December 5-9, 2016: Things Fall Apart

Europe is crumbling around us! The constitutional referendum was this week. Following surprising results in referendums around the world this year, what could we expect from Italy? The UK voted to exit the EU. Colombia voted to turn down the peace agreement with FARC. The US voted to elect Donald Trump. And if you’re sensing a theme here, Italy voted overwhelmingly No to Constitutional amendments.

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The amendments themselves are not necessarily bad, but Prime Minister Matteo Renzi made it a referendum on his government, tying his own job to the results of the referendum. And that was stupid of him, because in this political environment, was he really expecting to win? He made a speech not too long ago at SAIS DC on his latest visit (he was Obama’s last State Dinner). But he really should’ve came to Bologna. Walking around the city, there are posters and graffiti all over the city that are anti-Renzi, and anti-establishment in general. Sure, Bologna is generally more leftist than the rest of Italy. But I don’t know if he ever really stood a chance. It looks like Professor Taddei, one of the economics professors who is economic advisor to Renzi, is out of a job. The professors, in general, are supporters of Renzi, except Professor Pasquino, who used to be in the Senate.

In another strange turn of events, Professor Cesa abruptly resigned. He was my professor for Theories of International Relations, and he resigned with just a couple weeks left of classes. Apparently, he has been in negotiations with the school for more money and they have so disrespected him that he felt compelled to leave. The moral of the story is to not play negotiation games with an international relations theorist, because they will take the nuclear option. No one saw this coming. The school should have treated him better as one of the main faculty at the school, teaching three courses per semester and attending most events. There was one time he was even spotted at Soda Pops, a local discoteca that is kind of trashy. But it is the only one that doesn’t charge a cover.

Professor Jones took over Cesa’s classes. Jones’s lecture style is much better. Cesa was always very dry, but his lectures were well structured. Jones is much more difficult to follow, albeit more engaging. So maybe it wasn’t all bad that we switched professors, but it’s really unfair to us for him to leave. He could’ve at least finished the semester and then left. It’s a message to his students that he doesn’t care about us. The school also owes that to us. We should’ve all been given A’s or refunds for those credits. But that was never going to happen.

Professor Cohen visited from DC to cover one of Cesa’s classes. He is the head of the strategic studies department, and a very big deal. He was an advisor in the George W. Bush administration. He is SAIS’s biggest star faculty currently teaching. He did a talk with Professor Unger, former editor of the NY Times, about Trump. It was a really interesting talk. It was good to hear their viewpoints and they’re both excellent speakers. Sometimes the best speakers in the lecture series are just our own professors. In contrast, I attended a lecture by Michael Moller that was really boring. Even though he is very high up in the UN.

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Professor Cohen on the left; Professor Unger on the right

I have been following the Brexit developments for my job at the CCSDD. And this week, the Supreme Court was hearing the Miller case, which is expected to be a successful challenge to Brexit in terms of procedure. It’s really exciting. It’s uncharted waters for the British constitution. No one can predict what is going to happen because nothing like this has ever happened before.

Lastly, Lindsay and I attended the Cinema Lumiere Exhibit beneath Piazza Maggiore. I have been meaning to go for a while now, and I finally decided to go one day after class before they close next month (turns out they extended it to March now). It is an exhibit about the discovery of film. So there are lots of old cameras, and old film reels. They tell the story of the Lumiere brothers, and show old movies, including the Lumieres’s personal home movies and anthropological films. It’s a really well done exhibit. And it’s much bigger than I thought it was going to be for an underground exhibit.

One weird thing they do is they have actors playing the brothers that walk around the exhibit putting on skits. They’re very over the top. They speak in French-ified Italian. They have these funny mustaches and they yell at each other. It’s actually really funny. It’s very clever. The ticket taker told us there was going to be a “spettacolo” but we weren’t really sure what she meant. Now we know.

 

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