My message to Italy is what the President of the Republic will not say.
A new year is beginning and we already know that the trend for Italy’s near future isn’t changing. Many businesses won’t be able to pay their taxes, dues, and labor costs; they will slide under the table in terms of foreign partners and workers. Organized crime will expand. Modern export-oriented businesses will seal themselves into districts, surrounded by sophisticated security systems. The challenge will not be GDP growth measured by canonical parameters (that don’t work), but the search for a balance between these three forces to prevent crime from eating up everything and reducing us to a no man’s land. This challenge is on the agenda in Mexico, as it will be in Italy but we don’t want to ackowledge it because it would mean a single thing: admitting that the blame rests on all of us Italian with a low rate of social civility and education.
How did we get here? We didn’t invest in education, we wasted public resources, and we loaded the burden of our squandering on the productive class, which is shrinking. In addition, the bureaucracy doesn’t work or function, we haven’t formulated adequate laws to fight crime– even minor offenses– we haven’t invested in prisons or in our roads.
In all of this, the– negative– role of politics and the state has been enormous. And today, once and for all, instead of continuing to buy a consensus with public funds, politicians should have the courage to say the truth. They should make Italians understand that if they roll up their sleeves now, future generations will reap the benefits. They should educate and provide a good example (come on, don’t laugh). Politics should be a sacrifice, not a profession (come on, stop laughing, I’m serious). On the contrary, the level of our politicians is very low. There are even some who, between ignorance and populism, hope to remove Italy from the European Union. Clinging to the EU is necessary for survival, because leaving would mean being sucked into Islamization. What’s more, politicians should create a serious economic strategy. We needed it badly in the past decades, with the result that we’re now trying to plug holes that can’t be repaired– Ilva, Alitalia, Sole 24 Ore…– because the resources to make a proactive economic policy don’t exist anymore.
At an economic level, we’d need a big trauma to make people finally understand that we need to work better, longer, and at a higher level of quality. Let me explain. “Better” means more attention and dedication even to the small things. “Longer” means fewer coffee breaks, fewer fake sick days, less Facebook during work hours, and an older retirement age. “Quality” means using our brains– with some not insignificant benefits, like proposing improvements, taking responsibility, and going beyond a job description.
Always at an economic level, there will be those who grasp at straws, invoking Italy’s few excellences. Good. Know that our “pocketable” multinationals have already done a lot, maybe everything. Others won’t appear. Instead, many will leave, transferring their headquarters to other countries. In this sense, there’s no doubt that we should have globalized our country more in the past and been more present to attract clients and capital, but at this point we’ve done all that we could do and we’re too small to do more. Now we need the world to come to us, but with this mix of cime, bureaucracy, and union obstacles– who protect the retired at the expense of the young– it’s utopic only to think so.
To grow, also at an international level, services play a gigantic role, but we’re not present in key sectors like finance, software, media, and telecommunications. We only have tourism, which is losing market share. We could get back on the right track with sizable investments in schools and universities, but there’s no money. All sectors can gain an advantage from the digital revolution, but the key technologies are never ours. And we’re always behind in application. To compete, we need to be better than others and we’re not.
We’re not the best for various reasons, not the least our family-run businesses, which, at the expense of real management, were created by dad then destroyed by his spoiled kids (with rare exceptions). To make Italian entrepreneurs we need super exceptional people– and few are born here who intelligently understand early on that going overseas is the best option.
Managers– I have been one myself in the past– could play a key role in Italy’s economic redemption, but they’re frequently suffocated by families. In the few large Italian enterprises, they don’t give their best while they excel overseas. Unfortunately, the ability to work and manage complex organizations isn’t part of Italian culture. During World War II, we had a larger and more complex navy than the English in the Mediterranean, but we did more damage with a handful of men and assault weapons than we did with the fleet. You only have to study the Battle of Adwa, the Battle of Caporetto, and the tragic Isonzo offensive to witness idiot generals and courageous soldiers who operated in complete disorganization. Italy has always been like this: inadequate managers and accidental heros.
Like other large western countries, we could also take advantage of our “diversities”, focusing on young people, women, and people of other nationalities and cultures. But Italy attracts the worst: unproductive people with poor work aptitude and high criminality. Our schools encourage little in the rest, and the absence of prisons makes Italy a paradise for crime and work under the table. Pretty much the Mexico of Europe.
Therefore, I encourage young people to learn a “tradeable” profession, which is to say practicable anywhere in the world, and to leave. Instead, for those who have the courage to stay, Italy is still a fantastic county with good healthcare, good restaurants (because they don’t require a system), some good sectors (like wine, ceramics, and automatic machinery), beautiful scenery (no one can take that away from us), our history (because the past cannot be changed, and it’s full of geniuses, heros, and I frequently dive into it to forget the present). And if the economy doesn’t grow, we’ll close ranks to live well even with fewer material resources. Let’s prioritize security, remember our solidarity, connect with the world, and restart a long march without waiting for a miraculous government or other fantastical solutions, like leaving the European Union. Let’s all start studying in our free time and turn off the fucking TVs that are making us stupid.
Then, to recover, we need to reduce crime to acceptable levels with a fierce haste, and if we don’t have the money to make prisons and we need to grant pardons to decongest them, putting criminals back on the streets, then can’t we lease some land in Turkmenistan and recreate penal colonies? We could even hire locals to organize them and ultras from Atalanta as guards, just to stimulate creativity. Then we’ll liberalize the work market and equate public servants to private employees.
In this way, Italy will start growing at 3% like Spain, nothing fantastic but better than a kick in the balls. If we keep the bar firm for 50 years we’ll get back to the circle of civilized countries. I’ll never see this comeback, but at least I’d have hope for the future.
Most importantly, fuck retirees in Boca Raton. I’ll die here, in Italy, with my guns blazing. Well, hopefully not in 2017 (now you can laugh), but when I’m 100 years old, still lively as a lark. In the meantime, viva Italia!