23 September 2022 in Dossier The Challenges of the European Union, Geopolitics


To say that never before has the national election campaign been as depressing as this year is a platitude. After the 5 Star Movement, in over ten years of fervour, has managed to destroy the credibility of everything – moreover, with the guilty support of all the parties on the pitch – this is what is left of politics: the debate that will permeate the coming years. Another platitude.

If Sparta cries, Athens does not laugh. The situation in the UK, Germany, Sweden, France, Holland, Austria and Switzerland is no different. Everywhere, the end of Mazzini’s and Risorgimento-style liberal democracy has overwhelmed the very institution of democracy – which is the personal and conscious participation of citizens in the welfare of the state. In the post-World War II period, this participation was filtered through the classical parties (Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, Liberals and Fascists), which were present in almost every country. But this phase is over. The parable of the ecologists was the last great flame, then there was only populism.

There was a period in which self-generated movements from social ferment, such as the sardines, the rainbows and the yellow waistcoats, concentrated their focus on a few points, bypassing the electoral formations we call parties (which they no longer are). But they were all defeated, even when they won – because, unlike the Five Star Movement, which started out as a religious sect and then turned into a business committee for brawlers, the particularistic movements lacked an overall vision of society. And in complex societies, such as ours, important issues cannot be addressed (let alone resolved) except in the more general context.

Life is linear, but society is complex and contradictory. The human being is capable of emotional outbursts and flashes of genius, the mass is loneliness plus frustration plus envy. If ever there was a hippie movement, it failed after just one summer in the face of this realisation: in the meadow of Yasgur’s farm at Woodstock, hundreds of thousands of young people were prepared to live for three days in inhuman conditions in order to prove something. A few months later, on the Isle of Wight, poor Joni Mitchell was forced to insult the crowd: you are all tourists.

This is what we have become. Egotistical tourists in an alien society. We are only interested in reality if it has a good soundtrack, has little advertising and lasts no more than 50 minutes. The rest is a car journey, binge eating, winking at the partner on duty and stimulation of this or that body part. All with one aim: to renounce, in an aesthetically acceptable way, awareness and co-responsibility.

But be careful with moralism, mine first. Not everything that existed before was good, not everything we have today is bad. Today, to get a project off the ground, one no longer needs billions and unconfessable backing, which will one day become the stone with which to hang change. Apart from Putin, the forces of reaction are no longer cannonballing the Janiculum, and nobody is shooting at John Fitzgerald Kennedy any more, provided he stops. On the contrary, today we also know unheroic truths about those events, and we know that the capacity of power to impose its version is almost infinite, because the vast majority of the population just wants to be left alone.

By dint of wanting to simplify, today the difference between Letta’s Christian Democrats and Meloni’s Neo-Fascist is in the clothes. For the rest: calmness on TV, shouting at rallies, positions that chase, every day, the possible change of mood of the stampeding herd. This opens up almost unlimited political space and, if I were 30 years younger, would be the spur to rebuild the fence from which the oxen were driven away at the fake end of the Cold War. A fence made of clear, documented theses, complete with footnotes at the bottom of the page – because the clever ones, today, check, and you can’t just invent statistics there and then, like the politicians of yesteryear used to do.

In this enclosure, initially, there will be few people. In 1815, anyone who had bet on the birth of an Italian nation, which, moreover, would be democratically administered, would have been laughing fools. In 1944 anyone who had bet on the unshakeable friendship of two pacifist countries like France and Germany would have been rushed to an asylum. The world is changing drop by drop. Whichever government emerges from this vote, it will choke on the immense economic and energy crisis and pandemic of this winter. The real game has not yet begun.


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