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Pushing on with Draghi’s good government to avoid the disappointments of “A country without…”

In 1980, Alberto Arbasino wrote “A country without”, published by Garzanti, in an attempt to come to terms with that difficult decade, the 1970s, marked by political violence (neo-fascist bombs, Red Brigades terrorism), social crisis, fractured democracy (the kidnapping and murder of Aldo Moro to disrupt the dialogue between the Christian Democratic and the Communist parties, aimed at a radical renewal of Italian politics), as well as cultural disarray. Ten years later, in 1990, Arbasino revised that same essay, after a futile period that had promised much but had delivered nothing (the beginning of wealthy modernisation), when new rifts appeared (the continuous decline of politics, the explosion of Italy’s public debt to the detriment of future generations), describing it in the same clear-headed, critical, grave tone.

“A country without”, then – “A country without memory/ A country without history/ A country without past/ A country without experience/ A country without greatness/ A country without dignity/ A country without reality/ A country without motivations/ A country without programmes/ A country without plans/ A country without a head/ A country without legs/ A country without skills/ A country without meaning/ A country without knowledge / A country without self-image/ A country without self-examination/ A country without self-understanding/ A country without a future?”

In our times, so difficult and controversial, it’s worth rereading Arbasino’s pages, rich in pungent irony and admirable civic passion, in order to mindfully ponder about memory and the need for believing in the future, as we’re pushed in a narrow corner by current politics: dark clouds loom on the Draghi government, just when Italy – this “country without” that we love, regardless – must face economic and social tensions, climate emergencies, thunders of war in the heart of Europe, as well as an energy transition rife with geopolitical implications and environmental complications.

Harsh civic denunciations on the limits and contradictions of Italian identity are an essential part of our literary history, from Dante to Machiavelli and Guicciardini, from Leopardi to Manzoni and Carducci, from D’Azeglio to Croce, from Goretti to Gramsci. Yet, those lines by Arbasino on a country “without plans”, “without skills”, “without self-examination”, “without self-understanding” precisely and prophetically capture our contemporary context, featuring a certain populist, sloppy political presence that, “without knowledge”, goes against the interests and general values held by Italian citizens for the sake of its own narrow-minded, biased self-interests, fickle agreements, paltry powers.

Will Italy end up “without a future” just while Europe gets ready to revisit the guidelines of the Stability Pact, after committing to 200 billion EU funds to be wisely spent in reforming the country, and when we could play a prominent part in redefining the geopolitical balance in the Mediterranean area and in the world? It’s a serious risk.

The fracture affecting the majority in support of the Draghi government, caused by the Five Star Movement with Conte at its head, has dramatically warped the political situation, leading to the Prime Minister’s resignation. These are days laden with concern. The immediate future is more uncertain than ever.

The Quirinale, the key reference point for all Italian people who care about the future of the country, is working to maintain the stability of Italy and its institutions, as well as to perpetuate a sense of responsibility.

It’s precisely in such hard times that we must take heed of the pleas we hear from the whole economic world, the myriad of mayors from large and small cities, the Church, the rectors of major universities, the very many cultural and civic personalities, as well as from the EU Commission in Brussels, European governments and the US. To ensure the continuation of the Draghi government, the “GDP party” (with Confindustria at the forefront, flanked by all territorial and trade associations) is mobilising, and a militant newspaper like Il Foglio revives, on its front page, that “Whatever it takes” slogan with which Draghi, as president of the ECB, saved the Euro (and as such the EU and an Italy weighed down by public debt).

“Yet, it’s time for duty” was the Sunday headline of Avvenire, the newspaper published by CEI, the Italian Episcopal Conference and that “Yet” encapsulates all the intensity of a severe criticism for those who dabble in partisan opinions, personal grudges, envy, shrewd propaganda and narrow political views, while “duty” refers to the general good, for which, always with that great sense of responsibility, president Mattarella and prime minister Draghi always did, and continue to, care.

Indeed, Italy and the Italian people, despite the limitations and disappointments of a “country without”, patronage-driven inclinations and excuses such as “I have a family”, are nonetheless better than this common, negative image often painted by Italy and the people themselves. These people deserve a better narrative, considering the great spirit of solidarity and civic sense demonstrated in tackling the pandemic. Enterprises, since the great financial crisis of 2008, have been investing, innovating, exporting, creating employment and wealth, so much so that the GDP has been boasting an excellent growth (it’s now the strongest in Europe) even after those incredibly tough lockdown periods. “Social capital” is positive and even in terms of environmental and social sustainability, the economic world is showing greater commitment and enhanced effectiveness than in the rest of Europe (the Symbola report entitled “L’Italia in dieci selfie” (“Italy in ten selfies”), on the circular economy, the quality of products and production, the virtuous relationships between companies and territories, it’s proof of this). This was also authoritatively confirmed by president Mattarella: “Our economy is stronger when is backed by a robust solidarity network, a system of enterprises aware of their social function, a foundation of laws, widespread knowledge, civic passion.”

As well as Arbasino’s work, we should also reread and remember the words of Eugenio Scalfari, secular promoter of accurate information as the essential driver for quality politics: “Thank goodness, here’s a country that grows and, despite all, is stronger than the weight it carries on its shoulders”, read his editorial for the first issue of newspaper la Repubblica, on 14 January 1976 – words that endure.

A “Country with” we should say, then, heeding to Scalfari and turning Arbasino’s critical acumen into hope.

It’s precisely in such an Italy that we should trust, in a strategy focused on progress and development, rather than escapades; in a story that looks to the future;

in good governance – “Whatever it takes”.

(photo by Massimo Di Vita/Archivio Massimo Di Vita/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

In 1980, Alberto Arbasino wrote “A country without”, published by Garzanti, in an attempt to come to terms with that difficult decade, the 1970s, marked by political violence (neo-fascist bombs, Red Brigades terrorism), social crisis, fractured democracy (the kidnapping and murder of Aldo Moro to disrupt the dialogue between the Christian Democratic and the Communist parties, aimed at a radical renewal of Italian politics), as well as cultural disarray. Ten years later, in 1990, Arbasino revised that same essay, after a futile period that had promised much but had delivered nothing (the beginning of wealthy modernisation), when new rifts appeared (the continuous decline of politics, the explosion of Italy’s public debt to the detriment of future generations), describing it in the same clear-headed, critical, grave tone.

“A country without”, then – “A country without memory/ A country without history/ A country without past/ A country without experience/ A country without greatness/ A country without dignity/ A country without reality/ A country without motivations/ A country without programmes/ A country without plans/ A country without a head/ A country without legs/ A country without skills/ A country without meaning/ A country without knowledge / A country without self-image/ A country without self-examination/ A country without self-understanding/ A country without a future?”

In our times, so difficult and controversial, it’s worth rereading Arbasino’s pages, rich in pungent irony and admirable civic passion, in order to mindfully ponder about memory and the need for believing in the future, as we’re pushed in a narrow corner by current politics: dark clouds loom on the Draghi government, just when Italy – this “country without” that we love, regardless – must face economic and social tensions, climate emergencies, thunders of war in the heart of Europe, as well as an energy transition rife with geopolitical implications and environmental complications.

Harsh civic denunciations on the limits and contradictions of Italian identity are an essential part of our literary history, from Dante to Machiavelli and Guicciardini, from Leopardi to Manzoni and Carducci, from D’Azeglio to Croce, from Goretti to Gramsci. Yet, those lines by Arbasino on a country “without plans”, “without skills”, “without self-examination”, “without self-understanding” precisely and prophetically capture our contemporary context, featuring a certain populist, sloppy political presence that, “without knowledge”, goes against the interests and general values held by Italian citizens for the sake of its own narrow-minded, biased self-interests, fickle agreements, paltry powers.

Will Italy end up “without a future” just while Europe gets ready to revisit the guidelines of the Stability Pact, after committing to 200 billion EU funds to be wisely spent in reforming the country, and when we could play a prominent part in redefining the geopolitical balance in the Mediterranean area and in the world? It’s a serious risk.

The fracture affecting the majority in support of the Draghi government, caused by the Five Star Movement with Conte at its head, has dramatically warped the political situation, leading to the Prime Minister’s resignation. These are days laden with concern. The immediate future is more uncertain than ever.

The Quirinale, the key reference point for all Italian people who care about the future of the country, is working to maintain the stability of Italy and its institutions, as well as to perpetuate a sense of responsibility.

It’s precisely in such hard times that we must take heed of the pleas we hear from the whole economic world, the myriad of mayors from large and small cities, the Church, the rectors of major universities, the very many cultural and civic personalities, as well as from the EU Commission in Brussels, European governments and the US. To ensure the continuation of the Draghi government, the “GDP party” (with Confindustria at the forefront, flanked by all territorial and trade associations) is mobilising, and a militant newspaper like Il Foglio revives, on its front page, that “Whatever it takes” slogan with which Draghi, as president of the ECB, saved the Euro (and as such the EU and an Italy weighed down by public debt).

“Yet, it’s time for duty” was the Sunday headline of Avvenire, the newspaper published by CEI, the Italian Episcopal Conference and that “Yet” encapsulates all the intensity of a severe criticism for those who dabble in partisan opinions, personal grudges, envy, shrewd propaganda and narrow political views, while “duty” refers to the general good, for which, always with that great sense of responsibility, president Mattarella and prime minister Draghi always did, and continue to, care.

Indeed, Italy and the Italian people, despite the limitations and disappointments of a “country without”, patronage-driven inclinations and excuses such as “I have a family”, are nonetheless better than this common, negative image often painted by Italy and the people themselves. These people deserve a better narrative, considering the great spirit of solidarity and civic sense demonstrated in tackling the pandemic. Enterprises, since the great financial crisis of 2008, have been investing, innovating, exporting, creating employment and wealth, so much so that the GDP has been boasting an excellent growth (it’s now the strongest in Europe) even after those incredibly tough lockdown periods. “Social capital” is positive and even in terms of environmental and social sustainability, the economic world is showing greater commitment and enhanced effectiveness than in the rest of Europe (the Symbola report entitled “L’Italia in dieci selfie” (“Italy in ten selfies”), on the circular economy, the quality of products and production, the virtuous relationships between companies and territories, it’s proof of this). This was also authoritatively confirmed by president Mattarella: “Our economy is stronger when is backed by a robust solidarity network, a system of enterprises aware of their social function, a foundation of laws, widespread knowledge, civic passion.”

As well as Arbasino’s work, we should also reread and remember the words of Eugenio Scalfari, secular promoter of accurate information as the essential driver for quality politics: “Thank goodness, here’s a country that grows and, despite all, is stronger than the weight it carries on its shoulders”, read his editorial for the first issue of newspaper la Repubblica, on 14 January 1976 – words that endure.

A “Country with” we should say, then, heeding to Scalfari and turning Arbasino’s critical acumen into hope.

It’s precisely in such an Italy that we should trust, in a strategy focused on progress and development, rather than escapades; in a story that looks to the future;

in good governance – “Whatever it takes”.

(photo by Massimo Di Vita/Archivio Massimo Di Vita/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)