Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pivot or Persevere

Pan di sudore, miglior sapore

The messages emanating from the Italian peninsula in recent days have been ones of concern for their future and whether or not the average Italian will be able to live a life as their father and grandfather have. The reality is that the life their father and especially their grandfather lived wasn’t a bed of roses. Funny how the human mind forgets history so fast. Thankfully the human heart is there to redirect the course of one’s life. And in the average Italian’s life here is what I see.

I see that the world is no longer a place where one can work until 60 and then retire for the next 25 years in pursuit of leisure and pleasure. Those days are gone. They do not even seem right to me, for as we are here on earth for a short time, why spend the final 30% of one’s life resting when that is what one most likely will be doing for all eternity? Find a cause, help someone, make a difference. Pivot.

I see strikes in Italy as we had in the 1970’s making a comeback. Sciopero is once again in fashion, like skinny jeans. Wonderful. So what to do about it? If one is dependent on things like public transportation, not much. One might find a way to get to a place in a car. But with the new levies of fuel, effectively setting the base price of gas at $10 a gallon, that might not be a solution for everyone. For the folks with millions, the ones who won’t like it but will carry on driving their Bugatti (with an effective registration fee of over $100,000 a year) or their Ferrari, it will be an irritation. But it won't be a deal breaker. Both sets of problems and the people who have them will most likely have to persevere.

Already I am seeing folks coming out with price increases, effective Jan 1, 2012. These increases most likely are being drudged up because folks have absorbed the higher costs of energy, the reduced flow of capital into the hands of the average Italian. Or the lower profits that folks who are exposed with property and product and must move the juice. My sense is this: If the increases are negligible, commerce will not be disrupted. But if a country like the USA absorbs the increases and life goes on, and then there is a transportation strike and the flow of products is interrupted, be ready for a howl from the front line – the folks who drink the stuff. Or watch the demand dry up. Instantly. I have seen this cycle many times now in the last 30 years. But as I said above, the human mind forgets history. This time on the receiving end, the reality is this: the spendable dollars are less for the average American. And there are options from other parts of the world. Just wait until China starts sending their wine to America. I will say this to anyone in Italy who might be reading or listening or who gives a damn about their economic future in the USA, which at this time is the largest consuming country of wine in the world: If you ask America to persevere and they don’t, be prepared to pivot – in a nanosecond.

I have written tirelessly on this site for years about what I think the Italian should do or not do. And in this time I have seen an evolution of the way Italy goes to market. I will take no credit for that progress, as I am on a relatively minor river looking at the flow, and know my place. I love Italy and her people and her wines and as stated many times before, I have burned the boat, I am here, and here to help. An ambassador who will never get called back for the simple reason that there is no going back. I will persevere.

Lastly, this wine material is a product of earth, an agricultural process. It is affected by everything around it, as we are. It is within the realm of the Italian psyche to be sensitive to this. It’s what makes Italy so special, to me and millions of us throughout history. Please do not lose that special characteristic in these challenging times. I guess what I am really saying isn’t that you should be prepared to pivot or persevere. It really looks like all of us, in 2012 and for a time, will need to be ready to pivot and persevere.


obillo said...

Your most important point is that life in Italy hasn't always been what many outsiders think it was. The Italy of today has existed only since about the 1960s and the 'economic miracle.' Before that? Suffice to say that endemic poverty, social immobility and many other problems were such that 4 million Italians fled to the U.S. from 1880 to 1920 (and there would have been many more but for restrictive immigration laws)and that by 1940 Italians made up nearly 45% of the population of Argentina.

Anonymous said...

I find myself wondering, again and again, what and where you would be writing if you had chosen THAT profession 30 years ago. Like so many of your posts that set your blog apart from the millions, this both informs and inspires. Thanks so much.

gianpaolo paglia said...

my father was a Carabiniere, and my mother a housewife. Both with little education, and money, ca va sans dire. When they decided to venture into business, 30 years go, the inflation in Italy was more than 20%, and getting a loan from a bank was nearly impossible for people like them. I don't know what most of the people are talking about when they refer tomthe "good old times", Italy only 30 years ago was more backward than now, it had severe problem of terrorism. The average life expetancy of a goverment was less than a year, secret services were constantly trying to twist the democratic processes. Organised crime was a problem before, like it is a problem now, but at leat there aren't many people today saying that "the mafia, doesn't exist". It is a country with many problems, most of them linked to the troubled history this old country has had, but it is also a country with formidable resources, inventivness, vision, and passion for life. It needs to find the bricks to build self confidence, modernisation, and open itself to the world and to the future. Younger generations of Italians are more exposed to the rest of the world, they speak foreign languages, they see how people live outside Italy, and compare it. I have no doubts that our country will re-emerge from this crisis, that is not only a financial crisis, stronger than before, if we can remove the breaks that have slowed us down for so long. It is amazing when you think what this small country has given to the world in the course of the history, I've got no doubts that we'll keep doing that again.

A.M. said...

I'm in agreement with the comment posted by Anon--yet another informative and inspiring post, and also, I'd like to add, eloquent. Well done.

On a side note, both of my grandfathers emigrated to the US as a result of the endemic poverty Obillo mentions. On the Bodoira side, half of the brothers emigrated to Argentina and the other half to the US. Though I did not live it, their struggle, and the loss of familial connection resulting from that geographical partitioning resonates with me. What else might have been lost, culturally and otherwise, with the exodus of that 45%?

Alfonso Cevola said...

thanks, all, for the wonderful comments, Obillo, anon (Kim),GP and AM

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