THE BANE OF AMERICAN HAPPINESS

As politicians go, former Italian prime minister Romano Prodi is unusually familiar with the economics of the international scene. He also headed the Brussels Commission, governing body of the European Union. Beforehand he was the czar of IRI, the giant conglomerate of the largest State-owned Italian industries, from steelworks to banks to shipbuilding and much more. He is a full economics professor in the prestigious Bologna university. He is a member of an exceptionally gifted family of eight or nine tenured academics. He is presently a top consultant of the Peking government.

A few days ago I listened professor Prodi explaining why the USA has inevitably lost the absolute hegemony on the planet: . If Prodi is right, the exhorbitant investment in wars and armaments in the last 93 years, beginning with president Wilson forcing America into WW1, has actually weakened the United States. The present cost accepted in Afghanistan only is $100 billion a year, to the obvious detriment of civilian programs that would almost certainly cut the 10% American unemployment to the physiological level of 3 to 6 per cent. Of course, should Uncle Sam wind up the adventure in Afghanistan, the American war industries would suffer. But the civilian programs would in all probability determine a positive algebraic sum. It’s not sure that president Obama would have lost the midterm elections so badly, had he announced Tennessee Valley-type programs to the tune of $100 billion a year.

The abovementioned ‘law’ that Prodi the economist enunciated should probably be enlarged with a plain corollary, or additional inference: a government spends too much on arms when it is too rich. This probably means that the wondrous economic success of last three centuries is really the bane of the American happiness, while happiness loomed large in the inspiration and doctrines of the Founding Fathers. So converting to no-growth is theoretically a prerequisite to a comeback of sanity in America and elsewhere. Saudi Arabia’s recently announced buying American weapons for a volume which would be high even to the Pentagon is the very opposite of sanity. Shall Uncle Sam one day be the recipient of international aid programs of the kind of the Marshall Plan?

The mark of absolute, fashinating youth was the American newborn Republic being penniless. The US Treasury had debts rather than funds. No immediate receipt was available. A number of months elapsed before the first money came in (a custom duty levied by a law of Congress). At that point the federal bureaucracy numbered a few dozen persons. The permanent Army of the US reckoned 700 men. The nation’s richest gentleman was a farmer, president George Washington, the owner of Mount Vernon. His property was large, 8,000 tillable acres plus bush, but the product was lilliputian when seen with today’s eyes.

Adolescent America soon became the sweetheart of the world. Slimming and discarding armor is mandatory to present obese America should she try to reclaim part of her beauty and loveliness.

Anthony Cobeinsy
da Daily Babel

AFGHANISTAN: When sepoys die

Every time a non-American Nato warrior is killed in Afghanistan some politicians and/or gurus in the country of the dead rinse their throats with the syllogism (sort of): casualties must be accepted so the crusade for democracy and human rights will triumph. Is it so?

Apart that most crusades in history failed, the truth is that the Nato coalition is not fighting for noble goals. It is waging another colonial conquest war of the United States, a one similar to the wars against Mexico, Spain or Iraq. All empires on Earth were more or less built through colonial wars; but in the past justifications for conquests were not needed. Today it’s different -so Obama and his advisors are in trouble.

It’s a lie, a delusion anyway, that Islamic fundamentalism will be deleted if the West quells Afghanistan. A few thousand caves can be obliterated there by drones, missiles and flamethrowers (with children killed as collateral damages), but a great many more caves exist on the planet. Terrorist can also operate where caves are lacking. Is the Nato coalition going to wage wars in each continent?

If terrorism cannot be cancelled with the tools of the Pentagon, just two justifications remain for the Afghan crusade: a) saving the face of a Nobel prizewinner (for peace!) who is also the supreme warlord on the planet; b) expanding the American possessions in Central Asia. From the colonialist viewpoint, the above justifications are perfectly legitimate. But they involve only the U.S. and those mercenary governments that have been promised tangible gains in payment of their war efforts, casualties and crimes included. Such governments supply, among other things, the sepoys general Petreus needs. The sepoy was a native East Indian employed as a soldier by Britain. Today native Britons are Obama’s best sepoys.

Rome will possibly send additional sepoys (in Italian: ascari) to serve under Petreus. What gains has been assured if Afghanistan is conquered with the help of carabinieri? A share in the government of the world? Of course not. Pentagon contracts and deals are the real prizes for Italy. So highly incongrous are the efforts to throw Italy into mourning when three-color coffins arrive from Afghanistan. The victims of that war were not heroes, as their fatherland was not imperiled. They were professionals seeking career and money. They also died for the sake of jobs and dividends for the national economy.

Italy should drastically cut her military budget, and the same should do all countries of the world, US included. As to Rome, her armed forces should be miniaturized to the size of auxiliaries of the civilian police. Armed forces are immorally expensive and evil.

Recently a traditionalist Italian reader asked former ambassador Sergio Romano, a foremost commentator on international affairs, the following question: the new government of Britain will significantly lower its military budget. Insn’t this going to damage London’s international role? The ambassador’s answer: Britain’s budget deficit is twice the Italian one. Now that the British might has practically disappeared, Premier David Cameron is right in cancelling 20 to 30 per cent of the military expense, and even more right in abandoning the conventional diplomatic strategy of the last 65 years. “The special partnership with Washington forced Britain into two wars which were mistaken”.

An additional appraisal of the former ambassador: “The U.S. have misused their planetary leadership and are responsible for the major crisis, especially the financial ones, of the last decade. The Afghan war has infected Pakistan and the Caucasus. So the American leadership is on the wane.”

The logical inference is that the allies of Washington should stop behaving as Sepoy States.

Jone
da Daily Babel

FROM SECOND CITY TO WHITE HOUSE

The editors of l’Histoire, the Parisian specialized monthly, are much impressed, possibly mesmerized, by a single outline of the Obama phenomenon, his rather unusual relationship with Chicago. According to them, the American president owes a lot to the Second City, at the same time not being indebted to her, as he succeeded in embodying the whole nation, at least momentarily. So the line of thought of l’Histoire is that while Chicago was a major scene of the racial drama of America, Barack Obama, who triumphed there, did not offer himself as a Moses or a warrior of the black emancipation, but as a leader of the nation.

On the other hand, his rise cannot be understood without his bond with the South Side, i.e. with the ghettos on lake Michigan. Obama and the Windy City are seen in Paris as two success-stories of the same mushroomlike sort -a very quick growth, although not necessarily followed by a sudden decay.

Of course Americans know well that in less than fifty years Chicago rose from a fur- and cattle trading village to a large metropolis, a one prominently involved in the events, both political and social, of the 19th century. The place soon attracted several ethnic groups, who often had to fight for recognition. In Europe not many know that in 1886 four anarchists sentenced to be executed, died in Chicago while chanting a revolutionary song. Later the Blacks arrived and beginning from the Nineties the South and West Sides of Chicago became a, or the, capital of Black America. After the Depression and in the New Deal the Democratic party became the party of the Blacks, and locally the latter came near to dominate said party.

When Obama entered politics in Chicago, in 1985, he did not have special connections there. Rapidly he acquired them and succeeded in becoming the heir of the four or five historic leaders of the Chicago Blacks. But was also able to not identify himself as an ethnic ‘Libertador’. As he resolved not to try to become Mayor, the powerful incumbent mayor Richard J Daley was the very willing promoter of the rise of Obama. The young politician who came from Hawaii, Indonesia and Harvard accepted the help of persons and groups that controlled the not very ethical democratic machine of Illinois, but did not lose his personal reputation of honesty.

So the Obama’s masterpiece was conquering Chicago as an outsider, then projecting himself as the national leader from the Second City.

Anthony Cobeinsy
da Daily Babel

SE OBAMA SI RASSEGNERÁ A UN PASHTUNISTAN SOVRANO E TALEBANO

Un numero di luglio di Newsweek è, con una storia di copertina più un articolo , un De Profundis clamavi ad te, Domine (salmo CXXIX, sesto dei sette Salmi penitenziali; si canta negli uffici funebri). Un De profundis in morte delle convinzioni belliciste non tanto di Obama, quanto degli zelatori antifondamentalisti e iperlaici di casa nostra, sia conservatori sia progressisti.

Sono dieci anni che i pundit ‘democratici’, dagli editoriali della grande stampa ai pensosi oracoli di Prodi e D’Alema, ripetono “l’Afghanistan non è l’Irak, non è l’unilateralismo di Bush&Cheney americani prepotenti. E’ una battaglia di civiltà. E’ un banco di prova per l’Occidente. O sgomina o no il terrorismo. O spegne o no il focolaio di oppressione sulle donne e sui diritti. Eccetera>.

Sono dieci anni, e giusto nell’imminenza degli attesi successi del surge di Petreus l’Irakeno, Newsweek spiega ai suoi milioni di lettori “Why the U.S. should draw down in Afghanistan. We’re not winning. It’s not worth it”. Dove andranno a nascondersi i tanti predicatori della santa crociata contro i nemici del progresso, cioè della laicità? Dove andranno a parare non solo i furibondi dell’Unità, anche i posati analisti de La Stampa e del Corriere? Di quanti ‘speciali’ di Time avranno bisogno per virare dal bellicismo “siamo lì per affermare i valori dell’Occidente, dobbiamo vincere” all’auspicio che si ritiri il nostro corpo di missionari e giustizieri? A che punto ometteranno di dichiarare ‘eroi’ i nostri caporalmaggiori che lì si pagano la villetta a schiera, ma qualche volta gli va storta e costringono lo Statista del Colle a presiedere esequie e accarezzare gli orfani?

La sentenza di Newsweek l’ha firmata Richard N.Haass, presidente del Council on Foreign Relations e, nel 2001, “the U.S. Government coordinator for the future of Afghanistan”. . Ora, ha scritto Haass, forse la maggiore autorità statunitense nella materia, Obama ha scelto di fare dell’impresa afghana la sua guerra. Ma <non la stiamo vincendo e non vale la pena di vincerla. A dicembre il Presidente dovrà rivedere ancora una volta la sua politica (…) Continuarla invariata costa agli Stati Uniti 100 miliardi di dollari l’anno, per non parlare delle vite umane”.

Haass propone alternative articolate, come tali difficili da riassumere. Implicano da parte statunitense varie formule di parziale accettazione della sconfitta: non esclusa -secondo una proposta di Robert Blackwill, già ambasciatore di Washington in India, la spartizione del paese, con la nascita nel Sud di un Pashtunistan ufficialmente talebano. Altro che trionfo dei valori dell’Occidente.

Non abbiamo la competenza per analizzare le proposte di Haass e di altri. Invece segnaliamo l’articolo di supporto che Newsweek ha aggiunto alla requisitoria del presidente del Council on Foreign Relations: “Afghan about-face:an emerging GOP schism”. Si dice che i repubblicani, finora falchi, minacciano di rivoltarsi contro questa guerra. Michael Steele, chairman del partito, ha dichiarato che la guerra “of Obama’s choosing” sarà persa dagli Stati Uniti “così come hanno perso varie altre potenze”.” L’America è stanca”, ha constatato un parlamentare dello Utah. “Quasi dieci anni e nessuna fine in vista”.

Noi ci fermiamo. Aspetteremo di vedere come la metteranno, dalle loro poltrone redazionali e televisive, i Pietri gli Eremiti (quasi tutti i politici e i giornalisti) che predicarono la Crociata contro l’Islam oscurantista. Se Obama ascolterà gli Haass e i Blackwill, se farà sorgere il Pashtunistan talebano, loderanno i nostri atlantisti lo sforzo del Nobel domiciliato alla Casa Bianca per meritarsi il bizzarro premio che lo incoronò uomo di pace, oppure ne condanneranno la defezione dalla Crociata in pro dei diritti e delle afghane? Oppure ancora esigeranno che i ‘drones’ continuino a sterminare i villaggi, bambine e donne comprese?

A.M.C.

DEAR YOUNG ITALIANS ABROAD

I’m writing you a letter because nowadays the epistolary form seems to be the most appropriate when it comes to expressing moral outrage.

Just like you, I’ve read Pier Luigi Celli’s letter in La Repubblica, encouraging his son to emigrate, to wander off into the horizon in search for a better future. Just like you, I’ve read the Time magazine article informing its readers (and anyone willing to listen) about the troubles a young Italian with a university degree encounters when searching for a job. And just like you, I’ve seen a variety of Facebook friends tag that YouTube video playing the scene from La Meglio Gioventu’ in which a professor exhorts his young(ish) student to leave Italy because ‘dinosaurs’ like him are running the country into the ground. But, perhaps, unlike you, I am not willing to resign myself to the doomsday analyses and pessimist outlooks and continual laments many find convenient when times are tough. The grass may be greener on the other side, but the question they must be asking themselves now is “What have we done in order to cultivate a better lawn in our own backyard?”

I observe with ‘nativist’ amusement the rush of Italians swarming New York City’s streets, the same streets in which I grew up, and wonder from where their indiscriminate passion for this city stems. When I wrote ‘10 Reasons to Hate New York’, the most virulent protests against my piece came from the Big Apple’s Italian residents, their deafening outcries shouting in defense of their adoptive city. Young Italians love New York because it’s dynamic, because it’s diverse, because it offers a sense of possibility around every corner, because for them it’s everything Italy isn’t. But New York hasn’t carried this aura of invincibility across the centuries because it’s inherently a great place or because confidence flows through the city’s sewers or because the air smells better or because the people are nicer. New York is both home to the Wall Street goon and the Mexican busboy, but both operate within the city’s confines with the necessary ‘can do’ optimism that allows them to dream big while being small, to construct a future from raw will. At least, that is the fuel that New York and America have run on throughout their brief histories. Nonetheless, it’s a fuel that is both generated and consumed by the inhabitants, the people, the man and woman on the street. New York is but a stage upon which the player’s existential buoyancy is lived. To make a long story short, New York is such a thriving place because New Yorkers make it so. A little bit of will power goes a long way.

But not for the Italians.

Italians suffer from negativist exceptionalism. Ask a young Italian how things are going in Italy, and they will most likely reply that the situation is ‘horrible.’ They will compare Rome’s political milieu to that of the most downtrodden African country… and say Italy is worse off. They will say the economy is on the down-and-outs, that society is crumbling in the face of mysterious organizations like the P2 or the P3. They will point to corruption, sexism, television, organized crime, tax evasion, vandalism, and nepotism as the nefarious evils slowly devouring the country from the inside-out like furious worms. And they will pretend that there is nothing they can do about it. That these are crimes being perpetrated against them; that they are unwilling participants in an Italian farce, victims being taken along for a ride.

So, it perplexes me to see the very same Italians, so helpless at home in Italy, undergo a rebirth in New York. Suddenly, those same people, who months before complained about the social torpor of Florence or Rome or the provinces, rediscover their enthusiasm, creativity, imagination, ideas, business plans, and social awareness. Suddenly, they stop complaining and ‘start doing’, because, as everyone knows, New York has no time for whiners. If only they ‘started doing’ in Italy, too.

Professor Celli’s letter and the anecdote from La Meglio Gioventu’ have gotten it all wrong. Young Italians don’t need to flee Italy, escaping to Berlin, New York, and beyond. They need to stand up, take action and claim what’s rightfully theirs. Instead of complaining, or drawing up anachronistic theories that assign blame for Italy’s long and lazy decline, they need to understand that it’s time to shut up and get to work. It’s time to jettison the existential desperation, the ‘everything is impossible’ attitude, and seize the opportunity to rebuild from the ashes of their fathers. It’s time to crowdsource the creativity of those Young Italians living in Williamsburg, the entrepreneurial skills of those working in London, and the brains of those who’ve gleaned MBAs and PhDs from Harvard and LSE and Princeton and find and impose solutions into and onto the Italian context. Italy cannot become a dynamic and progressive society if its most dynamic and progressive citizens escape without giving a fight. And, signing petitions and demonstrating in squares and grumbling on Facebook can lead nowhere if they are not backed up with credible, bottom-to-top alternatives.

I’m writing this letter as an appeal, not a complaint; it should serve as a stimulus, not an offense. Let’s begin the crowdsourcing here and now and start sifting through ideas that can serve as the new foundation for an optimistic and dynamic Italy- a New York-style Italy that offers opportunity for everyone.

How Would You Change Italy For the Better?

A. Giacalone

Original articles can be found here:
http://www.nuok.it/2010/10/dear-young-italians-abroad/
http://www.nuok.it/2010/10/cari-giovani-italiani-all-estero/