Italy is in deep, deep trouble. Who will save it?
July 20, 2013 3:05 PM   Subscribe

Bill Emmott, former editor of The Economist, is an Italophile who could no longer stand by and watch the country he loves so dearly go down the tubes.

Created together with the Italian director Annalisa Piras, the documentary is inspired by Emmott's book, Good Italy, Bad Italy, an examination of what's so wrong with Italy, as well at what remains right with it and what makes it worth saving. It includes interviews with Lorella Zanardo (previously), Umberto Eco and Roberto Saviano.
posted by rhombus (28 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Can't wait to see the movie. Living in Naples for 18 months now I've understand the true grandure and utter frustration of this place. Like many say here, it's more North Africa than Europe.
posted by aggienfo at 3:10 PM on July 20, 2013

What does that mean, "more North Africa than Europe?"
posted by salishsea at 3:20 PM on July 20, 2013 [5 favorites]

Criminal, corrupt, dirty, inefficient... Like you would find in the 3rd world vice "Europe". Think (in exaggeration) Libya vice Germany.
posted by aggienfo at 3:34 PM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

I had a friend try to talk me into moving to Italy, Milan of all places! in 2010. I am really glad I didn't but now I'm in England and the economy is truly in the toilet. From where I am sitting in Dudley, I think Italy has a long way to fall to catch up to Spain.
posted by parmanparman at 3:47 PM on July 20, 2013

Criminal, corrupt, dirty, inefficient... Think (in exaggeration) Libya vice Germany.

If I was Libyan I might well be offended. What's next, Italians accusing Libyans of cheating at soccer?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:11 PM on July 20, 2013 [6 favorites]

Someone pointed this out as capturing the essence of Italy.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:02 PM on July 20, 2013 [11 favorites]

The actual numbers in Italy aren't so bad. I mean politically its a shit show, and the bureaucracies are the worst sort of casual corruption, but the fiscal balances aren't really so bad. Small business in Italy is about as efficient as the mittelstand as well. Not a basketcase like spain where that one basket is being Europe's Florida.

Some of this is a newer generation rebelling against a nascent gerontocracy.

Eventually Berlusconi dies, and the slow death of old media disintermediates the old political parties.

Still need constitutional reform, and the professionalization of the taxation system and local bureaucracies.

As an outsider it is very interesting to watch. I'm pretty optimistic. Its a fixable problem.
posted by JPD at 6:02 PM on July 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

When things get difficult, the Italians can be very much like Germans - determined, logical, planning oriented, and solution-biased. A lot of people in Italy are in denial, just like in America. It's going to take a while for change to jell.

There are Italians who have interesting ideas about how and what change will happen. For Bifo, the solution is "not economic". He and others are calling for more profound change - lots of social experiments, a return to more solidarity in community, a move away from the alienation of the industrial machine, etc. etc.

Right now, there are troubling signs of racism on the rise - not even close to what is happening in Greece, with the Golden Dawn creeps, but a sign that opportunity is constrained and fast change is visiting Italy. This gives room for demagogues to move in. That said, most of the demagogues are being shut down by more responsible and very public speakers.

What gets me about the European crisis - just like our own (not forgetting the suppressed crisis in China) - is that bankers and finance criminals who profited from the chaos they caused are still not held responsible, and in fact are currently enjoying a comfy return to hegemony.
posted by Vibrissae at 6:59 PM on July 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

After hearing so much about the troubled state of pretty much all of the E.U. member nations' economies, it makes me wonder, who is or has been keeping the E.U. afloat? Certainly it can't just be Germany, but that is pretty much the only nation I have been hearing rosy economic news from or about.
posted by NoRelation at 8:05 PM on July 20, 2013

Europe has been keeping Europe afloat - unfortunately the Euro banks invested in American mortgage-based annuities and we're witnessing the working out of that. It'll even out, but it's really showing the stress faults in the Euro zone's basic architecture.
posted by Michael Roberts at 8:29 PM on July 20, 2013

(And Germany's rosy economy was based on loans to the peripheral nations, in turn used to buy German goods - that they now complain about profligate Southern nations is pretty hypocritical, but the man on the street rarely understands all the stuff behind the scenes anywhere; that's not a German problem, it's a human one.)
posted by Michael Roberts at 8:30 PM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

salishsea: "What does that mean, "more North Africa than Europe?""

Culturally, there's a split between north and south Italy, and a similar economic split. Some of it may be due to differences in productivity. So the comparison may not just be about the corruption and political intrigue, but also the economic differences of North and South.
posted by pwnguin at 9:12 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's between the south of France and the former Yugoslavia, in every possible way.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:13 PM on July 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

Thanks pwnguin...I'm being genuinely curious and not snarky so I appreciate the response. Agglenfo seems to be saying its a common sentiment, but I haven't heard that expression among my Italian friends.
posted by salishsea at 10:37 PM on July 20, 2013

Sorry, just getting back up... I've heard it here in Naples, can't speak for all of Italy... And to leotrosky, traffic can be just like that! Get about 30 min north of Bella Napoli and it completely changes.
posted by aggienfo at 11:00 PM on July 20, 2013

I've heard that Africa line, but I don't think it means anything at all.

My understanding of Italy comes mostly from studying the legal system, which is labyrinthine and fond of duplicating work at multiple levels of hierarchy, producing (in the end) a conclusion which explains nothing and is usually too late to help anyone. In the few instances that I've dealt with Italian corporations, I've found something similar. No one can give you a definitive answer to a question unless the answer is "no," and (worse I suppose) no one seems to understand why on earth it should be their job to get you that answer. The reports I've heard from friends trying to start businesses, renovate houses, or pass licensing exams in Italy seem to follow the same general sort of pattern. And I guess this part is like Africa? Because in certain places in Africa anyway, if you ask why things run so poorly, you get a laugh, a shrug, and "It's Africa" in response. I got that "This is Italy, why would you expect anything to work properly?" a lot while I was there.
posted by 1adam12 at 11:08 PM on July 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

I get their point, but was the graphic cartoon violence really necessary?
posted by spiderskull at 11:25 PM on July 20, 2013

Yeah, that animation shows a weird creative judgement that one hopes is unrepresentative of the artistic decisions that went into the film itself. Which is sort of the opposite of what a trailer is supposed to do.

Also it's not clear to me why they wasted trailer time on him crossing the Millennium bridge in London. I mean, that's not uncommon first person documentary style ("I began my journey in London...") but in the trailer it's silly.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:44 PM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would say that the German loans are more of a problem, because structural, and that the cure, "austerity," has been far worse than the disease. Just like here in the US, where we didn't get a real stimulus package or a great improvement in regulation, because of the usual Wall Street/Washington shenanigans.

But just think about what would have happened if there was no one to slow down the Republican cuts and you get the situation in much of Europe. German pig headedness, no way to devalue the currency, and so forth just made it worse.

On a more topical note, Italians respond poorly to that "why do things run so poorly" bit because you're a foreigner trying to tell them how to run their country. I wouldn't say that the US exactly has the legal thing down pat, myself.
posted by lackutrol at 12:47 AM on July 21, 2013

Italians respond poorly to that "why do things run so poorly" bit because you're a foreigner trying to tell them how to run their country. I wouldn't say that the US exactly has the legal thing down pat, myself.

I think there are countries that are fairly open to worldly criticism, but the USA isn't one of them (for several reasons).
posted by anonymisc at 1:18 AM on July 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

My guess is that there are almost no countries that are fairly open to worldly criticism.
posted by JPD at 3:58 AM on July 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

If Enrico Letta can keep the government running for long enough, I'm optimistic for the constitutional reform he's planning.
posted by ellieBOA at 4:08 AM on July 21, 2013

Italy has been somewhat more dysfunctional than other European countries for a while, and is the I in 'PIIGS' (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain) for pretty long too. This used to be blamed largely on the constant change of governments (infamously, 61 governments between 1946 and 1994). The constitutional reforms that created the Second Republic also ushered in Berlusconi's bullying coalition government, which has been dysfunctional in other ways.

I remember 60 Minutes, the CBS news magazine, covering what become Project MOSE, the floodgates protecting the Venice Lagoon, what must have been 15 or more years before it was finally approved. The tale that CBS told was that every time the flood control proposals reached a high level in the Parliament, the government would collapse and they'd have to start all over. Meanwhile the city just kept sinking and sinking.

I've heard that Africa line, but I don't think it means anything at all.

Yeah, to be sure, it looks like it's mainly used about inchoate cultural attitudes versus anything concrete about governmental structure or whatnot.
posted by dhartung at 4:24 AM on July 21, 2013

Italy has been a client state of the CIA since the end of WW2. The country does not have a discourse called 'politics' in the sense that most other European countries experience it.
posted by colie at 9:47 AM on July 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Perhaps a given area has a fixed ratio of fallibility to infallibility, and the problem is that there's so much infallibility concentrated on one guy sitting smack in the middle that there's only fallibility available to everyone else.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:57 AM on July 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

Look out! He's channeling Eco^^^
posted by sneebler at 1:06 PM on July 21, 2013

I spent the last three weeks traveling in Alaska with my oldest brother, who is a retired Italian principal, and with my sister in law who is a retired middle school teacher. We discussed, among other things, the job situation, the politics, the economy.

They don't seem too worried about Italy, about future employment for their grandchildren, about their education, about the political world they would inhabit. Things seems to get done in spite of the government, in spite of corruption. Young people are finding jobs, the same jobs that they snottily refused few years back when they expected the same lifestyle of their parents. Racism and Nationalism have raised their ugly head there too, but also there are quite a few protesters against that.

What worried my brother more than anything was that he thought his grandson was becoming a gun freak, because his dad his a rabid hunter (What the guy finds to hunt in Italy is beyond me). He wanted to be the cool grandpa who loves nature and all things in nature to be a counterpoint.

If they, who live there, are not worried, I'm not going to worry. Che sara' sara'.
posted by francesca too at 3:09 PM on July 21, 2013

From a distance, it looks to me that the S. Italy has far more in common with the Balkan states than N. Africa.

A schismatic movement began no later than the 70s, repeated in the 90s with Lega Nord's proposal for an autonomous N. Italy in the idea of Padania.

The breakup of the big nation-state has been proceeding apace for 50 years (resulting in multiple countries with as few as 10,000 people!). With fast-growing urbanization now worldwide, and more blue states recognizing the costs of supporting red states, and the overreaching paternalism of the Big States, the tectonic drift seems likely to keep building.
posted by Twang at 4:19 PM on July 21, 2013

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