Instead of the usual call for citizen responsibility, phase two should present itself as an opportunity for a new post-Covid-19 Italy.
By Ettore Ianì, sociologist, professor at La Sapienza University, and president of Lega Pesca
On the night of March 9, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced to the country that the situation was rapidly deteriorating. There is no more time: there are too many sick and dead and, more importantly, the risk increases exponentially. For this reason, the government explained that it needed to be issued an unprecedented decision declared total lockdown – The first of a long series in the western world.
The word ‘lockdown’ in English for Italians has a scary voice that reminds us of global emergencies such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York, with the result of three days of civilian airspace blocking that we all follow on TV like movies.
Now, Italy must also follow the forced quarantine path until April 3, which is then extended to April 13. In this first phase, despite its mistakes and contradictions, the government was faced with an extraordinary event, and took on decisive companies and establishments which were widely criticized throughout Europe (and especially in France and Britain – only then to be forced to review their judgment, in such a way so international media began to talk about the ‘Italian model’).
Indeed, it is not very clear that Italians will accept this request as a responsibility, because the price of sacrifice imposed is very high. However, fear facilitates adherence to certain choices, with few exceptions. In fact, most people understand with a few minor exceptions, and decide to behave properly – certainly not because of the repressive act itself. The mantra of ‘Staying at home’, a rhetorical combination of obedience, protection and freedom, finally succeeded not only because we were all afraid, but mainly thanks to a transverse message that involved everyone in all social classes.
The best defense against viruses is entrusted with social awareness, awareness of collective threats, to be united and marched in the same direction. We all have the same schedule, the same obstacles, the same expectations, flag of the same color, the same desire to continue to live, always careful to minimize risk. Locking indiscriminately with the aim of not infecting people, an obstacle imposed by a sudden emergency, causes a suspension of the right to protect the safety of all people. We can now see it as an extraordinary but temporary situation, a mandatory but experimental choice. In the phase of coexistence with this virus, a regulated society never leaves little room for criticism of so-called ‘political castes’, which often identify the state as an enemy to blame. Somehow, in the misfortune of a collective prison, the illusion that we are all the same and are on the same boat, wins.
In fact, structural social divisions were not leveled up, and the state of the country changed radically with the third step of quarantine, namely May 4 – recovery day. Every Italian surrounds this date as the beginning of a new life – if not rebirth – with increasingly loose limits and constraints. The long wait is not only marked by kissing and hugging nostalgia, but everyone sincerely hopes to enter a new phase of greater self-confidence. We can now be ourselves again: chefs, scavengers, thieves, professors, workers, actors – or all of this at the same time.
Behind nearly two months locked up, there was fatigue, and sometimes there was even a feeling of rebellion against a stifling climate control which, to be honest, was not always carried out properly. People, categories of workers, parents, all expect something better: disappointed families, employees, businesses, and women, once again excluded from the most important decision-making process in recent years. Excluded from the many committees that paved the way to fight the corona virus, people were absent from the highest levels of bureaucracy and public policy. With the third step, the structural weaknesses of the country explode, as well as the unbridgeable differences between the central, regional and public administration that are slow, ineffective, and uncontrolled.
Conte, under the supervision of the Scientific and Technical Committee, presented an action plan for the second phase, aiming at the difficult task of revitalizing the economic and social status of the injured country. After loosening restrictions gradually only on the part of production and industrial activities so as not to frustrate the sacrifices made by all Italians, the government cannot choose a total opening, just because we are not at the end. epidemic, but this makes a beehive.
With phase 2, manufacturing, construction and wholesale trade continue activities: 4.4 million workers are now returning to work, apart from the food industry which has been active during locking. The cautious choice that drives other sectors out, triggers dissatisfaction with those who expect greater change, or who want to receive more help in the most difficult situations. Among the many critical voices, the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI) echoed that “freedom of worship has been violated.”
Restricting travel, not reopening schools, canceling performances, opening only a few services, implies not only that the epidemic is not over, but also that intangible and material emergencies and the economy will continue for some time. Clean from the chorus irony of the terminology of ‘relatives’ and ‘confusing influences’, which highlights the lack of a juridical definition of a consistent relationship, according to the classic ‘devil’s dilemma’, there is only one possible solution: the wrong solution. Therefore, we can definitely say that something went wrong in phase 2. There are no universal norms and are respected by all; however suitable it is, it cannot reach perfection, and there will always be someone who will remain dissatisfied. The question is wrong: when disagreement is greater than agreement, people must ask themselves what is wrong. The government continues to think that it can relaunch a state of emergency without limits, disparaging the fact that, by loosening its grip, the idea of regulations affecting everyone is lost.
Those who remain outside phase 2 often feel betrayed and have now changed their perspective. After respecting the rules, they became disobedient, advancing their legitimate sectoral claims and clashing with their stepfather’s country. Many analysts believe that there have been classic communication problems between men who lead. The most frequent criticism is language choice: too many kings and too much anglicism turn some announcements into formulas that express the need for procrastination. This might be true, but by doing that we only treat the surface of the problem: alchemical rhetoric.
Perhaps, in phase two as defined by the last Prime Minister (Dpcm) decree, there was no long-term political vision, or welding between the rulers and those governed. The latter complained that the commitments made were not yet respected, while the government went its own way and insisted on making a strong appeal. Despite the noticeable delay in opening layoffs, 40 billion in credit to companies, which added action to activate a mortgage moratorium and loans – and to place guarantees on liquidity – have become a mirage. € 600 bonus for entrepreneurs stay trapped in a Social Security server short circuit. The bank did not comply with operating instructions to use a € 450 billion liquidity decision intended for access to credit with state guarantees and for postponing business obligations. In the face of this serious negligence, Prime Minister Conte inappropriately limited himself to asking for “acts of love.” The same situation can be seen in connection with bonus commitments aimed at seasonal tourism and beach resorts, sports collaborators, administrative and domestic workers, caregivers and parental leave. Even the five levers that form the basis of a health strategy for reopening (application, tampons, serological tests, local medical centers and Covid hospitals), jammed in the depths of the bureaucracy.
While everything seems silent, motionless and petrified, speculation about the price of face masks that we should all wear, spread like wildfire. State-controlled prices remain the hope. While the country is kneeling and trying to start over, The National Statistical Institute told us that, in April 2020, food costs rose 2.8%. This is only a reflection of the intervention of large and powerful states that did not take off – not because of lack of will, but because of the disorganization of large state machines.
If government commitments are actually implemented, are the reactions the same? Instead of the usual call for citizen responsibility, phase two must present itself with compliance with political commitments and as an opportunity for a new post-Covid-19 Italy. A plan to accelerate the reopening, restoring the rule of law and full respect for the constitution, would be the perfect answer to criticism about the excessive use of executive power, deprivation of the role of Parliament, and resignation from the role of Parliament, and resignation from parliament. politics to science.
Continuing to stick to empty requests for individual responsibility even in phase 2, means offering the same solution and delaying normality. It also means giving citizens the role of being responsible for possible failures, increasing the scourge to return to the first stage and increasing responsibility. To be sure, even among the thousands of contradictions, the Italians have shown endurance, so most of them will always accept the rules of the game calmly, as a form of personal civil sacrifice. However, even governments now have to enter phase 2 with their heads, hands, feet and hearts, reducing the climate of exceptions, confusion, uncertainty and fear. To do that, we don’t need a special government, but a more effective division of responsibilities between roles and functions, where everyone has freedom within the overall boundaries.
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