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Italy's Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown

This essay is dedicated to Alain Minc who has been an unfailing infuence in the creation of it...

Italy is losing its mind. Countless Italians are depressed, anxious, suffer
insomnia, mood swings, and have lost hope. The nation is continuously
irritable. It was once thought that Italy's drive to progress, to be part of the
modern world, was an endeavor underway with Italy at the helm of its own
destiny. But no. Rapturous, dog-eat-dog neoliberalism foisted upon Italy
the requirement to conform beyond its capacity causing Italy to play catch-
up and putting to the test its hard-earned “big gun” berth among the
industrial nations. Italy just could not handle this challenge, this merciless
bullying; but, it could fudge looking as if it did! (When are the Italians
going to learn to stop monkeying the Americans!) The consequences of
Italy's “faking it,” has led The Boot to verge at the precipice of a “hard
anarchy”—at best a “soft anarchy.” Italy's wheels are spinning, but the
nation is not gaining traction and has not been doing so for decades.
Worse, the toll that has been exacted at the expense of the Italian people in
order to keep Italy's window dressing well designed and snobbish, is
debilitating the very spirit of the country's craftsmanship base for which
Italy was once famous throughout the world. This stress, this edict to leave
the Past behind, is literally sapping the hot-blooded and creative verve of
all Italian people—thus producing enormous social, economic, and political
quagmires that are threatening the nation's stability with the result that
thousands and thousands of educated young adults are choosing to escape
the Italian hopelessness, once considered La Dolce Vita. (Italian journalists
write about an Italian “brain drain” as if Italian youth, running away from
Italy, all are starting PhD programs at Harvard or Yale or Cambridge or
Oxford, and not begging for employment as bartenders, waiters, and
waitresses.) Beset by the onrush of a fxed set of adverse circumstances,
Italy could easily fip into a dramatic upheaval. Today's Italy—the European
Union's fourth largest economy, if the United Kingdom is included—for
decades held together with bubble gum and rubber bands, has been
reduced to a breeding ground for folderal and impetuosity, for greed and

I know something about how a nation might “lose its mind.” I lived in
Venezuela (31 December 1975-1 May 1983), and we all know what a horror
Venezuela has become. Venezuela and Italy are worlds apart; yet, I cannot
deny that my memories of Venezuela (Men Without Honor, Women Without
Love) recall two characteristics that these two nations possess in common,
and which dimensions have contributed—at least to Venezuela's demise—
and might make of Italy The European Venezuela. Italy has so far fallen
into a blackhole of avarice and depravation, why should it not be contrasted
with the quasi-defunct Republic of Venezuela? (Transparency International
lists Italy as the 54th most corrupt nation [between Namibia and Mauritius]
in the world with a 50/100 score; Venezuela is listed as the 169 th most
corrupt nation [between Iraq and Equatorial Guinea] with a 18/100 score.
New Zealand is the least corrupt in the world with a 89/100 score among
180 nations.) Italy is in decline. It holds negative posts in all the
classifcations that regard geopolitical analyses. Will it be the next
Venezuela, Argentina, Greece? Italy has a population of approximately
60,000,000 individuals, and 22% of that number is older than 65 years of
age. Italy also possesses one of the lowest birth rates in the world, and it is
the refugees/immigrants who are flling the baby cribs in Italian obstetrical

The frst of those two common distinctions that liken Venezuela to Italy, is
the fact that both Italy and Venezuela have been so “fortunate” to have an
industry that per se thrives for them almost on their own, and one they can
almost always depend on: tourism and petroleum. Tourists have been
coming to Italy for centuries, and their contributions to the Italian fnancial
coffers have kept The Boot on its economic feet—at least for now.
Venezuela could have made petroleum its economic mainstay, but
unfortunately its political society, grabby and underhanded, spoiled all
chances of achieving that goal. Italy's tourist manna from heaven has
slipped from third place on the list of most visited countries, and now is
classifed as the ffth most visited nation. That position is also up for grabs
as Asiatic nations to a great extent invest in tourist development. Do you
know someone who wants to visit Caracas, Venezuela?

The second differentiation is education, public instruction—more precisely

the lack of it. When I lived in Caracas, Venezuela, it was common for
youth, in groups of fve or six or seven, to roam the streets scrounging for
loose change to buy food for their poor families living in the barrios. They
begged passersby to purchase tissues or cigarette lighters or whatever, and
these feisty, often charming roughnecks—unlike the pampered, weak-
spirited Italian youth of today—stole all they could get their sticky, grubby
hands on. There were no schools for them to attend. At that time, 60% of
the Venezuelan population was under 18 years of age. Shopkeepers locked
their doors to keep the street-savvy kids at a distance.
Italy has schools yet only 57% of the Italian scholastics possess a high
school diploma. Fifty percent of Italian young adults, quitters who initiated
university courses, never receive a diploma. Most Italian youth would prefer
a luxury automobile instead of a university degree. The quality of Italian
universities is dismal; one United States ambassador called Italy's
educational system a “national disgrace.” Within 10 years, one million less
students will be available to attend Italian schools due to its unproductive
birth rate, and 36,721 classes will be eliminated. Right-wing politicians are
calling this good news because there will be less welfare recipients and
more savings to be used for other services that also are stressed to the
breaking point. No one ever talks about what it would take to increase the
Italian population—what Jean-Jacques Rousseau called the most important
function of a government.

When I arrived in Montecatini Terme from Caracas in May 1983, people

asked me if it was true that Americans ate frozen pizza? Was it true
Americans decorated their homes with plastic plants and fowers? At
lunchtime, bars and restaurants were almost empty because people were
home having lunch with their families and not standing up eating a plate of
schifo pasta on a plastic plate with a plastic fork, so common today. Air
conditioning was considered unsound for one's health. One businessman
told me he would never use a computer to compile his invoices insisting he
would write them by hand as did his father and grandfather. Another well-
to-do man of affairs insisted he would never use a portable telephone
because he would not want to be bothered by calls while he was driving or
when he was at home. That was another Italy; yet, that Italy, strictly
speaking, was a Disneyworld-like chimera. Today's Italy is a nightmare.

In the late 1980s, Italy was being presented with an option to participate in
the “modern world,” or be left behind by it. Some Italians did, most did not
fall into this opening, new world of Electronics. Why? At the end of World
War II, Italy had been left in shambles, but not so much as Germany had
been. Germany was almost rebuilt from scratch with new factories, new
machinery to house them, and the vim of the Protestant Work Ethic that
Italians wished not even to know about. Germans were more inclined to
modernize and forget the tragedy of the world war. Italians had not
extensively suffered Dresden-like carpet bombings, and much of their
artistic and cultural artifacts had been given a free B-29 pass. Italians were
able to hold onto a good part of their Past. Still, Italy had to be rescued by
the Marshall Plan, and worse, perhaps more than other defeated European
nation, would become a territory speckled with many United States'
military bases, including the largest US military compound in the world,
outside of the US, Tuscany's Camp Darby. Italians are not in a hurry to
change. And it is not that they are living in the Past. If only they could do
so. No! Italians are prisoners of a Past that does not belong to them.
Whatever forward motion Italians might make towards becoming more
modern has to be a slow, tedious progression. The world is not waiting for
the Italians to hop up on this whirlwind of progress and consumerism. This
laid-back posture, often vindictive, is the juice that Italy marinates in today,
and which causes bank lenders, American ambassadors, and the European
Union to pull their hairs out.

The psychology of the relationship between the Americans and Italians is

twisted. It is a love-hate bind. If you do business with the Yankees, you
“love” them. If not, you despise them. The bargaining chip of the Yankees
is $$$. Naturally, the Americans are a wonderful people—if they aren't
bombing you. The world, with Italy and the headquarters of Vatican, Inc,
spin round stuck in this most vast, discouraging vortex of greed, hypocrisy,
and corruption.

Here is a listing of some of Italy's most stunning disadvantages that Italians

bend over backwards to shroud:

Italians have replaced Beauty with Design...In Tuscany, Umbria, Lazio,

Campania and Puglia, olive oil is adulterated with olive oil from other
nations...Italians have politicized the Roman Catholic church...Italy is
excruciatingly provincial-minded...Italy is disgustingly wasteful...Italy is
obsessively concerned with form...Italy is anti-scientifc...Italians refuse to
regenerate their race...Italians spin their wheels nervously and desperately
but go nowhere...Italians confound Justice with injustice...Because the
Italians are so vigorously bossed, they possess an ardent desire to be
bosses...Italian public transport is plastered with signs urging battered
women to report their boyfriends or husbands to the police...Italian
bureaucracy is a torture...Italy's work market is counterproductive... The
Italian judicial system is criminally dilatory...Meritocracy is nonexistent...
The Mediterranean mother attempts to satisfy all the desires of her son,
keeping him close to her, thus eliminating his sense of responsibility...Italy
is last in Europe for the number of women, 11.9%, in managerial
positions...Italian women are the most violent in Europe...In Italy one of
every fve ffteen-year-old is illiterate...The educational level of the 25-64
Italian age group is the lowest in Europe...10% of the Italians have a
university degree, and many of these degrees have been effectuated in three
years (mini degrees; mini brains?)...30% of Italian boys and girls aged 15-19
left school in 2012... Calcio (football, soccer) has substituted Christianity as
Italy's number one religion...The stadium is the rectum into which the
Central Intelligence Agency inserts its thermometer to take the temp of the
level of Italian violence...50% of the bank robberies in Europe take place in
Italy...Frenchman André Glucksmann said the Italians are the most
entertaining buffoons on a continent without a brain in its head...After
Greece and Turkey, Italy is the most corrupt nation in Europe...In Italy,
churches are being converted into bars, gyms and hotels...Italians continue
to chant racist, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic monotonous repetitive insults
in their stadiums...Italians refuse to learn languages...The diminishing
magnetism of medieval municipalities is setting back Italian tourism...
Italians do not realize that “austerity” is a measure of Northern European
countries to try to eliminate the rampant corruption in Southern
Europe...Italian luxury goods' entrepreneurs are ludicrously narrow-
minded...Italian art has become a vulgar expedient...Italy is a res publica that
manages emergencies instead of planning for the long-term avoidance of
them...Italians can deal with disasters but not with achievement...One in
three Italians has the competence to enter the 21st century...Thousands of
Italian schools are poisoned with asbestos, many of them have not been
certifed to be built in earthquake zones, and plaster falls on the heads of
kids during school...Italian journalists are overpaid exquisite liars...Gian
Franco Funari, Italian sociologist, stated that the Italians are the world's
biggest hypocrites...Gian Franco Fini, ex-politician, stated that Benito
Mussolini was the 20th century's greatest statesman...Italians have no idea of
the Art of Survival...Italy's economic growth—since 1990—is the slowest in
Europe...Italy's family-owned frms are under siege...Most Italians are
reducing the length of their vacations, while others are taking out bank
loans, if they can get them, to go on holiday...Italy's corporate scandals are
a daily phenomena...50% of Italians between the ages of 30-34 live with
their parents...The Economist has traditionally called Italy “The Sick Man of
Europe...” When the € was instituted, dishonest Italians changed £10000 to
€1.00 (not €0.50)...La Dolce Vita is kaput...Italy is happier than Slovakia, but
less happy than Slovenia...Italy is more competitive than Kazakhstan, but
less competitive than Lithuania...Italians are champions in taking legal and
illegal drugs and medicines...Italy is more corrupt than Kuwait, but less
corrupt than Montenegro...Pedophilic priests enjoy immunity in
Italy...Pedophilic nuns enjoy immunity in Italy...Less than 10% of the
Italian population earns more than €3000.00/month...It is impossible to do
business in Italy without tripping over the Vatican...There are alive in Italy
huge secessionist movements...Italy was the most enthusiastic nation
willing to join the European Union...Now it is one of the most zealous
countries wanting to abandon it...Italians will easily initiate a project. But
when things start going amiss, their zeal quickly fzzles out...The Italian
peninsula is littered with uncompleted derelict building projects...Italians
function for themselves...Not for their nation...Italians confuse confusion
with creative genius...You take your life into your hands when you cross an
Italian street—even on the striped, marked-off safety zones...A banner in an
Italian stadium: “We are not racists. We are Italian racists. We hate
everyone...” A third of graduating Italian engineers leave Italy...Fifty
percent of Italian business managers read a daily newspaper...Twenty-two
percent of Italian teachers are over 60 years of age...The most-read
newspaper in Italy is a sports journal...Only 1.2 children are born to every
Italian woman...In autumn, Italy becomes the Land of Landslides...One of
every three gasoline/petrol pumps in Italy are illicitly fxed to defraud
customers...There are 23,000 buses in all of Italy. 47% of them are older
than 18 years...There are fssures in the ceilings of churches...Cracks in the
ceilings of museums...Crevices in the ceilings of kids' schools...It is
estimated that there are ten thousand bridges throughout Italy, mostly
constructed with reinforced concrete ffty or sixty years ago, all crumbling
and in need of being rebuilt or reinforced...ad infnitum...

Those astute oberservers of Italian goings-on—American ambassadors, the

Pentagon, and the Central Stupidity Agency—marvel (cringe is a better
word) when they see a president of Italy or an Italian prime minister,
grouped in a photo op with other heads of state (G7) at some NATO
meeting or summit of sorts—somewhat gawky for them to put two and two
together to get at the heart of the Italian phenomena, perhaps a bit too
stymied to come to the gist of what is meant by Italianism.

I heard it said through the grapevine that Vatican, Inc is owner of 20% of all
Italian real estate. And, naturally, through the centuries, it has accumulated
property in buildings and land throughout the world. How much of these
assets have been sold to pay off victims of sexual abuse by priests and nuns,
to keep them out of prison? Worse, donations to Vatican, Inc, especially
from rich dioceses in the United States, cannot be as abundant as they once
were as American Roman Catholics reel with fury and spite against the
“holy” Roman See. The Roman Catholic church, besides having a fnancial
problemino, is certainly being set back public relations wise. Do you know
anyone who wants to take the vows of poverty, obedience, and chastity and
pass theirs lives living in the shadows of the mortal sins performed by their

Crossing one's fngers or saying a bunch of Hail, Marys, is not going to put
Italy back on the straight and narrow. It is impossible to think otherwise.
Political leaders are confused, prone to muddled thinking, and
predominantly ignorant. Of the two vice-premiers who now are attempting
to rule Italy, not one of them possesses a university degree, not one of them
ever before was elected to a government post. They arrogantly blame their
shortcomings on the European Union and stir anger and frustration among
the Italian people by pandering to their most basic passions and fears.
Being a refugee or immigrant in Italy is not today a source of comfort nor

Authored by Anthony St. John

18 September MMXVIII
Calenzano, Italy

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