I was reading today that Rome has just elected its first woman mayor:
Virginia Raggi, the telegenic populist candidate from Italy’s 5-Star Movement (M5S), has won a landslide victory to become the first female mayor of Rome, defeating the Democratic Party candidate Roberto Giachetti by more than thirty points in Sunday’s runoff election.
“This is a historic moment, a turning point,” said Raggi, who has been called “the Trump of Rome.”
This sounded promising, 5-Star is the populist party of comedian Bepe Grillo. A few clicks later I was reading about him.
…he was in hot water when, in 1986, he made a scathing joke — perhaps his most famous — about corruption in the inner circle of Bettino Craxi, Italy’s socialist prime minister at the time. “If everyone in China is a socialist, from whom do they steal?” he said. Grillo was barred from state television…
“It’s because the corrupt don’t think they’re corrupt. Those who use public funds for their own fucking business think it’s their money. And they buy champagne, dinners, vibrators, and petrol vouchers with it.”…
“I don’t know, it’s always the same story. Every nation has lost its sovereignty.”…
He starts attacking “those people” who have a stranglehold on Europe’s economy. “They have a kind of illness, it’s called alexithymia, which means difficulty recognising the emotions of others: pain, pleasure, joy,” he says. Does he mean people like Merkel and Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission? “Yes,” he responds. “They don’t care if they have to put tens of millions of people into hunger to balance an account, it’s collateral damage.
Alexithymia. That’s a new one on me. Wikipedia:
Alexithymia /ˌeɪlɛksəˈθaɪmiə/ is a personality construct characterized by the sub-clinical inability to identify and describe emotions in the self.
Scientific American, The Emotional Blindness of Alexithymia:
Difficulty identifying different types of feelings
Limited understanding of what causes feelings
Difficulty expressing feelings
Difficulty recognizing facial cues in others
Limited or rigid imagination
Constricted style of thinking
Hypersensitive to physical sensations
Detached or tentative connection to others
Alexithymia was first mentioned as a psychological construct in 1976 and was viewed as a deficit in emotional awareness. Research suggests that approximately 8% of males and 2% of females experience alexithymia, and that it can come in mild, moderate and severe intensities.
Maybe most politicians are alexithymic? And Tobacco Controllers too? What’s always missing is any empathy for excluded and denormalised smokers. The only thing that matters is “health”. They don’t recognise smoking as a pleasure. Or being exiled to the outdoors as a pain.
Which reminds me that Dmitri Kosyrev emailed me yesterday to tell me about a terrible experience he’d just had. He’d been at a Nicotine (vaping) conference in Warsaw, and guess who he unwittingly found himself sitting next to?
He only realised when she stood up, identified herself, and asked a question in a “baritone” voice.
What a horrible shock! Like finding yourself sitting next to Himmler or Goebbels.
I could readily empathise. I’m not alexithymic.
What would you do in that circumstance? Try to strangle them, right then and there? Most likely, like the gentlemanly Dmitri, you’d do nothing. And that’s why we have all these Himmlers and Goebbels and Arnotts: everyone’s far too polite to them.
And Deborah Arnott (and also Linda Bauld, who was also there) is probably alexithymic. When she wrote that “smokers will be exiled to the outdoors”, it was without any trace of recognition of how smokers might feel about that.
At least both Deborah Arnott and Linda Bauld were booed at the conference.
Hillary Clinton is probably another alexithymic. But probably not Donald Trump.
I learned a new word today, courtesy of Bepe Grillo.