You feel like you are on a ship that is going to go down. You see the other passengers complaining, pointlessly yelling at each other, some of them are leaving and some of them are just paralyzed and can’t make a proper decision. Every young Italian has passed trough this at a certain age. For me, it happened when I was about 18. I felt this giant ship trembling under my feet and I knew that, sooner or later, it was going to sink. That ship’s name was Italy.
I was born in 1992, the year of “Tangentopoli”, the scandal of political bribes and corruption that brought to an end a government and an entire establishment. When my mother was giving birth to me, if you were near enough to the Raphael hotel in Rome, you could ear the clinking of the coins threw by the citizens against the prime minister Bettino Craxi, and the screams “Shame! Shame!”. For Italians, that was the end of the first Republican period.
Yesterday, the leader of the 5 stars Movement, which obtained almost the 33% in the yesterday elections and now is the first political party in Italy, said that this is the start of a new, the third, Republican period, “The citizens’ Republic”.
But let’s go back to the ship for one second. I was 18. I felt that everything was falling apart in my country. I had grown up with Silvio Berlusconi in charge, I’ve had in my mind the scandals, the sub prime economic crisis, the letters from the European Union, the spread that was higher and higher. So I asked myself a question. “Should I stay, or should I go? Should I stay on this ship called Italy that is drowning, or should I take a lifeboat and runaway and forget about my country? Everyone at my age asked theirselves the same questions.
I saw many friends leaving. I was at the airport hugging them before the flight. I saw them studying in USA or UK or Germany, getting a job, becoming married and building up a family. Now, at 25, I don’t recognize them anymore. I don’t even keep in touch with them anymore. Because they chose to leave, they chose to cut the cord with everything and everyone that is or sounds Italian. They have another life, far away, they have a guaranteed job, they don’t even know what precarious work is, maybe they have bought a house or took a loan, they don’t depend on their families anymore.
All of this hasn’t happened to me. Because I’ve head down another route: I chose to stay. And I made this decision for only one reason: I felt the duty and the responsibility on my shoulders to make my country better than how people left it, to improve what I could with the means I had. Because leaving was too simple to me. You just needed some money for the plane ticket and you were gone. But to stay, you need a lot more. You need a strong civic pride, a strong love for your country, and the willingness to make the difference.
Now, at 25, I have the recent facts engraved in my memory and even still in my eyes. And I’m realising that every point of reference I used to have, it doesn’t exist anymore. I’ve switched many times to different points of reference. Italy now is in the hands of a comedian, Beppe Grillo, and of a failed engineer and jurist who has never completed his studies, Luigi di Maio, a former local leader of the sympathizing-fascist movement “Alleanza Nazionale”. The 5 stars movement almost obtained the 33% of votes.
I used to define me as a left wing person. I even tried to be an activist, at younger age, of the Democratic Party. It was the period of Pierluigi Bersani, we militants supported him, but when Matteo Renzi won over him, a lot of friends forgot Bersani (and even criticised him after supporting a few days before), and just hopped on the bandwagon. So I gave up on politics. It wasn’t for me, because I had a too strong sense of internal consistency, like “If Bersani loses, I lose too, because I supported him”. But it’s not how it goes. If you want to survive in politics, you have to change your flag many times and at the right time. Otherwise, you’re out.
Now, at 25, after a graduation, I keep collecting precarious jobs, I keep investing in my formation and improving skills (courses, masters and classes become more and more expensive), I keep asking my parents for money with so much shame, I’ve moved to Rome hoping to find new opportunities. But are these opportunities real? In every workplace, I see people that should be retired, I see places occupied by grandfathers and grandmothers that should be at home playing with their grandchildren and teaching them to ride a bicycle.
So, what’s next now? The left parties have disappeared. The right extremist party “Lega Nord” (defined by many as xenophobic and racist) has overtaken Berlusconi’s “Forza Italia” for the first time in Italian history.
The only winner of this elections is populism. And why? Because people, inside the voting booth, have given precedence to an emotional vote. And because the populist parties, like the 5 stars Movement or the Lega Nord, tried (and succeeded) to leverage citizens’ anger and fear. Fear for poverty, fear for immigrants, anger against high taxation, anger for lack of work and money. Slogans like “Italians first!”, “It’s time for all politicians to go home!”, and “Immigrants are a threat and must return to their countries!” have spread over the entire country and targeted and appealed to people’s gut. So people voted with their gut. And now, Italy is ungovernable.
Now, at 25, I still believe that things can change. But only if we educate people to civic pride and respect for rules. For example, many Italians evade taxes but at the same time complain about lack of services and welfare. The point is that if you don’t pay taxes, you can’t have benefits and the government is forced to make a higher and higher tax burden. Countries where things work for real have a high taxation but a really great welfare system.
This electoral campaign was characterized by broken and irresponsible promises: less taxation and more facilities. Impossible to have both things at the same time, but people just didn’t seem to connect the dots. They were victims of slogans. Our President now has a hard row to hoe. Everything is in his hands. But I still believe that it’s up to each of us. Every citizen has to do their part. We can’t always find a scapegoat. Not this time. I chose to stay. But staying implies a mission. And I’m going to do what has to be done. Because I love this country. The country where I was born. Where I’ve found my values and my meaning of life.