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martedì 26 Gennaio 2021

And if tomorrow, and I stress if... For an anthology of ideas

For an anthology of ideas


E se domani, e sottolineo il se…
all’improvviso, perdessi te..
Avrei perduto il mondo intero
Non solo te.

(Lyric by Mario Calabrese)

I have asked myself many times, in these dramatic days, what our countries
in Europe would be like when a vaccine would put mankind safe from this
Covid 19. The first question that comes to my mind is: will mankind have
understood how fragile the balance that allows us to share the world in which
we live is? That’s why I was reading some introductory pages of “Epidemics
and Society: From the Black Death to the Present” by Frank Snowden,
professor of medical history at Yale. His course on the history and impact of
epidemics is presented as … a significant need for discussion, from an
interdisciplinary perspective, of the ways in which infectious diseases have
played a substantial role in shaping human societies and continue to pose a
threat to their survival. The scholar argues that epidemics have conditioned
social development and marked the way we react. It occurred to me that this
is exactly what we should do, before anything else and immediately after the
pain: react in order to resurrect and make society re-emerge from how the
epidemic will return it to us when science has been able to tame it.

Today, we Italians, we are at the tears and counting of the deaths, when we
look at the trends of contagion growth we are faced with exponential
tendencies whose speed seems to be endemic to this virus or endemic of the
lifestyle common to the countries under analysis.
To avoid the emptiness I see on many TV talk shows, I’ll tell you what I
figured out as a fact.
First, the consequences of the virus are tragic for mankind.

Second: there is no medical therapy being the virus and its consequences
totally unknown to science.
Thirdly, the only weapon we have is lockdown.
Fourthly, the lockdown will cause a worldwide recession, all countries will be
poorer and future generations in debt.
It’s just like being all in the same boat in a stormy sea.
Misfortune of Italy, being hit among the first, has become the experience for
the others, to help them fight and win “together”. If I put the adverb between
quotation marks it is because it seems to me that in the debate of these days
we have to define its meaning and then share it so that it doesn’t take the
place of: mutual support, charity, support and it has the same value for

Forgive me, dear reader, if I base the adverb on Aristotle’s metaphysics, but
our civilization started from there, The fact that it is a philosophical text of
3000 years ago, nothing diminishes the modernity of this vision and in a while
we will see it. Any natural element that is made up of different parts that are in
relation to each other, has, for the great Athenian, a value that cannot be
represented by the sum of its components, but only by the whole, which
represents its life. The essential part of this reasoning lies precisely in the
idea that the mutual relationship between the elementary components is
fundamental to the definition of functions, even more so than the mere
description of the intrinsic characteristics of each component.

It is not enough and it is not only necessary to know how to catalogue things,
but it is essential to define the mutual relations that describe how they work to
define the ultimate purpose, the utility, the objective, the product if we want to
use a modern term. If I could say it with tricky words it would mean going from
an ontology (the inventory, exploration of what is revealed) to epistemology
(the fundamentals and validity of knowledge). This is the sense of “together”,
not a race to who is more important, but a contribution to the most important

The concept of “together” can be understood very well in music if one listens
to the individual scores of an orchestra set against the score with its colours,
supports, counterpoints that only “together” can be evaluated. On this aspect,
which is much less metaphysical than one might think, I’ll come back in a
moment if the reader’s patience has not abandoned me.

I sincerely believe that it is our task to start thinking about what will be the
paradigm we will have to refer to after the flood, either we will write it,
together, or we will be forced to follow the one written by others as it has
already happened in many moments of our history. Moreover, The Day After,
in addition to together, we will have to deal with another adverb: how.
I don’t think it will be possible to turn on television or read in the newspapers
about this or that politician who warns us how important it is to implement the
digitization of the country without telling us how just because no one has
wasted time studying it. It will not be tolerable to hear about the importance of
defending the planet from the imbalances resulting from its exploitation
without knowing how to take action to restore a more stable balance. I feel
that in the end it will cause popular disgust to know that some, or perhaps all,
of the political forces want to reorganize the national health service and do
not know how. As far as my experience is concerned, how to tackle a job is
considered, in many losing sectors, a problem of technology and not a
philosophical issue through which to build a strategic project that aims at the
goal using the technological skills needed at the time. This is the first
fundamental mistake that is the mother of a lot of misfortunes.
So let’s start, let’s start to discuss starting from these two adverbs: together
and how, which are far from neutral, they draw a strategy, from words they
push action towards things to do to satisfy a need that is the objective of the
project itself.

How and together

Let’s use this magazine that hosts us as a container, let’s try to understand
what those adverbs mean for us; let’s put in a common binder the opinions of
all those who want to help us identify a way and let’s entrust to an open and
sensitive mind, the task of synthesizing an anthology of ideas for the day
The words that Giorgio Calabrese wrote for Mina with which I opened this
writing could also be its title:
and if tomorrow… and I stress “if”

We are currently discussing what the formula should be for financing the
reconstruction of countries whose economy will be mutilated by the
pandemic. I will not go into the technical debate, but I think it is important to
go into the ideal one. I am well aware of the Ventotene manifesto where the
founding values of the European dream were written. The countries of
northern Europe are opposed to any sharing of debt with the countries of
Catholic Europe. The press reports it as a conflict between North and South,
made of mutual misunderstandings while we are only facing a crucial step in
the political life of our continent that was born on different historical bases,
organized in nation states very different from each other, but combined, all of
them, by the values of Western culture, that culture born from the push of the
Greek-Roman philosophy that then merged, dialoguing, clashing and seeking
positions of balance advanced in modern thought. The thought of our
longitudes has never been unique: Parmenides was not Plato and Virgil did
not tell the same story as Homer even though he learned the lesson. Let us
use it, then the common Greek origin, krisis meant choice, making a decision
to change course. We consider it a negative word because we have learnt
that to perch on one’s own positions is defensive against the other, today it is
only the best way to maximize the harmful consequences of the virus. We
have different histories and common values, let us start from values and
reconstruct the meaning of the politics that we have lost all and all of us
together in these years of mad liberalist intoxication.

Un ministro Olandese, il cui paese è ampiamente sostenuto dalla erosione
del gettito fiscale negli altri paesi d’Europa, dovrebbe imparare a dialogare
senza dare lezioni di etica. Le maggiori industrie europee hanno spostato in
Olanda la sede legale per godere di un trattamento migliore sui profitti che
però vengono fatti in Francia, In Italia, in Germania, in Spagna, in Grecia, in
Portogallo e così via. A norma di legge e dentro l’Europa Unita esiste un
enclave di elusione fiscale che porta via agli altri paesi una parte dei proventi
destinati a servizi pubblici, e a cui è permesso anche pontificare sui
comportamenti etici degli altri. Regole fiscali comuni, non si può accettare che
Olanda, Malta, Cipro, Lussemburgo vivano consentendo l’evasione fiscale
degli altri. Dall’altra parte, anzi dalla stessa, c’è la rigidità della Germania alla
quale il debito è stato si in parte cancellato per permetterle la rinascita dalle
rovine di due guerre che l’avevano vista protagonista negativa su tutti i fronti
(espressione vale sia come metafora che per il suo significato intrinseco). Ma
lo hanno fatto e con grande successo, allora dialoghiamo, siamo sicuri che
tutti i paesi come sono organizzati sarebbero in grado di ricostruirsi
riorganizzandosi? Siamo sicuri che le oligarchie che hanno generato la crisi si
farebbero da parte?
Allora dialoghiamo, e non pensiamo che il problema sia economico, storico,
politico, o semplicemente organizzativo, il nostro problema principale è di tipo
filosofico, manca una visione del mondo da tradurre in paradigma e da
articolare in politica, organizzazione, amministrazione, economia come
conseguenza di una visione che non c’è. Manca una epistemologia che
avvolga ed ispiri. Senza di questa, i paraocchi ci faranno vedere solo il nostro
pezzetto di strada e perderemo la possibilità di intercettare per tempo in
prossimo virus.

The clash on taxation followed by a few weeks another clash: the one against
the usual Italy that closed the companies not to cool the contagion, but to go
on holiday. It doesn’t seem to me that money has anything to do with it, it
seems to me that the adverb together has meanings that depend on the
difference in ethics between Protestant countries as opposed to the caritas of

Humanism in our countries. I may be wrong, but it seems to me a
consequence of what Walter Benjamin, a German, wrote in Capitalism as a
religion. Capitalism is a religion without dogmas and festivity offering no
redemption, a religion in which salvation is not contemplated and which
produces schuld as a result. I left schuld as it was written because in German
it means both guilt and debt. Nomen omen I would say. If I say debt, in
English or Italian I do not say guilt, I say a duty. In other languages also. In
ancient Greek it gets even more interesting. Debt was said chreos and, in the
Odyssey, Homer uses this word with the meaning of “common destiny”. In
those days money mattered less than thought and I don’t even want to think
that the author of the Iliad had such far-sightedness that he could have
foreseen Eurobonds.

Try to understand what is, by tradition and culture, the behaviour of those
who do not have even two different words to distinguish an economic
necessity from a moral fault.This is intuited by a young philosopher, a
German philosopher himself, Carlo Marx, who makes it an act of accusation
and points out this attitude as a possible way towards inhumanity, a society
screwed on itself and in the grip of a delirium that produces no ethics other
than profit because getting rich is the will of God’s grace that has chosen the
right man.

Humanism, the culture of our Renaissance, unpredictable and explosive like
the artists who represented it, is opposed to the inflexibility of the dogma. The
man deprived of free will has no choice. His actions are not autonomous
choices, and humanity is divided into those who are predestined and those
who are not, recognizing the former by their successes on earth. This intuition
is of another German: Max Weber who studied Calvinist ethics as a
precondition for the development of capitalism. The grace of God is upon me
if I am in a position to do more and more works. As you see, it is wrong to say

that in the countries of northern Europe they do not give the same meaning
together as we do, those who studied a lot of philosophy understood this and

There is another linguistic expression that distinguishes South from North.
The host. Whether one goes as a guest or receives a host, the word we use
is always the same. It comes from Latin where hostes: the foreigner with the
same rights as the Roman and hospes: the most sacred of man’s attitudes:
hospitality, have only one letter of difference. The fact that we use only one
word for both actions only means that in our Greek-Roman culture, the
mutuality of relationships is an attitude, innate heritage of man (philoxenia in
Greek). It is not so in northern Europe where there are two words and the
mutuality of actions is not contemplated. In the VI Iliadic Chant Diomedes and
Glaucus are about to start a duel when they discover that their ancestors had
been guests of each other. The fight stops and the two exchange their
respective armour. Homer points out that the economic value of the two gifts
was unequal, which gives the symbolic value an ethical significance for
posterity. The power of storytellers.

I immediately dismiss the idea that I can argue that one ethic may be superior
to the other. In the Calvinist world, the computer disaster of the INPS module
(the computer system that managed the subsidy application form crashed)
would never have been attributed to a metaphysical entity like the hacker, but
to organizational responsibility, incompetence and superficiality.An amateur
doesn’t even know what he’s saying: 100 hits per second don’t disrupt a
public system. Would you entrust these same people with the financing of
the future organization? The northern countries we are criticising voted, and
paid the subsidies to the workers in three days. Proved by an Italian
colleague who works in Berlin.

But that said, debt means duty. In Italy, figures voted by the people and
therefore authorized by the people, who tell fairy tales that the people
themselves, or at least the party that shares their ways, believe in, run around
undisturbed. They speak of public money as a bottomless well to draw on
without rules and without a destination. You must give it to me because it is
better for you, they seem to say to the international authorities. If he followed
these methods, it wouldn’t be called financing, but “pizzo”. You have to build
credibility, not with men, but with facts. We need a project of spending, the
day after demands it, the prestige of Italy demands it. Those who pay have
the right to know why they do so, and all the children who are currently
drinking milk from their mothers’ breasts have the right to do so; it is they who
will pay the debt we are about to incur. Those who finance do not tolerate tax
evasion, but nor do they imagine financing electoral campaigns instead of the
hydrogeological reorganization of Sicily, the anti-seismic engineering of the
municipalities of the Apennines and the safeguarding and cultural heritage
from which to draw the stories for a European identity with solid roots.
These are the days to write the score for the day after, with which to present
Italy with the place it deserves among the great European composers, then
the scores of the individual masters to study and a conductor who
reconstructs the colours with his interpretation. The crisis of politics is a crisis
of political culture of the ruling class, we know and too many times we have
said it, The thinking minds, the arts and sciences, the world of culture
withdrew into the house long before the pandemic, now we have to let out our
thoughts, today, is an act of patriotism.

Another statement I often hear is that after all, Cristine Lagarde did everything
she could for the rebirth of Europe and that there is a lot of money to support
public spending. I don’t doubt it, in tranches and under pressure, but she did
it. I have two considerations to make. One is that Europe cannot be identified
with a bank. The bank manages and safeguards money, if Europe were just
money then even a convinced Europeanist like me could change his mind. I

believe Altiero Spinelli, who, moreover, in a speech on the direct election of
the European Parliament, had taken it into account that everything could fail.

Europe will not be the Europe of the right or left, of socialism or capitalism, of
some countries or of others, or it will either be wanted by strong and
conscious majorities or it will not be.

A Europe of peoples, whose institutions will make the voice of politics heard,
and not just that of bankers and interests. Here too, a clarification must be
made. If the funds that Europe will make available to resurrect are sufficient
and dedicated to supporting public spending, then we must run, RUN to
change the foundations of the organisation of our public administration
because otherwise we risk indebting our grandchildren without resolving
Our public administration has been jammed for years, churning out and
applying tangles and tangles of procedures which only serve to keep those
who apply them alive and which have the function of holding back, stopping
and degrading the quality of the products placed on the market. We see it
every day.
Every day every citizen has contact with his administration, I would like us to
hear: What do you need? What do we need to do? What is your purpose?
Instead just: Fill in the form, apply. The administration of the state is a great
protocol of the useless and, mind you, I am not at all angry with the
bureaucracy that defines an essential structure to make a state work. I’m
angry with the idiocy and the practice of escaping responsibility.

Public administration is a blocked engine. The capital we’re about to get is the
fuel to restart the country. Would you put gasoline in a broken engine? No.
You’d get it fixed first. Then you have to get rid of the useless parts that flood
it, clean it out of the parasitic grass at a price of providing a salary for some of
the staff to stay at home. It’s their work that stops the engine. You have to
serve the needs of what needs to be done and not slave the need to the

procedure in place. All this has a lethal aggravating circumstance: the day
after, which someone with credibility, certainly not me, will have to explain to
the public administration the existence of the digital environment. There are
those who believe that the digital is the social media, that the digitisation of
cultural heritage is a scanner, that online culture is entertainment. The Day
After must also clarify this. In 1996, the writer was experimenting with the first
digital applications and the first network appearances on behalf of ENI, which
had sensed the power of the revolution. I went to the USA with my
collaborators to follow a conference and a seminar of Disney, they were very
clear, nothing will be the same as before, they started, and with a typically
American pragmatism they said: if you have a lot of money try to change your
collaborators’ heads, but if you have little money change collaborators before
you fail.
Aristotle didn’t know it digitally, but, paraphrasing his metaphysics, it will be
possible to explain to our officials that splitting a business into elementary
components and managing them as separate tasks worked in Ford’s time,
today leads to failure even if it is foreseen by the procedure.

The interdependence of functions brings design back to the centre,
preparation becomes the main instance where maximum cost containment is
achieved. It is necessary to do what suits the objective by assuming
responsibility and not to produce perfectly signed and stamped forms that
become the purpose of the public traction operating unit. Today we are
competing on quality that cannot be rejected by bureaucracy, disoriented by
the incompetence and laziness of civil servants. The digital environment does
not conceive of fossilisations, it does not allow a procedure invented for the
assembly line to survive today. We can no longer afford to allow procedures
to survive by ignoring products. Above all, we cannot act in the digital
environment ignoring the ethics of responsibility. Every employee of any value
chain at any level. From the day after, he will no longer be able to say: “I sent
the email” to justify himself by downloading his conscience, act and not do,

his task will only be to know how to solve a problem responsible for any
failure and proud of the opposite.
I believe that the road will be long and difficult, but it will be the first step. With
the organization of the current state the post fairy resurgence remains a
chimera and getting into debt becomes useless.

To conclude, we could create a section to discuss the day after and how to
reorganise the sectors. The pandemic has highlighted our strengths:
improvisation skills, creativity, enthusiasm, heart and our weaknesses,
improvisation, the need to create in an emergency, the need to win with
enthusiasm and with the heart the organizational paralysis. the lyrics of the
song I started with make it clear to Europe: whoever loses the other has lost
the whole world. What we have understood I would like to be able to compare
it with other people and I would like Moondo to be part of the debate.

A new section

Among the many doubts that plague my mind, just like yours these days, I have only one certainty: when we return to everyday life, nothing will be the same as before. We are facing a challenge that is reductive to call it organizational, it is a philosophical challenge, it is the vision of the world that will change and on which we will have to build the new. And if tomorrow… and I stress “if” is a new column (the title is taken from the verses of a song very popular in Italy) that is open to contributions from intellectuals, scientists, artists, from all over Europe. Follow us and send us your impressions which we will publish periodically with the intention of creating an anthology of ideas.

Giampaolo Sodano

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