential deus ex machina. Otherwise, what do they call it? Only then the arrival of Guardiola would acquire meaning, because if Bayern loses at Wembley it would be the third defeat in four years (against Inter in 2010 and against Chelsea in 2012) . And then Pep could get saying ” I now teach you how to do it to win. ” In contrast, it would all look like a very awkward situation.

Food for thought

I came back to Brussels about one month ago. In this time frame I have had the chance to attend about 15 conferences. There are some recurring facts about them that I find quite interesting. First: vagueness. It is very rare to hear EU bureaucrats speaking about facts, figures, and policies. They tend to deliver rather abstract speeches about growth, solidarity, innovation, smartness… This is not always the case, but quite often.

Instead, those who are really interesting to listen to are the people working for think tanks and, perhaps worryingly, those who are British. Journalists, commentators, and even politicians from the UK are often very provocative: sometimes for the bad reasons, but always with a clear, round, and very practical point.

There are a few of other details which I find quite telling. Speaking about European bureaucrats, it has become almost impossible to go to a conference without hearing them using the expression “food for thought“. This is the perfect imagine of what is going wrong with the EU: the expression means nothing but sounds fancy, therefore people use it, therefore even more people will use it because it is becoming trendy as well.

Finally, one remark on timing. All the conferences begin perfectly in time and they end at the exact time that was foreseen on the program. The only exception is with the conferences organized by Italian regions, Italian delegates, Italian cultural centers, etc: these events always begin with a 20-minute delay and rarely end in due time.

Immigration and the mongrel nation

With reference to my previous post, and with the Scottish referendum on independence fast approaching it is fascinating to look at the moves of the Yes side. For me, part of my research involves an analysis of parties’ attitude towards immigrants, who may be well crucial for the outcome of the vote.

Nationalist parties in Scotland seems to be fairly enlightened in this sense. Since 1994, SNP leader and current Prime Minister Alex Salmon has repeatedly pointed to the positive contribution brought by newcomers and to the fact that diversity is not a problem. “We are proud to be part of what Willie McIlvanney called our ‘mongrel nation’. In fact, our biggest problem is not immigration, but emigration. Every year we lose talented Scots and we welcome any talented replacements from wherever they come.”

These developments are interesting if compared with other cases. In Québec’s 1995 referendum for independence, for instance, the Parti Québécois initially appealed to a broad cultural identity that included immigrants; and then, in the weeks before the vote, it shifted to a much narrower ethnic conception of collective identity. In that context, the party “increasingly made emotional appeals to ‘old-stock’ Québecers, whilst placing immigrant groups onto the ‘them’ side of the ‘us versus them’ (or French versus English) fence” (Hepburn, 2009: 520).