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Day September 25, 2011

The case for an Italian rebellion. Why it doesn’t happen. And what could happen

The case for an Italian rebellion is not insane. I had the chance to speak with many foreign observers, recently, and I found that an Italian rebellion is considered a real option. (I will not quote their names, but if they want they can comment here).

An Italian rebellion? Other Mediterranean countries have done just so, lately. Tunisia and Egypt, for example, have chosen to rebel against their dictators and the world has appreciated. Considering the Italian political situation as a sort of authoritarian regime and thinking that it is not reformable through the normal democratic process, one is lead to think that the rebellion is the only possible solution.

In that mindset, if Italians rebel, they demonstrate their democratic will and maturity. If they don’t rebel, they show they are anything between accomplices and weak victims of the head of their government and his power system. If Italians will rebel, they will free themselves from the shame of accepting a very doubtful sort of democratic government, the consequences of which are dangerous for themselves and the world. That’s the option. But it is not happening.


Of course, assuming that Italy is not a real democracy and that it is not going to be reformed through a democratic process is a quite extreme vision of the Italian situation. Many Italians still think they are in a democracy and that next electoral opportunities will bring a new government to them. But many others think that they live in a regime, based on a non-democratic control over the media (i.e. television) by the head of the government.

The incredible series of scandals that involved the head of the government are linked to his political incapacity to manage the financial crisis, which makes Italy dangerous for the world’s financial stability. There is a general understanding about the fact that a change in government should be needed to solve some real Italian problems. The government has resisted all scandals by denying any problems and by acting as if all criticism was the enemy’s obscure maneuver. The majority in Parliament has been reinforced by an alliance with a dozen or more politicians that had been elected in one of the opposition’s parties and that have been convinced to change side using very controversial means. Many see the Italian political stall as a consequence of a lack of democracy in Italy. If nothing is done, Italy will lose its place in the euro system, causing tragic consequences to the world’s financial stability. Poverty will grow, desperation will rise, violence will diffuse.

Thus, as it has been said, a rebellion should be an option. Or isn’t it?

As seen from abroad if Italians don’t rebel, it may be that Italians are accepting the way their politicians work. If it was true, the
international shame should be on them, too, and not only on their
politicians. But listening to what Italians are thinking and doing is a bit more complicated. And maybe a learning experience.

Of course, there are different kind of Italian experiences:
1. A 35% of Italians are considered functionally illiterate: they cannot read, they only rely on television to getting the news. They sort of live in a fiction, which is created by the very power source of the present political leadership. When they vote, they vote accordingly.
2. There is a 10% who read a lot: they are connected to the rest of the world, they work with the rest of the word, they export, they travel, they read English, or French, or German. They know that Italy is not working and needs to be fixed. Some of them think that it is possible to reform, but they don’t seem to find a political alternative to what there is now. Some other just care for their interests and do what they can to save themselves. Finally, some of them think that nothing can be done, they will vote at the next elections and they will hope without believing.
3. Young people are connected and desperate. They rely on their parents’ help. They don’t seem to be willing to risk if they don’t see were to bet. If there was something to risk about, some of them would risk: some would go abroad, some would start a company, some would rebel… Some of them actually do so. The majority of them is sort of silently waiting for somebody that explains what can be done.
4. Some Italians are leaders: companies, universities, foundations, associations, city and regional managements are full of great people that innovate and keep the Italian machine going. They are busy doing the job for the rest of their fellow citizens and don’t think to rebel.
5. Some Italians are criminals. They do whatever they can to get power and money. They don’t pay taxes. They trade drugs. They build where it is forbidden. They devastate the environment. They engulf culture with any kind of horrible content. They don’t rebel, because they like the way Italy is now.
6. Some Italians have faith. They wait.
7. Some Italians are testing the new means that the network is creating to change the way the media work, to improve their economic opportunities, to link to abroad: they haven’t yet overcome the power of television, but they have had a great, historic success this year by winning the attention game, when the majority of Italians showed up to vote for a referendum that television didn’t even bother to cover (the referendum was about stopping the nuclear power in Italy, stopping the privatization of water distribution and cancelling a law that helped the head of the government to escape some of his troubles with justice).

All Italians are worried and many are angry. Very angry. A rebellion cannot be considered impossible. But it is not what Italians are really interested in. And this is not because they like the system they are imprisoned in. They silently seem to say that they need something different.

Italians have lived ten and more years of terrorism. Thousands of them were killed by fascist and communist terrorists during the Seventies. Italians didn’t seem to like terrorists. But some of them shared with terrorists the idea that Italy is not really a reformable country. That is the major threat to a democracy. Reformist should become popular by achieving some results: if there are never results, cynical analysis emerge. And cynism leads to terror or to helplessness. We had terror in the past. Now we are experiencing helplessness.

Is it going to change?

The Eighties started with the hope of modernization and ended in some bad scandals while the public debt was starting to grow. During the last 20 years the government has been going from the great hope inspired by the European project, which was won in the Nineties, and the great distress of the present crisis. Change all over the world, in the last decade, has been lived in Italy as some sort of a passive experience, nothing that Italians were able to do anything about.

Through these ups and downs, there has been a war on culture: Italians have seen institutions bombarded by the barbaric language of the new politicians, they have seen the schools were their children go left without money to work, they saw their universities struggling to get any financing, they watched in television dozens of self interested leaders doing whatever they wanted, they heard the voices of a couple of businessmen laughing in recorded calls because the earthquake was going to get them good money… Italians are living an “after war”, a cultural war that devastated the country. Rebels have conquered the government and have destroyed peace, in Italy. Fear, urgencies, finances, are concentrating attention on the short term. Italians can rebel again. But most of all, they need perspective and peace.

How to get peace?

If they live in peace, if they have something to build, Italians are one of the best people in the world. If they are at war, they are not. They are better at resisting than at battling. But Italians, as – and more than – any other people in the western world, miss the time in which they shared a vision.

To get peace, Italians need to think and to act. Probably this means that they have to start by thinking better. And act quickly, after that.

This is the end of this long post. And I’m sorry for having written so much. Forgive a passionate Italian. Who is looking for something to do for his country, for his people, and for his children.

Italians are not alone in missing a vision. But Italians are paying a lot more for this. And maybe they will find a way out, that can become interesting for other people, too.

A rebellion is a revolution without a vision. Italians, probably, don’t really need a rebellion. They need a shared vision based on facts and reality (not on ideology and reality shows): a deep cultural change, that helps them in understanding their shared project, that helps rebuild a perspective and that makes them look ahead with an empirically based hope. They know they will have to work hard. And they usually do, when they know for what they are working. Thought, art and culture are to change. A rebellion is an act. A deep cultural change is a movement that is needed to transform the eventual act of a rebellion in the process of a constructive and generous revolution.

BookBlogging – YOCHAI BENKLER – Collaborazione by design

Riprendo un servizio più continuo di notizie sui libri letti e in lettura. Precedenti qui accanto.

More about The Penguin and the LeviathanLa leggerezza narrativa e la profondità dei contenuti del nuovo libro di Yochai Benkler non sorprende chi conosca l’autore. Un gigante della ricerca sull’economia delle reti e della nuova ricchezza che deriva dalla conoscenza.

Il suo capolavoro The Wealth of Networks (2006) è servito a dimostrare come la ragione economica possa essere trasformata dall’avvento delle reti e dal valore della conoscenza, riformando il mercato e il concetto di libertà (Traduzione: Egea 2007).

Il nuovo libro, The Penguin and the Leviathan (2011) approfondisce le novità teoriche ed empiriche che inducono a ritenere il comportamento collaborativo più efficiente e soddisfacente di quello basato sull’interesse egoistico, ma concentra l’attenzione su un punto cruciale: come si disegnano sistemi che valorizzano la collaborazione, la incentivano in modo ragionevole ed efficiente, senza richiedere un approccio ideologico e utopistico al comportamento umano, allo scopo di aumentare la ricchezza economica e la soddisfazione di vivere.

Benkler fa un lavoro scientifico e non buonista. Semplicemente osserva il fatto che l’assunzione fondamentale dell’economia tradizionale, quella che ritiene l’essere umano essenzialmente egoista, non regge alla prova della verifica storica. Inoltre, osserva che le conseguenze organizzative di quell’assunzione, l’idea della mano invisibile come meccanismo che produce il massimo valore di sistema sulla base del comportamento egoista degli attori economici, non sono le più efficienti e soddisfacenti da nessun punto di vista.

La convinzione che gli esseri umani siano egoisti produce organizzazioni basate sulla paura, sulla diffidenza e sulla punizione, promettendo vantaggi esclusivamente monetari. Inoltre, giustifica gli errori di sistema delle organizzazioni fondate su quell’assunto: è il migliore dei sistemi possibile, gli esseri umani sono egoisti, dunque va accettato il fatto che il capitalismo ogni tanto produce disastri. (Qui, come qualche lettore sa, seguendo il pensiero di Fernand Braudel, si distingue tra capitalismo – come sistema nel quale prevale la legge del più forte – e mercato – come sistema di scambi regolato sulla base di leggi e consuetudini che garantiscono la concorrenza).

Benkler parte dimostrando come negli ultimi vent’anni, la scienza abbia scoperto come la specie umana sia tutt’altro che caratterizzata da un gene egoista. Anzi. Proprio per funzionare come specie sociale si è adattata sviluppando evolutivamente una quantità di caratteri collaborativi, necessari all’azione di gruppo. Si arriva a dimostrare senza troppa difficoltà che gli esseri umani non sono né assolutamente egoisti né assolutamente altruisti. Semplicemente si trovano a comportarsi in un modo o nell’altro date le condizioni in cui si trovano, dati i frame interpretativi con i quali decodificano le situazioni in cui si trovano e dati i caratteri personali che distinguono gli individui.

Se le organizzazioni sono fondate sull’idea che le persone si comportino sempre in modo egoista o sulla speranza che si comportino sempre in modo collaborativo sono destinate a fallire.

I fallimenti umani di tanti trading floor del capitalismo finanziario americano degli ultimi tempi, la disattenzione per le conseguenze ambientali e sociali di una fabbrica chimica ai tempi dell’industrializzazione accelerata, l’immobilismo di un ufficio qualunque nel contesto del burocratismo autoritario sovietico, la tragedia epocale di chi ha fatto l’esperienza di un campo di concentramento nazista, sono esempi diversissimi di assolutismo che conduce a disastri. (Certo, questi accostamenti faranno arricciare il naso a qualcuno e meriterebbero un approfondimento più attento e consapevole, mi scuso per la fretta: non sono paragonabili se non per il fatto che si tratta di organizzazioni fondate su una considerazione assolutistica del comportamento umano).

Ma se oggi ci poniamo, e non possiamo non porci, problemi globali come la salvezza dell’ambiente, la tenuta del sistema economico, la qualità della vita nei territori globalizzati, la qualità dello sviluppo della conoscenza sulle reti digitali, occorre anche una discontinuità logica e ideologica, che ponga l’accento sulla costruzione di piattaforme organizzative capaci di tener presente le reali motivazioni delle persone, per poterne valorizzare l’energia e la forza innovativa. Una discontinuità rispetto alle organizzazioni basate sull’erronea convinzione che gli uomini siano solo ed esclusivamente egoisti. E che prenda le conseguenze del fatto che sono anche collaborativi. E che si renda conto che dalla collaborazione emergono soluzioni spesso migliori, più efficienti, più soddisfacenti.

Benkler dunque passa in esame le caratteristiche delle organizzazioni che favoriscono la collaborazione, senza supporre che le persone siano dei santi. Queste piattaforme organizzative possono essere adattate con le ragionevoli assunzioni alla convivenza civile, alla struttura delle aziende, alla generazione di piattaforme online, alla creazione di movimenti sociali, alla diplomazia internazionale. Ci sono alcuni accorgimenti che il design dei servizi orientati a basarsi sulla collaborazione ha ormai chiarito. La sintesi è nel finale del libro, in 7 punti:
1. Ogni piattaforma collaborativa è basata sulla comunicazione tra i partecipanti. La comunicazione è la chiave del successo del sistema
2. La proposta collaborativa va codificata nella struttura dell’organizzazione in modo che induca a interpretare la collaborazione come conveniente per tutti, in modo autentico e non ideologico
3. La cultura di fondo proposta favorisce e applaude all’empatia e alla solidarietà senza farne un pregiudizio, ma assolutamente osteggiando il pregiudizio contrario, quello secondo il quale in fondo tutti sono egoisti
4. Morale e norme sociali sono disegnate in modo da proporre comportamenti e feedback equi per tutti, accettando che eventualmente qualcuno lavori più di altri ma sottolineando lealmente l’importanza cruciale di chi apporta più valore
5. Punizioni e guadagni vanno commisurati alla condizione in cui si trova l’organizzazione, al progetto comune che persegue, alla qualità culturale che la caratterizza, nella consapevolezza che molti guadagni decisivi sono quelli immateriali, mentre gli incentivi monetari sono sempre interpretati come mezzo e non come fine
6. Reputazione e reciprocità sono le regole di feedback fondamentali per attivare comportamenti collaborativi
7. Le organizzazioni vanno pensate e costruite per contenere la diversità delle persone e delle loro capacità, valori, interessi, orientamenti e caratteri.

Mi rendo conto che il riassuno è troppo veloce. Non resta che prendere il libro e leggerlo. L’ho fatto in formato digitale. Poi l’ho preso anche in carta.

More about The Happiness ProjectIntanto sto leggendo anc
1. The Moral Landscape, di Sam Harris
2. The Consolations of Philosophy, di Alain De Botton
3. The Happiness Project, di Gretchen Rubin

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