The role of expectation in life

September 2013, Milan

On my last visit here, there was an air of hope and excitement around – in December last year, everyone was talking about the upcoming parliamentary elections; huge political ads were adorning the “grandi palazzi” as much as Christmas garlands were. Piazza Loreto – an emblem of both religious and historic significance, as the venue most famous for the public display of Mussolini’s corpse takes its name from an old sanctuary of Our Lady of Loreto in Ancona province – looked like the birthday cake for a king. It was almost as if it was hoping to make history again, as everyone believed the democratic left finally had a real chance of defeating Berlusconi’s right.

But February came and no political group had won an outright majority, resulting in a hung parliament. After a long period of negotiations everyone was relieved when a coalition was finally formed between Centre-left, Centre, and Centre-right. I was amazed at the sense of expectation everyone seemed to have from such a hodgepodge coalition, but I hoped for them and for myself, that at least some of the newly acquired trust would not be disappointed. By September it became clear that even that shred of hope had been overly idealistic. The sparkle had gone from people’s eyes and disappointed gestures had taken the place of high beat dialogue when it came to politics.

Equally high were people’s hopes regarding house prices in Britain. Surely there was one positive thing coming out of this awful recession – and that was the fact that, with interest rates indefinitely on hold at an all-time minimum and the whole banking sector in alert, more people should be able to afford their first shed. Think again! Despite the economic and regulatory circumstances, house prices went straight back up to exceed the level they were at six years ago. The market must have its reasons, which reason doesn’t know…

What is it about us humans, that makes us hope so much, despite all odds? Should we attempt to lower our expectations? Should we learn more from disappointments than from our own heart? Sure we could. But then what reason would there be to even expect tomorrow?