Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bill Emmott- Forza, Italia- a review

Bill Emmott, ex-director of the British weekly The Economist, has recently fallen under the spell of Italy, like so many of us before him. Unlike us, he's gone and written a book about it. Strangely, the book written by him, an Englishman, and read by me, an American, is in Italian (a translation). It hasn't been published in English yet.

Emmott admits to not having a lot of expertise regarding Italy, nor to a mastery of that lovely language, nor to having lived there. But this isn't going to stop him.

First of all, after telling us that he is a boring economist, he states that Italy's problem is philosophical, a battle between Good Italy and Bad Italy. Who's going to prevail? To find out, he relies on an organization named RENA (Rete per l'Eccellenza Nazionale), a sort of consortium of Italian groups and individuals dedicated to excellence. This is not playing fair, and in philosophy is known as begging the question. How many instances of Bad Italy are you going to find by asking an organization that focuses on excellence, which means superlative goodness?

Having informed us of the epic battle, he deluges us with facts and figures. He also bases his opinions on interviews with politicians, entrepreneurs and other movers and shakers. Does he expect leading politicians and entrepreneurs to tell a foreigner who is important in the media and who is writing a book about Italy that Italy is going to hell? Maybe that way he can further weaken Italy's credibility vis-a-vis other countries and discourage investments and purchase of Italian products.

There are many positive facets of Italy and many admirable Italians. What would you expect from one of the richest, most advanced countries of the world? It's obvious that there must be someone opposing the Mafia, someone innovating, someone holding out against the odds. But are they in the majority? Are they the wave of the future? He doesn't demonstrate this.

I think it's a fool's game to predict the future, but I can tell you that if Emmott had spoken to the man or woman in the street, he would have heard a very different story. This is the central flaw of the book. The average Italian is not optimistic about the future of his country, nor am I. There's a reason I don't live there anymore.