Buying a newspaper at the train station in Bra is a political act. The other day I asked for a copy of the Internazionale, a magazine that is a collection of international news articles translated into Italian, but had to settle for La Repubblica, a centre-left national paper. In the end, I had to justify my choice of newspapers to the man who runs the bar/news stand. “Non sei mica una comunista? (You are not a communist by chance)” he asked in an accusatory tone. Wow, I don’t think I have ever been called a communist before; it caught me off guard. Most academics in Europe vote Left and it is the political position of my work environment. I threw something back about freedom of choice. I knew it wasn’t worth getting into a long discussion over and it was great clear to me I was dealing with someone who had strong right-wing political views. At present, it is nearly impossible to have an intelligent political debate in the street: hand in hand ignorance and the Right rule in Italy. This incident got me thinking about everyday politics in my own country.
In Canada, we rarely talk about politics. Maybe because we have little historical baggage; although in Quebec this is perhaps not the case. We also have little political polarization in Canada and most of our parties sit toward the centre. This is in some ways refreshing but also potentially dangerous: do we lack vision, identity and leadership in our country? I personally feel a bit of healthy daily political debate is long overdue in Canada. That said, I don’t feel that buying a newspaper in Canada will ever become much of a political act; at least not until we develop a variety of political positions and encourage a culture of critical, engaged media.