Imagine this scene: Police station. Interrogation room. Two detectives of the Italian Police force interrogated Mr. Rossi, an important civil servant, accused of taking bribes. After hours and hours of questions, he finally breaks down and confesses everything: he took bribes from shady people to close an eye on certain affairs. Thanks to his shameful behaviour, a lot of people suffered. One of the detectives doesn’t understand why he took the bribes: he didn’t need money, he was respected by everyone thanks to his job and could have become an example to everyone if he exposed this corruption. “Why did you take the money?” asks the detective “Why did you ruin yourself like that?”.
A crying Mr. Rossi replies “Tengo famiglia“.
What does it mean?
Tengo famiglia literally means “I have a family”, but the sense is “I’ve to provide for my family”. This expression is what psychologists call a “technique of neutralization”
Techniques of neutralization are a theoretical series of methods by which those who commit illegitimate acts temporarily neutralize certain values within themselves which would normally prohibit them from carrying out such acts, such as morality, obligation to abide by the law, and so on.
Tengo famiglia is usually used by journalist and some writers to summarize the very Italian habit of breaking the law if you can somehow “help” your family by doing it. Evading taxes, scamming the NHS, taking bribes, selling your vote, and even joining a gang, everything is ok if you do it for your children!
However, this doesn’t apply only to illegal activities: being obsequious toward the rich and powerful and farsi i cazzi propri (minding your own business) to avoid troubles is also typical of those who “have got a family”.
This behaviour is often considered the source of many problems of Italy, such as corruption and nepotism and it was often satirized in movies as one the behaviours of the italiano medio, which is like the “average Joe” but it’s usually used with a negative connotation.
Well, that’s everything for now, arrivederci~
PS: I still have to adorn my blog, I blame everyone but me for this.