November 3, 2011

Why the Left Is Unfit to Lead Italy

Let’s go through our mistakes again, said Alessandro Baricco, the popular novelist and icon of the Italian left, speaking at a Democratic Party meeting in Florence last Saturday. And that’s what he did in a brief but passionate—and much applauded—speech which will be remembered for a long time to come. I couldn’t help translating a few lines of it into English:

One [mistake] is that we have always seen ourselves as working in defense of the weak and marginalized, as advocating for people who have no voice and are victims of social injustice. That’s a wonderful starting point, but I want to say this: that we, on behalf (and with the excuse) of that, have mainly set up a protection system, a system of privileges, for a part of this country—and a rather dark one—which seems to be held together by mediocrity and a certain inclination to servility. I don’t know how this happened, but it happened.

We thought, with regard to the defense of the weak, that we might achieve it only by somehow blocking the system on a stable net of rights and defenses. I, along with others, now know that the best thing you can do for the weak is to let him have a dynamic system, not a blocked one. It’s not true that risk hits the weak; risk is a chance for the weak. A blocked system blocks a country, blocks the economic growth, the enthusiasm, the hope, and the options of revenge. It blocks social mobility and capabilities. It is an asphyxial system, and the rich suffers from asphyxia, but not very much, while the poor dies from it. [IL FOGLIO, November 1, 2001, in Italian]

Alessandro Baricco
“Another mistake we have made,” says Baricco, is that “we couldn’t pronounce the words which were the names of the things.” One example for all: “We have never been able to pronounce the word meritocracy. “ Why on earth? “Because it is ugly.” Well, yeah actually. What else were we meant to think?

There is much of my own story and political views in these lines—I could write a book on Why-I-used-to-be-a-leftist-but-not-any-more—but that’s not the point. The point is that the Italian left—along with (if not more than) that of many other Western countries—is exactly as Baricco describes it, with its original sin and its deleterious effects throughout the history of this country. This, if we limit our field of vision to the near future of post-Berlusconi Italy, should lead us all to worry about the prospect of having the country being led by the left. After all, if there is one thing many Italians should fear more than the current government it is the available alternatives. And that’s what actually happens…

“We are in a situation where we are without a government, but also without an opposition, and that is the trouble of the Italian political system today,” said Sergio Fabbrini, Director of the Luiss School of Government and Professor of Political Science and International Relations at LUISS Guido Carli in Rome.
Mr. Fabbrini said that even with open opposition to Mr. Berlusconi from Confindustria, the Italian business lobby, the Roman Catholic Church and several major newspapers that have been calling for his resignation on almost a daily basis, “voters don’t trust the opposition.” Many Italians believe that they, too, would not be able to make the tough choices needed to pull Italy out of the cross hairs of the financial markets.
Mr. Berlusconi’s “strength is the weakness of his rivals,” he said. “This is a stalemate.” [NYT, October 27, 2011]

Good for him, bad for us. But then again, it wouldn’t be necessary to hand over the country to the left in order to get rid of Berlusconi, if only Silvio could realize that—if I may take the liberty of quoting John 11:50—it is expedient for us, that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish. Yes, Italy first, if possible. But, hey, don’t misinterpret, long life to Berlusconi, and may God bless and protect Italy from its enemies (wherever they hide)!