Italians are quite different from Americans, perhaps most of all in their pessimistic view of human nature and their rejection of “big ideas.” They’ve certainly had their share of big ideas and grand enterprises, from the Roman Empire to the Catholic Church and the Florentine Renaissance. Daily life here unfolds against the background of the monuments of those glorious achievements. But most Italians do not believe they are capable of new enterprises of such quality. Indeed, a conservative friend of mine once admitted that he assumes any rich person has gotten wealthy because he has acted immorally.
Machiavelli: “Man is more inclined to do evil than to do good.” But even Machiavelli believed that glory, even virtuous glory, is possible.
We Americans believe we are capable of anything, and we don’t have to enter evil to accomplish glorious ends. That’s what November 6th is all about.
Here and there, American faith creeps into Italian life. In the latest local elections, some maverick mayors were elected — from Parma and Verona to Palermo — who promise to pursue a more virtuous path. I hope they succeed, but recent history is not encouraging. The last effort along these lines — the Northern League — has been decimated after the discovery of financial corruption at the highest levels of the party, including the family of the longtime leader, Umberto Bossi.
Sound familiar? A firebrand promising to change the system turns out to be as corrupt as those he defeated, and uses the state to enrich his family and friends…and over time, the corruption defines the whole political system.
That is why we must keep fighting the state and demanding our own freedom. Otherwise the Feds will become the same sort of affliction as the Guardia di Finanza, snooping in places best left to us to manage…lest we, in turn, devote more and more of our energies to outwit them, thereby draining strength from our creative enterprises.
But then, crime can be very creative, can’t it? Stay tuned…