Yesterday (19th May 2016) an extraordinary politician died of cancer in a Rome hospital. He was Marco Pannella. Italian politics does not and will not feature heavily on this site but Pannella was special, even inspirational – and he was a rebel with a long list of causes. His campaigns over the years since he entered politics in 1955 include: fighting for referenda on divorce and abortion, insisting on true separation of church and state, the legalisation of soft drugs, prisoner rights, euthanasia, the right to conscientious objection and on the international stage against capital punishment, equal rights or any other form of judicial or non-judicial oppression.
He seemed totally unafraid to take on any power group which led him to imprisonment in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1968 for leafleting against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and on to countless other arrests and confinements. In my opinion he shares a similar moral stature to other remarkable figures in recent Italian history such as the magistrates, Falcone and Borsellino.
He had a strong belief in non-violence and so perfected non-violent forms of protest like the hunger strike as a means of garnering publicity and ensuring a bigger media impact for him, the Radical Party and Radio Radicale.
There are ‘buoni’ and ‘cattivi’ in all areas of public life in all countries but I feel in Italy that the buoni such as Pannella, Borsellino and Falcone (and numerous others, of course) stand out especially for their courage, humanity and essential modesty.
Pannella lived his radical ideals also in his private life within a so-called open relationship with his partner whilst admitting to 3 or 4 significant gay relationships.
I am happy to lead the blog down this brief political diversion to honour exemplary individuals such as Marco Pannella who sit within a truly admirable Italian tradition of service to the oppressed or disadvantaged as evident through modern history; through from the heroes and victims of the risorgimento, to Giacomo Matteotti and Antonio Gramsci , the partisan resistance to occupation, Paolo Borsellino and Giovanni Falcone and all the other opponents to organised crime, exploitation and corruption.