Only William Wallace can save Italy

By S. Murtas

A few weeks ago, around midnight, and one of the most inspiring scenes in film-making sticks like glue in my mind. No, it isn’t one of Hollywood’s latest multi-million dollar blockbusters. It’s Braveheart, a film seen countless times, and yet never before appeared so relevant, so poignant (to me, at least).

It would only be the following day that my brain started to process and contextualize those intense, touching scenes reaching as obvious a conclusion as there can be – only someone ready to match the idealism of the fictional William Wallace will be able to secure a brighter future for Italy.

Mel Gibson in Braveheart - 1995 © Icon Productions The Ladd Company

Mel Gibson in Braveheart – 1995 © Icon Productions The Ladd Company

I’m not trying to make enemies among the Scots. Of course, everyone knows William Wallace is anything but a fictional character, but the Scottish hero that everyone learned to admire and to be inspired by is the hardly-accurate one portrayed by Mel Gibson in his Academy Award winning Braveheart,

Compared to the real protagonist of the First War of Scottish Independence – the lesser-known one written about in history books – a myth, an exaggeration, the emotionally-moving quintessence of high ideals.

Yet, it’s precisely this portrayal that inspired my reflection.

The William Wallace put on the screen by Gibson is one of uncompromising principles, a true idealist who challenges the status quo sacrificing his personal fortunes, and ultimately his life, to the ideal of freedom. A man in his prime, glorified and widely regarded as an authentic warrior, completely alien to the dynamics of dynastic/political gains, who is well too aware that any compromise would nullify the very ideals he and his men are fighting for.

In short, the embodiment of what Italy has been waiting for far too long. After almost 50 years of deliberately weak political governments – so as to avoid any reminiscence of Mussolini’s fascist era – Silvio Berlusconi was the first to gain widespread support as an outsider promoting economic and social reforms that after three attempts in government never materialized.

Then, almost 20 years after Berlusconi’s first political win, the last hopes rested with Mario Monti, a distinguished professor, world famous economist and former European Commissioner who despite lacking Wallace’s indomitable fighting spirit seemed to be the right person at the right time, mainly because alien to the devilish dynamics of Italian politics. But he too ended failing (quite miserably) in his attempt to overturn the status quo, and his temporary (not structural) reforms only allowed the country just about to stay afloat.

Today more than ever, Italy has no other option than finding its own William Wallace, a leader ready to sacrifice his political future for the higher cause.

Reforming Italy takes uncompromising moral values, courage to take unpopular decisions, political clout and statesmanship, and ultimately the awareness that fixing the country’s troubled economy, crippled social state, Machiavellian legal system while clamping down on the widespread corruption will incontrovertibly mean the end of one’s political career.

Is Matteo Renzi up for the challenge of becoming Italy’s William Wallace?

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