As with the myth of Sisyphus, people feel they are under the illusion that they are leaving a crisis behind them only to find themselves thrown back down again by the onset of a new crisis. Crisis polyphony and Sisyphus syndrome, therefore, are the two traits that mark the current phase.
A convergent polyphony in which at least seven different typologies of crises converge:
- Inflationary pressure, shortages of raw materials and rising energy costs, which hit people's wallets, projects and dreams. Inflation has risen to the rank of #2 worry in Italy during 2022, standing at 30% in April 2023. Italy’s energy infrastructure and industries are especially dependent on imports of natural gas, whose price skyrocketed at the beginning of the war in Ukraine.
- The advancing climate crisis illustrated, among many other signals, by the floods in Romagna, the need to profoundly change the development model, established consumerist habits, and to finally invest in the reforms Italy direly needs.
- The roar of the guns, the fear of nuclear conflict, the increase in world tensions between the West and the New East, the sirens of new conflicts in the Balkans. Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani recently told a hearing of the joint committees of foreign affairs of parliament that the Western Balkans are key for migration to Italy. Italy has been a major destination for immigrants and refugees, from or through the Balkans, since the 1990s.
- The accentuation of tensions between global and local, between North and South, especially the tensions engendered by the continual flow of migrants across the Mediterranean both inside Italy and between Italy and other EU member states.
- Technological evolution, with the rise of robotics and artificial intelligence (Italy’s recent ban on Chat GPT having signalled the high level of concerns among the elite), which calls into question acquired stability and, in the short term, jobs.
- The nostalgic retreat, in search of solid identity anchors, and the accompanying resurgence of populistic and chauvinistic political movements. The 2022 general election brought to power a party descending from the post-war neo-fascist movement (Brothers of Italy, named after the Republic’s national anthem).
- The persistence of Covid and the threat of new pandemics. Italy was hit harder and earlier than neighbouring countries by the covid pandemic, which revealed the country’s particular vulnerability (aged population, stretched healthcare services and presence of many tourists from all the over the world).
This succession and overlapping of pressure factors demand a constant effort to adapt and redesign people’s perspectives. Like new Sisyphus’, people feel they pushed the covid boulder as far as possible but, approaching the summit, the boulder rolled back down with the outbreak of war in Ukraine and the return of inflation.
However, the Sisyphus syndrome is not a feeling of surrender, it is a tenacious spirit of endurance and will to recover. As in a football match with an aggressive opponent, you stand in your own half of the field, you make a chain (catenaccio) to close all gaps so as not to suffer further blows, ready, however, to counterattack, to look for strategies for recovery and pushes for change, ready for new goals.
That is basically what happened in 2022 with the adoption of Italy’s recovery and resilience plan whose professed ambition is to “make Italy future ready”. The plan consists of 132 investments and 58 reforms. They will be supported by €68.9 billion in grants and €122.6 billion in loans; 37.5% of the plan will support climate objectives and 25.1% of the plan will support the digital transition.
The country's picture has thus lights and shadows, tensions and pernicious social dynamics, but also propulsions and paths of adjustment and exit.
Blocked social mobility means that Italy is a two-speed nation with both included and excluded population segments, with an enduring crisis of the elites and populistic instincts. At the same time, propulsive drives are rising, for the protection of the environment and the fight against climate change; realignments and new paradigms assert themselves in the area of consumption; there is no shortage of drives for lightness, the search for pleasure and taste, the need for uniqueness and authenticity, new desires for unity, for communality, for warm networking, for reweaving social ties, not only to leave no one behind, but also to give Italy a new dimension of life and future.
Sisyphus is never still, never tame. As Albert Camus used to say when speaking of the myth of Sisyphus; “In the struggle to the top a person's heart can be filled”. Sisyphus' labours have the dimension of a permanent transition, with no end.
This is why Italy is playing catenaccio, in which the defence is a prelude to attack, redesigning policies, industries, brands and consumption, maintaining spaces of pleasure, lightness and playfulness. It is a country that in the face of converging crises does not want to stop fighting, does not want to give up its dreams, but adapts, moves, shifts and strategically transforms certain elements of its legacy, changes the paradigms of production and consumption, with the certainty that the transition remains, infinite, permanent: a work never completed, but a match that is never lost.
Table of content
- An introduction to Flair Italy 2023: Catenaccio
- ESG investment: From 'ideals' to concreteness
- Food: Recipes for the future
- Fashion: Opportunities and challenges in 2023
- Green mobility: Cities as a laboratory for tomorrow’s mobility
- Tourism: Holidays, inflation and luxury
- Generations - Beauty boom: stereotypes, myths and reality