The bipolar system of hatred that must be opposed through culture
Andrea Riccardi 19 October 2009

This article was published by the Corriere della Sera on October 14th 2009. Andrea Riccardi is a member of the Resetdoc Scientific Committee

There are many problems in today’s Italy. However, if one really wishes to address these problems there is one fundamental issue at stake, the atmosphere of the political debate. In the course of its history Italy has become accustomed to dramatic discussions. During the post World War Two period the country found itself at a crossroad between two viewpoints of the world within the geopolitics of the Cold War. Decades have passed since the dizzy heights of those epoch-making choices and yet the political atmosphere is poisonous. Quite correctly, Giuseppe De Rita, spoke yesterday of a “dead-end road of antagonism.” Let it be clear, there is no fear of strong debates. On this subject Luigi Einaudi wrote “Ideas arise from conflict.” Now there is a need to return to ideas going beyond the bonfires that light up the national scenario. When the fires go out, darkness returns. Berlusconi is in power, supported by a significant majority. A large number of Italians voted for this majority. How should the opposition act? But also, how should the majority debate with the opposition? There is the problem involving the various political subjects.

A Right that holds congresses at which politics cannot be discussed and a Left permanently campaigning so as to choose a leader. Use of the media risks transforming politicians into actors reciting a role. There are short-term effects, but the long-term ones are an over-dramatization of politics. The bipolar system was instituted to put an end to unstable majorities, and to at last govern with control exercised by the opposition. Italy’s reality is far from this. The right blames the opposition and the opposition poisons the atmosphere. According to the Left, the real problem is the anomaly of this premier. I do not wish to seem irenical, but there is something more serious, almost a tragic destiny, a bipolar system of hatred one cannot avoid and that is hard to escape. An element that infiltrates and becomes a founding element of many aspects of Italian life. The antagonism present in the public sphere is also visible in social life. Ours is an angry and anxious country. Due to the crisis experienced by the great political and social networks, the decomposition induced by neo- techno-capitalism, people live isolated lives or at best stay within the family circle.

Hence the emotive dimension of individuals has become amplified, alone in front of a TV set, reacting to symbolic-personalities and events. However, after the excitement one returns to experience the depression caused by irrelevance, at times demanding that the media should revive one’s emotions. In the meantime the country is suffering due to the economic crisis and moving towards a federalism that will profoundly change the landscape Italians have been accustomed to living in. The South still feels insecure and, above all, Italy no longer has a sense of its role within the great world after the privilege of hosting what was probably the last G8, an event that placed the country still on the list of important ones. Today Italy discovers itself as a smaller nation and one more needy of projection towards the future. Is the situation is as dangerous as it was during the Seventies? There is no ideological poison expressing the unease of individuals. The lone and crazy kamikaze, Mohammed Game found this is extremism. Luckily this is not the story of many Italians although they do experience intense anger.

The bipolar system of hatred is linked to a daily practice of antagonism, which frays the fragile bonds of social life. Social hatred circulates beyond its original objective following unpredictable paths. It has turned against immigrants, people we need. It moves in many directions. There is too much aggressiveness in our society, as one can observe seeing the number of crimes committed within a domestic environment. Society needs peace. This means not so much hope, but the beginning of real research on possible paths leading to a “common good.” It means aiming high and re-establishing the political debate. But all that is not enough. Speaking ill of politicians has become the national sport, practiced also by politicians themselves (who do this as if speaking of others). The fragility of politics is equal to that of culture, certainly humiliated, but at times also one-sided or locked within its precious workshops. In this sense, the trend seen in some sectors of national life, to invest more in a perspective reflection, appears to be meaningful. An example in fact has been set by President Napolitano personally with politics linked to culture. Returning to Einaudi, he wrote “New ideas do not stand up for themselves and do not allow one to triumph in Parliament. New ideas are born in books, in magazines; they spread through the press and result in associations…” I believe that there are responsibilities for the ideas of a country in which many cannot find others to debate with and remain prisoners of their own emotions. To reason, to discuss and to involve others in debates seems the only path possible so as to give hope to Italians and ensure they become passionate about their future and that of their country.

Translated by Francesca Simmons