Mar 25, 2010


From outer space, just around the corner
We have been living a weird situation in Italy in the last 15 years. Not that it's anything coming out of a blue sky. It's more appropriately like a Ridley Scott's alien creature which develops itself by gradually getting rid of a disgusting slimy coating just to reveal an even more disgusting and deadly being harboured underneath, and that over and over again, the egg of the methaphor being the strucural immorality reigning in a country that has lost any respect of itself and its history. Italy has been ruled by the media (and bank, and sports, and insurance and, and, and) tycoon mr. Berlusconi in the last 15 years either directly or indirectly - e.g. by virtually issuing orders to a (nominal) parliamentary opposition which, though on occasion formally governing the country, favored in many ways Berlusconi by approving laws on his behalf.
But the lack of competitiveness is only instrumentally a problem, in that the possess of half the media output of the country by mr. Berlusconi (which raises to 90% when he is governing and thus controls the public television as well) serves the purpose of concealing all the illegal practices which are precipitating the political and economic life of this country into a chasm. A chasm whose stench will be soon too hard to ignore for all those who have been lately been amused by the idiotic, pathetic and clownish exibitions of our president in his participation to international summits all around the world, and by his sensual adventures with a 17-year girl named Noemi.

The italians, a people of poets, travellers,  and ... inventors
Italy has its own way of interpreting the marxian "history-as-tragedy-that-repeats-itself-as-farce" concept. Simply, Italian history skips the tragedy part, and plays itself out immediately as farce. Italy has never been able to learn anything from its history simply because this cannot be taken seriously. And Italians have no memory, perhaps just because you can't have memory of something that has played in your life the same erratic and ephemeral role as only the worst Hollywood trash comedy could. Probably only during the Resistence against Nazi-fascism in the last years of the II W.W. could the italian people really be the authors of their own history. For all the rest of it, Italy has been held hostage by what would soon become the dark side of that same history, starting from the very beginning of it. Even quite a few of the blodsheds (Piazza Fontana, 1969, 17 innocent people killed; Bologna, 1980, 85 dead, to name two) and the killings that stole the scene to normal life all along said history had responsabilities in the high ranks of the state which were never clarified, even though for some of those a secret pact between our government through the secret service, the C.I.A. and a deviant fringe of our Freemasonry, the P2 (of which mr. Berlusconi was a member, with card number 1816), with fascist terrorists serving as executors, appears as the only truthful explanation. Still, the history of Italy, just like a bad romance, cannot possibly be taken too seriously, and the italian people, understandably enough, are the first to realize that. Its own history is to Italy what a clown-dressed teacher would be to minority-reported, attention deficit disorder-affected, TV-addicted kids at the primary school. It cannot be taken seriously, and its lessons cannot be retained. The tragedy part is left to those countries that have an identity they can deploy to overcome it, to finally flourish on the ashes of their own mistakes. World history tells us, what was born in Italy as part of a show becomes tragic history for other countries eventually involved. As our personal Michael Moore, namely Beppe Grillo, remarked once, there are three aspects that need to be addressed:

1) Italy invented fascism, spreading the word of authoritarian statalism all over Europe, Germany being of course the most tragic example: Hitler admired Mussolini and followed his example in leading Germany to causing the most desctructive war of all times. The fascist hierarchy presented the world with some of the most pathetic and bizarre characters in history, most notably Mussolini himself. To illustrate the degree of self-delusion reigning in what was both the darkest and the most ridiculous time of the italian history, the military possess of Libya and the conquest of Ethiopia were enough to convince Mussolini that he could build up an entity the size and glory of the ancient Roman Empire - apparently not considering the fact that any empire starts up by spreading first to the neighbouring lands, for the sake of territorial continuity - and that even long before the first drop of oil was discovered. Nobody in clear conscience can tell all that about Nazism, which was the tragically serious part of the whole european fascism experience. Berlusconi's speeches to his crowd are textbook examples of all the clichés and tricks used by authoritarian leaders of all times, like the ones brought to the attention by the philosopher and social researcher Adorno in the late 40s. To name just a few: a) the art of concealing hardships and institutionalized violence behind the elaboration of a wide range of mass-consumed delusional patterns, where pompous and totally irrealistic promises replace any political actions that don't directly serve the purpose of preserving power. During one of his latest speeches to a crowd of 150,000 people - Rome, 03/20/2010 -, mr. Berlusconi declared he would defeat cancer during his current mandate, namely in 3 years, and that despite having in practice cut funds and personnel to education and to scientific research recently; b) the acting as if he was the victim of operating social forces (paranoia), thus trying to arouse empathy in his followers and, contextually, the cruent attacks to the indipendency of all those democratic institutions supposed to act as checks and balances, most notably the Bench (due to his pending trials), which has been repeatedly insulted by premier Berlusconi, and the few media that stubbornly remain indipendent.

2) Italy invented the Mafia, which, once comnposed of isolated groups of villains in the southern regions of Italy, became a second State behind (and inside) the real one, after the injection of pragmatism allowed by the experience gained oversee and culminated with the mediation of the gangster Lucky Luciano - the most influential gangster af all, who restructured and modernize the organization of Mafia - who struck an secret deal with the american government during the II World War to facilitate the penetration of the allied forces in South Italy in exchange for what would allow the control of the territory by the mafia in the decades to come. This agreement was only the first of a series of pacts - the real extent of which is left to speculation - between the three incarnations of the mafia and the local and national governments until today. Needless to say, several politicians who flank mr. Berlusconi in his political efforts have been charged with entertaining structural relationships with people belonging to each of the 3 mafias. Salvatore Dell'Utri, the mind behind Berlusconi's political beginnings and virtual founder of Berlusconi's party in 1994 was aknowledged during trial to be close to the most important bosses of the sicilian mafia, and condamnend as a result to 7 years. One boss in particular, Giuseppe Mangano, later condamnded to lifetime enprisonment for mafious association, murder and drug trafficking, was harboured by Berlusconi in 1974 for 1 and a half years in his main mansion in Arcore (Milan). in Yet he could avoid prison thanks to being elected to Senate, before the sentence could be executed, just like several other members of Berlusconi's coalition. Between 1978 and 1983 Berlusconi's accounts were flooded with the equivalent to 58.4 million euros (not adjusted for inflation) in cash. The origin of such generosity that allowed him to build up his power at the very beginning of his career remains uncertain, since the money transfers were masked by a complicated architecture of 34 holdings, and mr. Berlusconi has always refused - even as witness in a trial - to give any hint as to where he got all that money from. Much could be said about the obscure origins of Berlusconi's power and his relationship with the sicilian Mafia (a meeting with the "boss of the bosses" Stefano Bontate in 1974 in a café in Milan has been testified to recently during an ongoing trial regarding Berlusconi's right-hand man Marcello Dell'Utri). Last year's law that repatriation of capitals fruits of tax evasion from "fiscal paradises" was outrageously permissive towards the owners of said capitals, who includes not only common tax evaders but also mafious organizations, involving crimes ranging from racketing to drug dealing and corruption. For the repatriation of these assets the italian government granted anonymity and a tax rate of only 5 % (in the U.S., the  “voluntary disclosure of offshore accounts” implies tax payment according to the regular rate and a penalty. Secretiveness is by no means an option). These capitals will enable mafious organizations to expand their economic influence territorially, acquiring businesses suffering the aftermath of the recent global crisis in Italy and abroad. The power of the mafia is a reality efficient law systems as the german one are not accostumed to and will have difficulty in fighting against.

3) Italy invented Banks. Banks were born in the Middle Ages to italian grain merchants (see "Merchant banks" in Wikipedia for more info). Banks are a very complex reality in Italy. They got it away without major damages during the recent subprime crisis, most likely due to their old-styled way of doing business. Indeed, in an economic environment such as Italy's, where the vast majority of the enterprises are moms-and-pops ones, banks are supposed to play a crucial role in the survival of the economic system as a whole. Still, the overall picture of Italy's entrepreneurship is a dull one, in that it's restricted to only a few names (5 or 6 being the most notable), many of which exibiting a fairly rich criminal résumé displaying bribing and bankrupcy fraud practices that are very common in our country, because if you are important enough there is always a law you can fall back on to guarantee your impunity. Displaying the most relevant effect of our banking system being so overwhemingly important, these people's concept of entrepeneurship isn't so much referred to a strategical value of sort, if at all, as it is to avid speculation and pure greed. They are in fact mostly predators which moves from a major company to another, leaving only a hill of debris behind. That explains why a company like Telecom Italia has 1/10 to 1/20 less value then its counterparts in the french and germany stock exchanges. Needless to say, these businessmen are major investors in the bank system themselves. And in perfect Berlusconian style, they swim in the pool of the conflict of interest like fishes in water, precipiting Italy in a situation where the bankers who do the financing are also the the owner of the firms who profit from it, and where the watchdogs of the system are virtually the same who are supposed to be watched over. Bank and financial services didn't undergo restructuring during the recent crisis, as happened in the U.S., and still account for 35% of the capitalization in the italian equivalent of the american Dow Jones index, almost double as much as in France, in Germany and in the U.S., where an overgrown financial system was brought back by the crisis to a more healthy and sustainable dimension. If we bring utilities into the equation, then the percentage increases to 80%. That is the result of decades of state presence in the national economy, dating back to the fascism era and beyond. Currently, a net 41% of capitals quoted in our main Index is in the state's hands (data as to 03/22/2010, reference: "Repubblica", pag. 15). The scandals of Cirio's and Parmalat's bonds (two major companies which put themselves at the centre of two of the most outrageous frauds in the italian economic history, related to illegaly issuing junk bonds to unaware retail investors), wiped out in Italy bonds as a viable way of private financing: an effect of the mistrust that those scandals spread among retail and institutional investors. As a result, the management of capital flows has been more and more prerogative of the national banks, which are also to be held responsible for actively participating in Cirio and Parmalat massive frauds. Moreover, our banks have flooded many of our local public administrations with CDS contracts, indebting municipalities and regional governments for 35 billion euros, that's to say one third of their total indebtdness (Financial Times). Flow of international capitals into the italian economy was both deliberately discouraged by governments (under the pretence of a ridicolous "defence of Italy's identity", as in the recent refusal to sell the financially distressed state-owned airway company "Alitalia" to Airfrance, which is costing Italy at least 5 billion euros) or disregarded by investors themselves, who cast doubt upon the actual competitiveness and transparency of our economy. Incidentally, whereas Madoff will have to die as inmate in a state prison, Callisto Tanzi, the criminal mind behind the Parmalat scandal, is free and has already started up a new business.

A State tailored for one man
We are in Italy 37 laws away from democracy. That is the number of laws that mr. Berlusconi and his staff (mostly made up of his own private lawiers) created to benefit his own person and had the parliament approve. And that's not to mention the added contribution of the parliamentary "opposition" either with proposals or by approving criminal-friendly laws themselves, when they took the lead of the country. If we take into account also the laws mr. Berlusconi promoted and had approved to benefit - or damage - people and private interests of all sorts, then the number raises to more than 100. What separates democracy - or even any other form of government for that matter - from the law of the jungle is the principle that laws must be abstract and retain a generic value. That's not what we have seen in Italy in the last 16 years, when laws "ad personam" (to enable Berlusconi to avoid jail), laws "ad personas" (to enable people of Berlusconi's entourage to avoid jail), laws "ad aziendam" (to favour Berlusconi's firms in spite of the principle of free competition) or laws "ad listam" (to favour his local candidates during the ongoing campaign for the election of the regional administrations), among others, were approved.

The inevitable conclusion
In 1988 situationist thinker Guy Debord, author of the work of genius "The Society of the Spectacle", declared Italy to be the nation where the realisation of the Society of the Spectacle had reached its apex. The italians who believe that something can still be done pray the European Community to put Italy in a regime of compulsory administration, before a situation that has already gone out of control can spread its destructive effects to all the civil world out there.

"Now I'm going to sleep. Wake me up when the rest of my people wakes up"

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