This is part 2 of my attempt at psychoanalysing Italy and its inhabitants. Part 1 is here.
In the first part of this series of posts which tries to understand why Italy is the way that it is, I looked at how Italians tend to thirst for status, superiority, and power.
In this part, I’m going to look at how the lust for power is manifested in Italy.
As you may know, Italy has had over 60 governments since the end of the second world war. 60 fragile coalitions which have never really managed to prepare the country for the future. It is only very recently that the Italian electoral system, which supported and promoted a plethora of parties, was finally altered to reduce the number of curious ideological combinations which made up each shaky coalition driven government.
The question is – ‘Why did this system which created such fragmented governments manage to teeter on for so long?’.
Well, maybe I have an answer, although do feel free to disagree.
The basic reason is this: Power. Power is the ultimate expression of status and superiority. And in Italy, everybody wants a piece of the action. Hence the dominance, until very recently, of small parties. Each party was a mini-political empire led by a mini-despot. The mere idea of creating a unified force was just not entertained because to have gone down such a path would have meant conceding power to another. This would have been thinking the unthinkable here in Italy.
Prodi’s recently collapsed government with its innumerable ministers was a yet another example of trying to give as many people as possible a slice of the power-cake.
The trouble is that the powerful do not like making any form of concessions, as this would be giving the impression that they had lost their potency. Political infighting is the norm in Italy solely because each and every mini-political emperor wishes to hold onto his mini-empire. Small things, like the long term good of the country, rarely came into play. Power was, and still is, king.
However, it’s not just within Italy’s political parties that this thirst for status and power exhibits itself.
Stop reading, start speaking
Stop translating in your head and start speaking Italian for real with the only audio course that prompt you to speak.
How about some more evidence of this fever for power? Well, there are the powerful business clans – the Agnellis, the Berlusconis and the Pirellis, and the secretive ‘salotto buono’ which is a small group of Italian business power mongers who meet up to discuss how to extend and maintain their grip.
Then there was the infamous Propaganda Due (P2) masonic lodge, which was all about exerting power and influence, and this group’s power was such that it was sometimes referred to as a government within a government.
Further evidence of this Italian lust for power can been seen at other levels of society too.
As some may know, Italy is chock a bloc full of entrepreneurs and family businesses. Very few of these people actually get together and combine forces – chain stores are almost non-existent here for example. Again, the reason for this is probably that any kind of joining of forces could potentially lead to a reduction in power, and this, for many, as for the mini-emperor political leaders, would be far too hard to bear. There is also evidence of this in the fact that many Italian companies are family run organisations.
At an even more basic level in Italian society, there is the close knit clannish Italian family, and these social units tend to foster and protect power. Italy is almost overflowing with family dynasties, especially in the fashion industry. Versace, Prada, Benetton, to name but a few, are good examples of powerful family groups.
As was pointed out by Joe Tangredi, who commented on the first part of this short series, the dynastic Italian families are not dissimilar to the aristocracy which exists in UK. However, whereas there is still something of a class system in the UK, in Italy, as in the States, the ‘class’ system is based on money and power. Having a substantial amount of both is one way to obtain social status in this country. Italian ‘titles’ such as dottore, ingegnere, architetto, and avvocato, also help Italians step onto the first rung of the ‘ladder to power’.
Indeed, reaching the first rungs on this ‘ladder to power’ is so important in Italy that well-heeled Italian parents will employ just about any means to ensure that little Giovanni obtains his ‘title’. On occasions, and more often, I feel, than in the UK, and other countries, money will literally change hands in order to ensure exams are passed, and the precious title is secured. Then the extensive Italian equivalent of the ‘old school tie’ network is called up to ensure that an appropriate job can be found.
Yes, I know this goes on in other countries, as I have mentioned, but my impression is that such practices in Italy are more widespread and overt than in the UK.
As to why this is the case, well, in Italy, what may be regarded as being dishonest or unscrupulous in other cultures, is not considered as such here, but, rather, as being ‘furbo’. To many in Italy, any and all means are acceptable ways of achieving power related aims. ‘By hook or by crook’, as the old saying goes.
Part 3 of this series, which will look at other Italian ‘families’ is to follow.