Evoking Godot, Ionesco's theater, is objectively little. From the strategy of fear to the Manionian cries of the ordinances, from the news and people leaks on the evening of March 7th to the controversy over the departure of the children on the 31st, from the Prime Minister's indecisionism to the arm wrestling with the governors of Campania and Lombardy, Enzo De Luca and Attilio Fontana, trying to politically reconstruct the emergency film, putting the main passages of the forty-five days behind us, the enveloping of fear and decrees, infected and interpretations, pandemic and ordinances, brings with it all the sense of estrangement for this unprecedented phase of history that the government is managing.
And here, just to start somewhere, you can take this very flap: History. “We are writing a history book, not an economics manual,” said the premier the other day, in an interview with German TV. Giuseppe Conte, it must be said, with this matter of history he is rather connected, attuned. “History does not wait, you have to live up to it,” he wrote on Twitter on March 28. “I will not go down in history for those who have not fought: I will fight to the end for a European solution,” he said shortly before in the press conference from Palazzo Chigi, commenting on the EU Commission's no to the crown bonds. “Will we be up to it? History will judge us, the time will come for budgets, “he said on March 25 during the information in the Chamber. In short, he thinks about history continuously. Yet already reconstructing history in itself, without a capital “S”, and without judgments, is at least complex.
It can technically begin with the decree proclaiming the emergency on January 31stfor six months, following the World Health Organization emergency declaration and the discovery of the first two Chinese infected in Italy. Nothing in particular, in itself the event is little more than an obligatory and preventive passage, “in stamp” – as those attending Palazzo Chigi also explain today – which is prepared every time an emergency of any type. In short, it is a foundation on which to eventually build the building of the interventions.
The problem is, if anything, that for a long time that building is not really built: the government makes decisions like the one (later contested) to close direct flights with China, but little else. Until the end of February, it makes civil protection move more than anything else. The day of Conte's famous 16 appearances on TV, including the one with Barbara D'Urso who calls him tu (with the unforgettable “I'll call you premier”, “go ahead”), and the under belly announcing “Morgan shortly he will submit to the lie detector, ”is February 23, three weeks later. On the same day is the first Dpcm, the Prime Minister's decree establishing the first red zones. In Codogno the so-called “patient one” was hospitalized three days earlier, on February 20 (after having first appeared on the 18th): in the newspapers of the 21st there is hardly any news, accompanied, moreover, by that of the repatriation of the Italians stranded on the Diamond princess from Japan. There are ministers to welcome them, “without masks” highlight the news in order to reassure – just to say what the climate was like.
At that moment the premier behaves like a centometrist, as with the idea that everything will be resolved within fifteen days. For example, it is he who goes to Civil Protection, and not vice versa, as will happen later. He shows up on TV to “put his face on”, as he will say later. In the newspapers, moreover, until the day of patient one, there was talk of a new government, there was even an audio circulating on a “Conte ter”, but also a hypothesis Mario Draghi, Matteo Renzi seemed ready to drop everything (as he will begin again do as soon as the emergency is fierce, experts of the subject whisper).
In short, Conte was not the only one who hadn't framed, quite the opposite. If the New York Times recalled that the government was still hosting a Chinese delegation in Santa Cecilia on January 21st with a concert to inaugurate the year of culture and tourism between the two countries, it can be easily remembered that it was even March 4th – that is, students from all over Italy left school for the last regular day before the lockdown – when Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio had lunch in Rome with the French ambassador Christian Masset, at the Sorbillo pizzeria in Piazza Augusto Imperatore, as a gesture of reconciliation after the Canal plus video on the “corona” pizza, with a great crowd of staff and journalists and photographers. Not so many days before, on February 27, the Italy-France summit had been celebrated in Naples, with handshakes and tours of the city of Macron with the Italian premier.
It actually represents, that day 27, the peak of the apparently hallucinatory attempt to return to normal today: the mayor Giuseppe Sala advertises the “Milan doesn't stop” campaign; dem secretary Nicola Zingaretti toasts with an aperitif (he will declare positive at Covid 10 days later); in Rome, the Nyt still remembers, Luigi Di Maio holds a press conference in which he declares that “we have gone from an epidemic risk to an infodemic in Italy”, in essence to a media exaggeration, explaining that in reality only “0.089 percent” of the population had been quarantined. It is in line with the premier: on the same day, at half past eight, Conte says: “We are very ready, we have adopted all possible and imaginable prevention protocols”.
A week has passed since Codogno's “patient one”, a week will pass before the decree of March 8 that will declare Lombardy a red zone, ten days before enlargement to the whole of Italy. It is precisely the two weeks in which the government, they say from the inside, “goes haywire” and does not take a step. To tell it in another way, those are the days when that “graduality” that Conte will claim as a strategy – explicitly in the video intervention of March 11 – when, with a drop rate of Chinese evening and night communications, ripens , first widens the red zone, then closes bars and restaurants, and gradually other commercial activities until the end of the month.
In fact, if you hear more than one voice about the mechanisms of government, you are witnessing this contemporary trend. On the one hand a fundamental prudence, more advocate than political, which translates into an “indecision” of the premier. Long phone calls with everyone. Suspended decisions. Clarifications to returned citizens. Half hours of discussions with the technicians, ministers and heads of delegation Dario Franceschini and Roberto Speranza, but also with Francesco Boccia, also a minister, but also a countryman, who has won a non-secondary role in the task force of the premier – unlike others dem who have tried without success as Enzo Amendola or Paola De Micheli. From the opposite end of Conte's indecision, there is the communication to Casalino, which is precisely effective: aggressive, straight, style “we are writing history”, just not to disturb the mechanisms of Big Brother for the umpteenth time.
So, they say, fear ends up being “the sentiment that acts as a red thread to the story of the emergency, and that covers the great initial defaillance” of the government. And here are the evening press conferences, the sudden announcements. And it is as if it were inverted parts, compared to the usual: it is the leader who bites the brake, the spokesman who dampens. Paolo Bonaiuti with Silvio Berlusconi. Filippo Sensi with Matteo Renzi. Here, here it seems to be the opposite. And at least on a couple of occasions are things – little hands unknown? – to push decisions forward. In the case of the closure of the school, announced on March 4 at lunchtime, but immediately denied by Minister Azzolina, and which became reality only at six in the evening. And, the same mechanism, in what is considered the biggest management flaw of the entire period: on the evening of March 7, when the draft of the Dpcm that establishes Lombardy as a red zone circulates and there are many fleeing from the station in Milan . A stampede that no law enforcement can stop because the decree is not official, and therefore is not operational. While he slips for hours the press conference of Conte, which arrives only at 2:30 in the morning. The management of that period of time, on which, as for another, the government will deal only with the emergency over, is still so burning that
push the spokesperson of the premier in person, Casalino, to release, on Monday 30 March, three weeks later, an interview with the Corriere
to say that he has nothing to do with the leak.
To prepare the famous decrees, in any case, it is as usual in Palazzo Chigi the head of the Dagl, Ermanno De Francisco, with the general secretary Roberto Chieppa, another man whom Conte trusts. Much moreover is written in Chigi, a place which, unlike the past, has retained centrality in this emergency. This too is not by chance. In fact, in the civil protection of the era of Borrelli, the rules of the Bertolaso era do not apply: at the time the ordinances were written in via Ulpiano or via Vitorchiano, the heart of civil protection. Now they are the result of a joint effort between the head of the Civil Protection, the super commissioner Domenico Arcuri, the head of the Dagl and the secretary general. Meetings from which Casalino enters and leaves, as it is natural to be – strange it would be if he were excluded. For its institutional role, even before that which in fact has carved itself into the political balance of Palazzo Chigi.
In addition to the uncertainty in the choices, which not infrequently end up propping up the heads of delegation and ministers, rather than the autonomous will of the premier, common factor is the absence of exclusive tasks, and prominent personalities. The same division of competences between Borrelli and Arcuri is proof of this. Nobody has too much margin. As well as the choice – on which Casalino's hand is still betting – to send the head of the Civil Protection every day on TV to read the emergency bulletin. Just him: a man who does not stand out for his mania for protagonism. A face that does not cast a shadow, for sure.
How does the Dalemian but transversal Arcuri, capable of remaining head of Invitalia since 2007 (practically a record)
, and at the same time, however, for 13 years not to take a step beyond that – at least before the fatal meeting with Conte. As no shadow does the Minister of Health Speranza, who immediately handed over any wish to be a protagonist to Conte himself.
In this panorama that is teeming with personalities at ease as good Atalanta players who have just joined Inter or Juventus, it is not surprising that at least a dozen should be navigated between decrees of the Prime Minister and law decrees, two Council resolutions of ministers, twenty orders from the head of civil protection, for a total of over 340 pages excluding lists, interpretative circulars and other orders (ministerial, regional, municipal). A complete immersion in a world of Manionian cries, of Queneau style exercises, in which, however, as was said at the beginning, there is a lot of thought about “writing history”.
Conte thinks about it today, the last Luigi Di Maio government thought about it, one who is now cautiously out of the way. As then from this story we will manage to get out, still not understood.