A former student of mine (she was really a good student! but in some way all of them were and are) wrote a comment. I find it to deserve more than a comment in this blog, so I publish it. Thank you Miriam.
These days I often think how unusual and strange is the life of Italian people and the new generation of Italian workers, It might be difficult to explain to foreigners, but easy to be understood by any young Italian man and woman.
I wonder: are we difficult to be ruled? I suppose many trusted the same person and the same political group over and over again; on the one hand for lack of valid options, and on the other hand hoping that the political stability in the Parliament would translate in new rules which would enable Italy to perform better domestically and internationally. I’ve never trusted those people entirely, but dislike now blaming who did.
We have been told that it was necessary to accept uncertainty in the job market and in the pension schemes, temporality in the job contracts, and flexibility in life plans. We have been taught we should be different from our State-dependent parents. I suppose anyone can observe that young people, though unhappy about the situation and struggling in the everyday life, have taken on the new rules and embarked in a completely new prospective of their lives: reinventing the way to look at the present and the future without messing up with the State, as some in the older generation did. Many convinced themselves that the all ‘68-thing was just an invention to mess up and thought we could not afford to be so much of dreamers, after all. If you are born in happy times, and then grown in difficult times, you know the difference and aim to gain back to happiness. Contrarily to many other countries in Europe, we have welcomed (on average) the changes and set ourselves in the new mood of a double-flag. Our age is old enough to remember that the country had suffered to gain the position in Europe; therefore, it is obvious for us to think that this position should be maintained no matter what.
My description is a simplification, of course, which is set up on an average (representative?) Italian man/woman in his/her thirties. I believe this to be the most productive segment of the population, added up to the 40s cohort. The rest is a either too young or too wise to take on more risks. We do take on risks, although the Italian average risk aversion is clearly high. We do have a productive segment, which is prone to invest risk capital in new projects and enterprises; we do have an educated class who pursue academic career; we do have medium-level Schools and Universities that have guaranteed to a large number of people to grow intellectually and to be able to take on risks. We protect, in somehow, the concept of family; we do care about it. Each family tends to consume and to save, so with our saving culture most of us retained from playing the over-confidence game which had been played in the last decade in other countries. I can see how the woman and the man set a consumption plan together, even with the constraints of a decreasing income. Despite the pressure mounting on young people, they haven’t been rising against the State. We didn’t have notable riots, or social disorders. We had strikes in the last years, organized by the long-time-ago unrepresentative Trade Unions. They proved not to be useful, so most people stopped believing even in social protests.
Here is my question: How would any future PM convince young people that what they have given up so far was not enough to take us to an upper level? How can we be convinced that we are still in need of international help and support, and that we are now at the centre of the international blame?
I can clearly observe the mismatch. I am teaching my students that the sacrifice exists for the benefit of a reward. That is why we pay taxes, we save and invest, we take on investment in education, and we spend money on research.
Although many developed countries have thought in the past years that growth could be replaced by leverage, the sacrifices of most of the population have not changed, in Italy they have even increased. Once private and public debts have revealed unsustainable, we are accused to have lived beyond our merits and possibilities for too long and we are told that it is now time for austerity. Who lived beyond his merits and his possibilities? Certainly not those people that every day bless the new working day, eventually far from their families, and balance future plans with present restrictions. Certainly not those women that have to leave the workforce to supply the lack of social assistance, nor those men who have struggled to prove their abilities and have seen some of the best positions taken by better-endorsed friends of someone.
Though, we do have in Italy some people who have lived beyond their merits and their possibilities. It’s time for them to taste austerity. Without invoking social division, I’m only pointing to equalizing sacrifices. And the rest is a plan for growth, because nothing is missing in the basket to cook again a perfect Italian meal. If you give people a normal job, they work, consume, and save. If the savings are invested in the real economy and the economy grows, we can be again competitive and attractive for foreign capitals and consumers. Even if this takes longer than the buying-selling bonds and financial markets’ clock runs faster than the real economy, we should serve the Menu of Italian options before the end of this weekend.
Why should we on earth let financial markets ring for us the mourning bell without fighting back for life? Haven’t ever dreamt -after all- any unrealistic useless dream, but a new century of fair rewards and conquers after a hard work.