Resilience and responsibility to restart Italy. Interview with the President of Eurispes, Gian Maria Fara

A journey into the most topical issues in Italy in the interview with the President of Eurispes, Gian Maria Fara, created by Emma Evangelista for the magazine of the dell’Ente Nazionale per il Microcredito (National Institute for Microcredit)

Telling the cross-analysis of the Italy through surveys and data analysis is the arduous and recently too often ungrateful task that Eurispes has set since 1982.

Every year the Rapporto Italia (Italy Report) summarizes based on specific issues the trends of our society in link with an always accurate economic vision, focusing on the key elements for territory development and security and to the citizens’ perception of public governance. Leading this important Institute, since its foundation, Professor Gian Maria Fara, sociologist and writer, elaborates and tells the habits and trends of Italians, without compromises. With an always bright perspective and in line with the dynamics between citizens and public administration, Professor Fara always makes an interpretation of the problems corresponding to the picture of the real country. Thanks to that projection and with the tools of Eurispes he also offers a valid support to the economic and social orientation and above all to a ruling class representative of the political interests of the country. In such a difficult year for our country and for the world it should be point out that the presentation of the annual Rapporto Italia (Italy Report) has been postponed, this is why while wanting to understand the trends of the System and the possibilities that open up in terms of economic recovery we came to directly interview President Fara, in order to anticipate his considerations on a post-pandemic renaissance path.

Good morning, Mr President, this year you have collected 7 years of memoirs by editing a book in March called “L’Italia del nì”, where do you think Italy is going after the pandemic?

This is what we will try to understand in the coming months, even in normal times Italy is a complicated country itself, then the pandemic has also been added above the structural complications, so let’s see what happens, what comes out at the end. “L’Italia del nì” is the metaphor of a country that does not decide, it is an Italy that doesn’t know how to decide, that doesn’t know how to take responsibility, that face difficulties in any ways in the decision making, decisions aiming to give itself a project, to imagine a path, this is “Italy of the nì” (nì standing for a mixture of “si” meaning yes in italian, and “no”) that I have tried somehow to represent. Recent experiences related to the pandemic have shown how that title “L’Italia del nì” was almost prophetic, in short we have seen in recent months a great difficulty of the government to make clear and coherent decisions, think about all lockdowns, red zones, orange areas, yellow areas, one day yes and one day not, then again the next day, in short, the Italians are very confused, they are out of their depth, this morning me too I got up and wondered what is it today? Is it red or is it yellow? Is it green? Can we get out? Can we go to work, can we go shopping? In short, a little more clarity and a different competence in communication would perhaps have helped the citizens.

How do you imagine as a sociologist this new year, in the aftermath of a pandemic and with a so truly radical economic crisis?

Look, myself, in spite of everything I am basically optimistic, I believe that the country in its different political and social economic variations has achieved a new awareness during this difficult period and has also retrieved a certain sense of responsibility. I am convinced that 2021 will be a year of recovery, a year of commitment, Italians offer the best of themselves always during times of crisis and I trust in Italians resilience, I also trust in their creativity, in their commitment, in their ability to face difficult moments. Moreover, if you think about the history of this country, the best things we did in the hardest moments, in the most difficult moments, we transformed a backward country, an agricultural country, into a modern industrial democracy, a poor country within a few decades has become part of the top 10 world largest economies. Well I believe that this spirit will somehow come back and will be active again and therefore I am convinced that as from 2021, despite the disasters caused by the pandemic the country will react, Italians will react, I think of a reaction more of the country than of the establishment, because I am convinced that the establishment and the country are no longer one entity, they are like broken up but still living together, on one hand the establishment that we have seen dysfunctional and on the other hand the country that nevertheless goes on.

So what do you think of the so-called digital transition, Italians had to learn the hard way and very quickly to use at least some of the digital systems, but will there really be a breakthrough thanks to all the financial resources available for the implementation of this digital transition? Who will really take advantage of it, since we have a country that goes on a different speed from the establishment?

Look, you ask the wrong person the right question because I still belong to the Gutenberg Galaxy, I haven’t faced the McLuhan world yet, that’s like saying I’m the least digital man in the world, I can barely use some of the application that the mobile phone offers me, but I understand that despite me the world goes on, it changes and we’re on the way to a forced transition, this is an epochal change that we cannot shirk. It is certain that the transition must be supported in some way, I am thinking above all about the economic front, it is not enough talking about transition for an automatic change to happen, as the old Marx said “ideas walk on the legs of men” if then men do not equip themselves and do not put in place the necessary tools, even this forced transition will end up being a forced transition instead, a transition that will be imposed on us by others, by facts, by global changes. I believe, however, that Italians can have the necessary resources and intelligence to be protagonists of this change and this transition.

Mr President, Recovery Fund yes or no? Does Italy need these European funds? What do you think is the healthier connection we need to have to Europe after Brexit?

Recovery Fund yes, certainly, and I would not hesitate to try to take home the Mes, even despite the ideological resistance. The Recovery Fund is for sure a very important tool, an essential tool, the only one able to give the first answers to a crisis that is profound, because a year and a half of Covid-19 has damaged the entire economic system and the entrepreneurship system, it has even questioned our way of life as citizens. The resources of the Recovery Fund, however, will have to be well deployed because those who think that in a few months raining cash will fall from Europe and that it will be distributed with both hands, it is in short a bit excessive, even if at the end this idea is quite widespread in our country. The resources from Europe will arrive under very specific conditions, Europe is asking us to use the incoming resources, or to make myself clear, Europe will provide us with the necessary resources, to support projects that have economic coherence, social coherence and also institutional coherence, so these resources will have to support and must be committed to supporting change, digitalisation, public administration reform, the infrastructure system. Europe will only make the money available to us after having seen and examined serious and coherent projects, and surely the Europe idea is not just a big cash rainfall like distribution.


Mr President last year you presented a very tough report on the country establishment by Eurispes, with no compromises, neither with the public administration nor with the private investment sector. This year after going through a period of economic and social crisis, how do you see the possibility of the country interacting with citizens? The trust in the institutions seems to have grown or rather the law enforcement (such as police and security) confidence, instead the trust in our institutions and in our political apparatus is increasingly declining. What about the opportunity to eventually consolidate this two-speed identity of the country?

See, once we were used to talk about the “country system”, it was the country system that moved forward, that went on, that grew, I point out not by chance since some years now a separation between system and country. The system and the country are like two separate at home that live with more or less struggle, with more or less goodwill, one thing is for sure, that the system goes one way and the country tends to go the other way. The system tends to protect itself, its privileges and its way of being, the country instead expects attention, strategies, resources and projects from the system, the country would like an address from the system, a project, a goal to be directed towards. As it was in the years after the immediate post-war period when the Italians were asked for enormous sacrifices but by virtue of a project, by virtue of an idea, a change, a growth, modernization, all things that the system is no longer able to give, because, let’s face it frankly, the system has become deeply selfish, thinking first of all for itself, for its own affirmation for its own survival. The country is aware of this detachment of the system from the citizens daily lives needs and therefore this separation takes place. Confidence in the institutions therefore continues to decline, all our analyses, all our investigations demonstrate this progressive distancing, this difficulty with dialogue between the system and the country that precisely go in two different directions. What else can I say, the country is also used to make it on its own, once we used to say: “Italy grows, the country is pushing ahead despite its ruling class”. I think this is true, once again. How do you rebuild this relationship? With a responsible ruling class, with a ruling class that can take charge of the overall problems of the country, with a ruling class that is less selfish. I then always talk about the ruling class in general, I never talk about the political class because, sees, politics is just a piece of the ruling class, we are facing a general crisis, a crisis of the ruling class in general, because politics is in crisis, the world of information is in crisis, the academy is in crisis, the economy is in crisis, it is the ruling class as a whole that struggle and politics often ends up being the scapegoat for a crisis, which is instead more general and broader. So the real problem lies in the ability of the ruling class in general to be able to respond to the expectations and specifically to the expectations of the country. Considering that citizens’ opinion on chief systems is formed on the basis of everyday life, because citizens are forced to deal with everyday commitments and difficulties and these are what often goes misunderstood by those who do not have everyday problems. Now, I don’t want to get political, but I have the feeling that those who do not suffer do not understand, or paraphrasing Goethe who said that sensitivity comes from the navel, in short, you cannot be sensitive if you don’t know the suffering.

Currently France and Germany are returning to State investment in large companies. Is it useful? How can the State intervene to save a company that is suffering during this difficult period?

But the difference is French and the Germans have over the years made a policy of protecting their so-called strategic assets, they have not allowed the privatisation of the railways, the energy production is in the hands of the state, the telecommunications system…. We instead sold out everything, there is a very beautiful research of ours from a few years ago that was entitled “Italy is in (S)ale” with the S in parentheses (“svendita” means sale in Italian, instead “vendita” means for sale), where we reported a progressive decline of a country that had sold the best bits, now there is little left. So we made the strategic mistake of dismantling and privatizing our important assets, today we realize how bad this policy has been, how short-sighted it was, how careless it was and so we’re going backward, we’re trying to rebuild the pieces of the State sovereignty over the parts of the economy that should actually be run by the state, without admitting the mistakes of the past, I have never understood actually, for example, why motorways should be transferred to private individuals, with the results that we all know, motorways that produce an income and massive daily income of cash, and so I never understood why the State had to give up all those resources for the benefit of private individuals who then did not even carry out their duty properly. I said this on a number of occasions, I would never have sold the Italian motorways to a sweater manufacturer.

Mr President, we are dealing with microfinance of micro-credit and with helping and supporting people who are basically described as being non-bankable, but who have an idea and a project. What is your advice for a young person or in any case for a person wanting to undertake and set up a business nowadays and who wants to start producing and re-entering this circuit, in this country system that is currently tottering?

The first advice, given the work you do and the results you have achieved and the successes you have produced over the years, would of course be to turn to the microcredit system because it could be the first fuel to start an activity, an economic initiative. We are the country of small enterprises, indeed I would even say micro-enterprises, out of 5 million companies 97-98% are craft enterprises, this system is also a picture of our way of being as Italians: basically individualists who, however, starting even from the very small size, often manage to produce things that then take on a national or even international content. So the work that you do, the work of supporting individual initiatives or very small companies on the startup creation front is a very important job, is an essential work because in general the banking system tends to offer help and makes available resources to those who already have them, what you do instead is to make resources available to those in difficulty but who have some good ideas to develop and therefore I believe that yours is a very important job, underestimated by the State, because your role, in my opinion, can be essential precisely for the confidence recovery in the relationship between citizen and institution, between citizen and system, between citizen and banks, between citizen and the world of production. Allocating enormous resources to large companies that, however, already have support from the shareholders economic system, large capital investment interest, Italian or foreign those funds they may be, is easier, but it is more difficult to start from a small company and be able to support its growth. I know many micro initiatives that carries weight and who has seen a remarkable growth, because among other things Italians have a good creativity, Italians are imaginative, they always arrive 10 minutes ahead, sometimes they arrive first but they are swallowed up by those who then have the resources to bring projects to life, but Italy is a country of great creativity and what you do is to support this creativity. Then, talking about numbers, I have also seen your data through the analysis that we carried out in recent years on the microcredit system and each of your intervention manages to set the creation of 2 jobs, 2 and a half jobs, it looks like a decisive fact to me. I have always been against the policies of the big kombinat…

In the last few days I have launched again an old idea of mine “let’s dismantle Frankenstein”, we spent hundreds of billions – lire before and now of euros – to keep up kombinats, the monsters, which have defaced the territory, look I am Sardinian by origin and I have witnessed the devastation of Frankenstein over the years, I am thinking of industrial settlements, I am thinking of the Silvi in Porto Torres where billions have been spent with state support , a huge oil refining factory has been created, 5,000 shepherds and farmers have been hired, turned into blue coveralls, after a few years the blue coveralls have been transformed into redundant workers and after a few years still unemployed and now we find ourselves with incredible gigantic factories that have ruined and polluted a good part of northern Sardinia and now we don’t know what to do with it anymore, so the commitment I would propose to the State is to invest in dismantling all these Frankensteins. Let us clean up those territories and give them back to their natural vocations, which are agricultural production, tourism, hospitality and by doing so, we could give jobs to many people because 5 years to dismantle everything, 5 years to clean up everything, 5 years to rebuild and put everything back in place, it means 15 years of work and we would not even have the problem of unemployment.

So more beauty and less Ilva?

Yes more beauty and less Ilva there is no doubt, this is the most beautiful country in the world, it seems difficult to me to think that it can become more beautiful with some industrial plant, the Ilva represents a strategic error of our ruling class, the Ilva of Taranto it is not a factory in the city, it is the city that is part of the industrial plant, so exactly the opposite, it is a city inside a factory and what is the damage that occurred it is not up to me to remember but, in a few words, it is there for all to see. This happened always in the name of autarchy, we must be able to produce steel, once steel was used to build gunboats, today gunboats are no longer of any use because a drone is enough to bomb, there is no longer a need for all this steel and then as the French would say “chacun a sa plus” what do you manufacture? Steel? Are you German? Isn’t your territory particularly beautiful? Isn’t it particularly hospitable? Even the Romans have given up conquering the whole Germany! They stopped at a certain point and said enough, we don’t want to go further! Get the Germans to produce steel, you in return what kind of economy can you develop? That of art, culture, tourism, so the deal is: you produce steel and then you come on holiday to Italy, we host you beautifully, once you brought us your Marks, now the Euros, whatever, but in short I believe that every territory, every country, must make use of its natural vocations, its natural beauty, its own capabilities. We are a unique country in the world and we will not become more beautiful because we would have a few more industrial kombinats.

The last question, Mr President. Italy at the heart of Europe, at the heart of America, Russia and China, to whom are we going to balance?

We do not need to balance, we must be Pro-European because we are among the creators and founders of Europe, but at the same time we are also Atlantic because our history is marked by our Atlantic vocation, then since we are also a country at the heart of the Mediterranean with wide-ranging economic and cultural interests we must keep good relations with everybody, with the Russians and with the Chinese, but still not forgetting that Europe comes first, as well as the construction and strengthening of Europe comes first. Secondly, we cannot forget our Atlantic tradition and thirdly we must make good use of our capacity for dialogue, we are good at dialogue with everyone, just think about Matteo Ricci or just think about the construction of what was once called Leningrad, just think about Peter the Great who drawn in with both hands from our crafts, in our creative capacity, just think about our relations with the Mediterranean countries, with which we are the only ones able to dialogue with a certain familiarity, so that we are also a little Arab, if you put on a Neapolitan folklore song and let an American listen to it, he would be convinced that it was released in the Middle East. We must put our skills and ability to interact and dialogue to use because we are bearers of an ancient, millennial culture. What I am trying to say is that you can have relationships with everyone, the important thing is not to forget your identity. And only those who have a strong identity as we have can afford the luxury of dialogue with everyone, Russians, Americans, Chinese and then our historical friends should not be offended if we take a few liberties every now and then.

Trump or Biden?

In my opinion there is no doubt! Surely Biden, Trump is the negation of politics and the affirmation of the most sinister social and economic selfishness, so I am very happy with Biden’s victory, because he is a moderate person, he is a careful person and he is above all a respectful person of others identities.


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