Saturday, February 2, 2008

Word of the week: mammone

Our word of the week is a very important, albeit somewhat controversial one. Mammone: mama's boy. Controversial because modern Italian men (and Italian society in general) would gladly rid themselves of this very common attribution.

Alas, it is all too true. Italian men (and to a lesser extent, Italian women) are excessively and sometimes morbidly attached to their mothers. The reasons for this are complex, and the easiest one that comes to mind is a sort of familial compensation for a lack of social power outside the home for women. The reasons must also be deep-seated: think of what is perhaps the most common and ubiquitous theme for Italian art through the centuries: the Madonna and child. Male child. A sort of syncretism of Catholicism and fertility goddess.

Be that as it may, this is no laughing matter. Males (as they do everywhere) still hold the reins of power, and the fact that they are often psychologically and even materially beholden to the previous generation through their mother may well have had an inhibiting influence on innovation which continues to this day. I might also venture to say that a reality in which men ostensibly hold the power while women do so in a hidden manner may have been a sort of prototype for the enduring pattern of Italian occult power. The hardest power to fight, and often not legitimate or accountable.
In the photo above, a Madonna by the great Andrea del Sarto.