The case for an Italian rebellion. Why it doesn’t happen. And what could happen, by Luca De Biase

The case for an Italian rebellion is not insane. I had the chance to speak with many foreign observers, recently, and I found that an Italian rebellion is considered a real option. (I will not quote their names, but if they want they can comment here).

An Italian rebellion? Other Mediterranean countries have done just so, lately. Tunisia and Egypt, for example, have chosen to rebel against their dictators and the world has appreciated. Considering the Italian political situation as a sort of authoritarian regime and thinking that it is not reformable through the normal democratic process, one is lead to think that the rebellion is the only possible solution.

In that mindset, if Italians rebel, they demonstrate their democratic will and maturity. If they don’t rebel, they show they are anything between accomplices and weak victims of the head of their government and his power system. If Italians will rebel, they will free themselves from the shame of accepting a very doubtful sort of democratic government, the consequences of which are dangerous for themselves and the world. That’s the option. But it is not happening.


Of course, assuming that Italy is not a real democracy and that it is not going to be reformed through a democratic process is a quite extreme vision of the Italian situation. Many Italians still think they are in a democracy and that next electoral opportunities will bring a new government to them. But many others think that they live in a regime, based on a non-democratic control over the media (i.e. television) by the head of the government.

The incredible series of scandals that involved the head of the government are linked to his political incapacity to manage the financial crisis, which makes Italy dangerous for the world’s financial stability. There is a general understanding about the fact that a change in government should be needed to solve some real Italian problems. The government has resisted all scandals by denying any problems and by acting as if all criticism was the enemy’s obscure maneuver. The majority in Parliament has been reinforced by an alliance with a dozen or more politicians that had been elected in one of the opposition’s parties and that have been convinced to change side using very controversial means. Many see the Italian political stall as a consequence of a lack of democracy in Italy. If nothing is done, Italy will lose its place in the euro system, causing tragic consequences to the world’s financial stability. Poverty will grow, desperation will rise, violence will diffuse.

Thus, as it has been said, a rebellion should be an option. Or isn’t it?

As seen from abroad if Italians don’t rebel, it may be that Italians are accepting the way their politicians work. If it was true, the international shame should be on them, too, and not only on their politicians. But listening to what Italians are thinking and doing is a bit more complicated. And maybe a learning experience.

Of course, there are different kind of Italian experiences:
1. A 35% of Italians are considered functionally illiterate: they cannot read, they only rely on television to getting the news. They sort of live in a fiction, which is created by the very power source of the present political leadership. When they vote, they vote accordingly.
2. There is a 10% who read a lot: they are connected to the rest of the world, they work with the rest of the word, they export, they travel, they read English, or French, or German. They know that Italy is not working and needs to be fixed. Some of them think that it is possible to reform, but they don’t seem to find a political alternative to what there is now. Some other just care for their interests and do what they can to save themselves. Finally, some of them think that nothing can be done, they will vote at the next elections and they will hope without believing.
3. Young people are connected and desperate. They rely on their parents’ help. They don’t seem to be willing to risk if they don’t see were to bet. If there was something to risk about, some of them would risk: some would go abroad, some would start a company, some would rebel… Some of them actually do so. The majority of them is sort of silently waiting for somebody that explains what can be done.
4. Some Italians are leaders: companies, universities, foundations, associations, city and regional managements are full of great people that innovate and keep the Italian machine going. They are busy doing the job for the rest of their fellow citizens and don’t think to rebel.
5. Some Italians are criminals. They do whatever they can to get power and money. They don’t pay taxes. They trade drugs. They build where it is forbidden. They devastate the environment. They engulf culture with any kind of horrible content. They don’t rebel, because they like the way Italy is now.
6. Some Italians have faith. They wait.
7. Some Italians are testing the new means that the network is creating to change the way the media work, to improve their economic opportunities, to link to abroad: they haven’t yet overcome the power of television, but they have had a great, historic success this year by winning the attention game, when the majority of Italians showed up to vote for a referendum that television didn’t even bother to cover (the referendum was about stopping the nuclear power in Italy, stopping the privatization of water distribution and cancelling a law that helped the head of the government to escape some of his troubles with justice).

All Italians are worried and many are angry. Very angry. A rebellion cannot be considered impossible. But it is not what Italians are really interested in. And this is not because they like the system they are imprisoned in. They silently seem to say that they need something different.

Italians have lived ten and more years of terrorism. Thousands of them were killed by fascist and communist terrorists during the Seventies. Italians didn’t seem to like terrorists. But some of them shared with terrorists the idea that Italy is not really a reformable country. That is the major threat to a democracy. Reformist should become popular by achieving some results: if there are never results, cynical analysis emerge. And cynism leads to terror or to helplessness. We had terror in the past. Now we are experiencing helplessness.

Is it going to change?

The Eighties started with the hope of modernization and ended in some bad scandals while the public debt was starting to grow. During the last 20 years the government has been going from the great hope inspired by the European project, which was won in the Nineties, and the great distress of the present crisis. Change all over the world, in the last decade, has been lived in Italy as some sort of a passive experience, nothing that Italians were able to do anything about.

Through these ups and downs, there has been a war on culture: Italians have seen institutions bombarded by the barbaric language of the new politicians, they have seen the schools were their children go left without money to work, they saw their universities struggling to get any financing, they watched in television dozens of self interested leaders doing whatever they wanted, they heard the voices of a couple of businessmen laughing in recorded calls because the earthquake was going to get them good money… Italians are living an “after war”, a cultural war that devastated the country. Rebels have conquered the government and have destroyed peace, in Italy. Fear, urgencies, finances, are concentrating attention on the short term. Italians can rebel again. But most of all, they need perspective and peace.

How to get peace?

If they live in peace, if they have something to build, Italians are one of the best people in the world. If they are at war, they are not. They are better at resisting than at battling. But Italians, as – and more than – any other people in the western world, miss the time in which they shared a vision.

To get peace, Italians need to think and to act. Probably this means that they have to start by thinking better. And act quickly, after that.

This is the end of this long post. And I’m sorry for having written so much. Forgive a passionate Italian. Who is looking for something to do for his country, for his people, and for his children.

Italians are not alone in missing a vision. But Italians are paying a lot more for this. And maybe they will find a way out, that can become interesting for other people, too.

A rebellion is a revolution without a vision. Italians, probably, don’t really need a rebellion. They need a shared vision based on facts and reality (not on ideology and reality shows): a deep cultural change, that helps them in understanding their shared project, that helps rebuild a perspective and that makes them look ahead with an empirically based hope. They know they will have to work hard. And they usually do, when they know for what they are working. Thought, art and culture are to change. A rebellion is an act. A deep cultural change is a movement that is needed to transform the eventual act of a rebellion in the process of a constructive and generous revolution.


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