Italian Paradoxology – A Stranger in a Strange Land

“Planning is the kiss of death of entrepreneurship” – Peter Drucker.
All through the international press and international investor communities a mild panic is spreading due to the recent Italian elections and the possible deadlock of the results. Oddly enough the implicit expectation of the outcome, a strong reform-minded coalition, is quite the opposite of what an Italy needs. Italy is a country in transition, a country that never really formed a nation, but yet it is a geographical region with people that strongly identify with their place of birth.
If we can assume the cultural history as evident of the psychological makeup of a country, one must surely address the formation of the Italian republic some 150 years ago as the result of some four or five centuries of warfare. It weren’t so much the Italians that were fighting wars, it were the French, Spanish, Austria-Hungarians and Prussians that were fighting their wars on Italian ground. After a battle horrific enough to cause the foundation of the Red Cross it seemed the Italian city states were ready to move beyond their mutual arrangements as a confederation and adopt the model of the post-Napoleonic administrative district, the Kingdom of Italy, to gradually unite their forces as a republic to oust the outer influences. As early adopters of the concept of citizens Italians had become very well accustomed to have local arrangements, which had worked very well in some cases as early anarcho-syndicalism allowed for co-ownership to fund pensions and healthcare for members of a worker union. Alas it also led to systematic exclusion such as the now poor South of Italy which at the time the republic was formed was a very modern region with Naples having a lively steel industry, shipping, railroads and the second city in the world where electric lighting was introduced, but maybe that has been a gradual effect of the large income gap between the elite, the workers and the peasants. Modern-day obfuscation tactics by presenting a kaleidoscopic labyrinth of contradictions continues to be popular and is widely used by businesses to avoid hostile take-over. Alas such tactics come at the cost of not developing the own business, but intriguing nonetheless.
Similarly cunning were the mind tricks underlying early Fascism, “as cunning as a fox what used to be Professor of Cunning at Oxford University but has moved on and is now working for the U.N. at the High Commission of International Cunning Planning”. In line with the increasing importance of the political discourse as a way towards self-determinacy, Antonio Gramsci had already stated that as an ideology it was ripe enough to replace religion. Mussolini and others were even more daring and inverted the question by making a religion out of politics, and placing the personal narrative within the context of a nation in the process of forming he managed to come up with a corporatist system where any sort of interest-based group formation was allowed as long as it benefitted the formation of the Italian nation state. Supported by educational propaganda in the form of careful rewrites of the history of the Roman Empire as a sort of uber-nation state instead of a cooperative infrastructure, just like the Medici bank was much more like a trade infrastructure depending on behavioral standardizations (payment terms, coinage, weights, metrics, bookkeeping and etcetera) than just one of the nodes as we now have come to understand banks. Yes, our friend with his manly jaw had a deep understanding of both crowd psychology and propaganda techniques.
And so does that other clown, not that self-appointed joker which is hijacking Italy’s media and obstructing the remains of what used to be a free press, but that professional comedian, Beppe Grillo. But Beppe knows something more, because he knows that he is a clown… and that is where every single member of his Movimenti 5 Stelle will have to prove that they are not what they have been agitating against. Because Grillo’s anti-partitocracy forces them to not apply party-based power games, they are a party that cannot be a party and they will have to measure and weigh every decision in both the Italian senate and the Italian lower house . After Grillo has had his say, or rant, depending on the time of day, he may realize that his anti-establishmentarianism is too close to Berlusconi’s for his taste, and he and every single member of the Movimenti 5 Stelle will have to do their best on every single deal. In line with Bersani and Monti, this may be the best that could happen to Italy. There is no ‘strong leader’, there are 8.688.545 Italians who chose to lead the country into the future. Sorry stock markets, but hope is unquantifiable.