“Dear President, there are things no one can stand…”. That is the opening line of a letter addressed to the Head of the Italian State, Sergio Mattarella, whose author is Augusto Orlando, a 60-year-old man who is “proud of being an Italian citizen”. For the last seven years, he “has been living and surviving thanks to his faith in God”: “seven years of unemployment and all sorts of privations.” For seven years – he wrote in a complaint to the Prosecutor’s Office – all the competent institutional sectors “denied his constitutional rights”.
Unfortunately, many other people – whose number keeps growing – have similar stories, citizens who have lost their jobs and are not entitled to a pension because of the Fornero Law. Too many of them have not been able to endure and survive, and killed themselves. Over 4 thousand suicides happened since the crisis began. One out of two of them is due to economic reasons.
For almost a year, since May 2015, Montecitorio square has been Augusto’s new home. He stays there, surviving thanks passersby’s alms, after having read the short description of his condition, without pietism, complaints, nor resignation, with dignity. In the general indifference of the parliamentarians who have paid daily meals for an amount of over 21 € at our expense. Augusto, out there, occasionally accepts a sandwich or something hot a generous passerby gives him. “I live thanks to the small things they give me,” he told In Terris.” Becayse of Fornero Law, I am not entitled to unemployment benefits, hence I am supposed to wait until I turn 67 years, six months and one day to receive the retirement pension.” After having paid taxes for 26 years, he is forced to beg in order to survive, with no income, no compensation from the State, nor hope to enter the world of work again, at an age when one is supposed to leave it with decency.
“It is a death sentence,” he says. He lost his job, retirement pension, and house. The administration of Montorio, the place where he used to live, answered him that “they did not have available funds, nor could they offer him financial or employment support”, inviting Augusto to “seek for a job abroad.”
The Presidency of the Republic has “reassured” the man that his case would have been examined with due “attention”, “involving even the Prefecture of Rome”. They also expressed their “hope that Augusto’s problems can find a positive solution” and invited him “not to give up”. This attention is an achievement. Hundreds of thousands of people are currently in the same situation. So much so that even the most sensitive authorities responsible for his problems can only answer with empathy, a feeling of solidarity, but also with a complete denial as to any possibility of actual help. Always with the same motivation: the crisis affects everyone and does not spare anyone. It is like a game of Russian roulette, where those who survive thank God and pity those who have been unluckier.
“I do not like making promises, what I can do instead, is listen and understand what you can do. We live in times of great transition and acute economic and political crisis. All of us are exposed to losing their job, identity, social recognition, and others’ appreciation” was the answer he received from an executive of the Province of Rome. Whereas the latter continues the socio-economic analysis of today’s Italy “in the eye of the transition cyclone: people over 50, even with good professions, who lose everything in a year or in six months. All they are left with is desert and desolation”. So, the head of the hiring hall has invited Augusto to ask help from a parish. Like in Middle Ages, the Church has to make up for the incompetence of the public institutions also in the third millennium. It is an insult to the claims of secularism in the name of civilization, which is all too often invoked by easy anticlericalism. These people do not recognize the irreplaceable social function of the Church in facing and solving emergencies, while the State delegates this responsibility to it (often entirely).
In Italy, unemployment benefits for over two years are unavailable and a minimum income, which is recognized in almost all other European countries for those who have lost their jobs or are unable to find one, is still not guaranteed to everyone in Italy. Along with Greece, we are the only ones still lagging behind. Unemployment means poverty and despair in Italy, for some people it means even death (not only spiritual and social). According to data provided by the Suicides Observatory of the Link Campus University of Rome, directed by the sociologist Nicholas Ferrigni, the number of those who killed themselves due to economic reasons or have attempted to do so has doubled in 2015 with respect to the year before. In May 2012, the widows of 70 entrepreneurs who had committed suicide in the first four months of the year have marched on the streets of Bologna, obtaining a few lines of attention in newspapers and on TV. Yet, the media are mostly silent about these daily dramas, which are State crimes committed by a State that is unable to fulfill its own functions: ensure and promote the welfare of the citizens and of the community. This State declares its bankruptcy and relies on charity.