This month’s news has been distinctly foggy – everything has been caught up in the horse meat ‘scandal’ which isn’t a scandal at all and the mind-boggling fall of an idol, Oscar Pistorius. Although I have much to say on the latter subject, I can’t seem, try as I might, to put my conflicting thoughts into decent prose. So, instead, I’ll summarise my feelings with the question I keep asking myself: was the man who sprinted past the disability divide a violent, angry individual who hid behind his story? Please, for the sake of the little boys and girls for whom he has epitomised hope, no. It would just be too sad.
Other, normally headline-grabbing, events have been relegated to the fourth and fifth pages of the nation’s collective mental newspaper. For crying out loud, the Pope resigned and we barely batted and eyelid. The last time this happened was 1415 – this is a pretty rare event. And it does have major ramifications. Benedict XI has been caught up in two separate scandals during his time as Pontiff – one surrounding his apparent willingness to ignore clerical abuse of boys when he was a senior cardinal, and a supposed Dan Brown-esque conspiracy involving allegations of fraud issued by his own butler. Both these stories have left unanswered questions. The conclave electing the next Pope may want to consider the histories of the candidates. There is also a feeling that the papacy needs a younger, non-European face. I would agree, but offer a word of caution. Europe is still the spiritual heartland of Catholicism, and among Europeans there seems to be consensus that the Church needs to modernise. On other continents, traditionalists are stronger. A balance must be met, but the Church can’t afford the public relations catastrophe of a Pope spouting views many would regard as bigoted.
Outside the lofty world of the Vatican, Italy is voting today in a general election that will decide the Euro’s fate just as much as the country’s. The markets and Angela Merkel are hoping for a split vote which will allow the outgoing technocratic Prime Minister, Mario Monti, to resume his post at the head of a new coalition and keep Italy’s debt reduction plan on track. But this is far from guaranteed. The left, led by the ex-communist Pier Luigi Bersani, has soared in popularity as the spending cuts they oppose have begun to take a toll. If Bersani wins, expect another Euro crisis.
Then, of course, there is Silvio Berlusconi – what would Italy be without him? Although it is now highly unlikely that he will come close to winning (after a breif scare where it looked like he actually might), he will probably have a stake in whatever coalition is formed. So, once again, the man who caused the problem in the first place will be partly responsible for fixing it. One can only hope that the Italian’s will today vote to end their love affair with maverick politicians.