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Europe is doomed. And Italy is “dooming” it better than anyone else on this forsaken continent desperate to regain the smacks of its Past, longing once again to be bowed before for its eminence and historic exploits of bypast days. There will not be another Italian Renaissance, another Italian miracle, one of which might allow all Italians to sigh an enormous “Phew” of relief—that still again Italians have maneuvered their way beyond the colossal logjam blocking their economic and political flow in the opening years of the twenty-first century. This is so because Italy is, for the most part, conservative, antiscientific. It is not habituated to want to assimilate, to desire to open up to other ideas and innovations. Italy wastes, struggles to keep abreast with its outside world, and will make any accommodation, legal or illegal (Transparency International, www.transparency.org), to have its say which these days rings less and less in the ears of the extraneous world. My dear reader, these terms must be familiar to you: fiscal structure...growth capacity...capacity to withstand crisis...public debt...loss of competitiveness...contagion...default...GDP...economic stability...fiscal performance...credit default swap...industrial structure...long-standing structural strength or weakness...persistently low growth...fiscal landscape...”core” country”...fiscal stimulus package...deficit...consumption propensity...fiscal retrenchment...private wealth...current account deficit...debt maturity...debt to GDP ratio...pension expenditures...household balance sheets...domestic demand...housing or financial bubbles...labor productivity...unit labor costs...unionized workers...low-paid immigrants...taxpayers and tax evaders...family ownership...risk aversion...reduced investments...industrial macrosectors...single product categories...resources allocation...ad infinitum. This terminology is alien to the Italian way of life because it implies a sense of discipline, a conformity to perform but not as one simply desires to comply. Italians have been nifty at having others adapt to their requirements for centuries; that is, when the political and economic playing fields were in their hometown. These days
Italians do not want to adjust to a novel ideal—one which requires them to follow and not lead. That is beneath their “dignity.” If the contest does not proceed according to their conventions, Italians will take the ball and go home. They want to be the boss. Italians are not keen on satisfying a need, obligation or duty. They postulate that their responsibilities be written off or paid by some “Divine Intervention.” They believe that they merit this accommodation for as much as their History and their “Culture” are considered by them to be superior to others. Italians are consummate “fascistoids”—without an army! Meno male! (Italians invented Fascism—did they not?) They expect first-class treatment even though so many of them cannot be thought of as reliable or even educated to the degree that they can share with others the prospects of progress and innovation. In the important spheres of political savvy and economic acumen, where Italians might have distinguished themselves as being in a special class—respected on the world scene—Italians awkwardly arrive with a bevy of excuses —and indeed very late! Worse still, the above-mentioned business nomenclature offers one the impression that the “science” of Economics is one overly sophisticated, logical in its structure, clearly a commonplace reality in the lives of billions of people, and that if all peoples came together and set themselves to abide by the tenets of the Economics Wordspeak, its ledger of rules and regulations, an Economics' Nirvana would be reached for all to enjoy—along with giggling Bloomberg satellite broadcasters and their happy-go-lucky guests. Nothing could be further from the Truth, and neither Karl Marx nor John Maynard Keynes nor Paul Krugman nor Milton Friedman might signal to us the means to their ends which might save the “system” so dear to their efforts. Italy is, for now, the best reason why this is so. The Boot is the paramount rational motive for us to believe that the “system” we have espoused so ardently for four hundred years is about to be mercilessly bashed upon the rocks of unheard of economic turmoil and human suffering. Italy serves as a bellwether of the coming cataclysm. Italians are not some nonconformist reality that eventually will miraculously arrive at the finish line before all others. They have no aces up their sleeves although they would wish that we thought they had. If we link up Portugal, Greece and Spain to Italy (The PIGS! One Bavarian economist prefers to refer to the four as the GIPS—punning on the verb “to gyp,” “to swindle!”) we come up with a rip-roaring 130,000,000 European Union citizens all of whom are waiting for the arrival of
another Marshall Plan and twiddling their thumbs nervously in the meantime! No problem with the Protestant work ethic here!) Let us explain one of the primary reasons why this “dooming” is a symptom of Italy's demise: only to try to begin to make sense of what is so often hidden under the rhetoric of Mediterranean Babylonianists. Italy's list of macro-difficulties is long. Professor Anders Åslund, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, in a 3 May 2013 article, Southern Europe's Problem: Poor Education, believes that the most prominent problem of the four Southern European countries, The PIGS/The GIPS, is that they are shackled by little education and the poor quality of their educational systems. In fact, AÅ believes that the most profound crisis of Southern Europe is its “undereducation.” AÅ further states that in Italy the causes of low growth might be attributed to a horrible business environment, the highest rate of corruption, and the most over-regulated market in the European Union. The pivot point for the reason for the failure of The PIGS/The GIPS, in AÅ's estimation, is the number of individuals in the four countries who have finished high school. The low rates are enumerated so: Portugal 38 percent; Spain 54 percent; Italy 57 percent; and, Greece 66 percent. AÅ goes on to say that with such a blinding lack of education, the current elevated standards of living in the four nations cannot be sustained, and that either salaries must decline or education has to improve. The governments of these countries must reallocate more public funding to ameliorate the educational systems, says the professor. In addition, AÅ criticizes the quality of these educational arrangements citing statistics from the Program for International Student Assessment on behalf of the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development, ranking knowledge of mathematics among eighth graders in 75 countries, showing that these four Mediterranean European countries register the most embarrassing results in Europe. In a 17 December 2003 CITY Firenze (Florence, Italy) newspaper article, the following headline blazoned on the front page: ITALIAN ADULTS ARE AMONG THE MOST IGNORANT in Europe. The article went on to state that the level of instruction of those 25-64 years old is among the lowest in Europe. Twenty-five percent of the Italian population has an elementary school diploma, and 10 percent possess a university degree. Further, 5 percent of
individuals between 16 and 65 years of age are functionally illiterate, while 66 percent range from high to medium in the functionally illiterate category. Thirty percent of youth between 15 and 19 years old have left school. Thirty-eight Italians per 100 read at least one book a year. For every 1000 inhabitants, 102 will read a daily newspaper. Since the 1960s, the number of Italian elementary school students has significantly decreased due to the reduction of the Italian birth rate, yet the number of teachers has increased! Nevertheless, in recent years Italian schools have been more and more populated with immigrant students. (Treelle Association of Life-long Learning) One United States' ambassador lamented that it was a disgrace that not one Italian university is classified in the world's best two-hundred universities. Professor Åslund's economic heart is in the right equation. He means well. But, so do some Italian politicians, appearing on Italian television in pompous splendor, where they preface their declarations with a “The real problem with Italy is...,” as if the root cause of the Italian malaise was settled in one and only one cognitive factor. One Roman pol chooses organized crime as his main beef. Another picks upon Italy's public debt or crumbling infrastructure or inefficient transport system or insidious corruption or undemocratic electoral method or the nation's uncompetitiveness or the number of immigrants or the declining birth rate or the excessively high number of elderly citizens... ad infinitum. It is as if every one is unwilling to sum up all the afflictions. Perhaps because the shock of seeing them in one composite grouping would bring Italians to blow their brains out! AÅ, in his frustration, believes that a Renaissance in Education would remedy the causes for Italy's nosedive, and that a reconstruction of its school system would further lead Italians back to where Italy once was nominally, at least, considered competitive. That a Beverley-Hills-High-School style resurgence in education would bring the Italian reawakening to fruition—for the whole world to enjoy. That roofs in Florentine schools would no longer drop plaster on these Neo-Renaissance boys and girls, and the kids would be authorized school toilet paper and not have to carry with them from home rolls of hygienic tissues. There exists a number of obstacles to AÅ's manner of thinking, and the first we may broach is this: Why wasn't this accomplished before—like fifty yeas ago? Suppose, then, that there now exists this crunch to instruct Italians; how then, would one get them to study, to stimulate their brain cells? Italians today are concerned with a job, a well-decorated place to live in, and a beautiful car.
Having a Ferrari, for the Italian, is more important than a university degree. Ever conscious of Look, Italians will fill the book shelves in their living rooms with tomes they will never read. The Anti-School Syndrome has permeated, for decades, the Italian view of life. Italian kids go to study tired of entertaining themselves; they do not go to entertain themselves tired of studying. This mindset will not change overnight, even if a brand new educational organization, Dreamland, is inaugurated. I don't know what religion Professor Åslund professes—or if he even does confess to one. Yet, I can say that if he is not a Roman Catholic, he should convert to being so. If he does, he might pray to his guardian angel and ask him for that Divine Intervention which could cajole unquestioning Italians— miraculously!—to again regain the practice of applying their mental faculties to the acquisition of knowledge—that which is so important to the welfare of any nation.
Authored by Anthony St. John 9 June 2013 Calenzano, Italy www.scribd.com/thewordwarrior
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