Monday, March 27, 2023

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Lost duties

“Democracy is not free. The costs of staying free” by Luciano Violante read by Tullio Fazzolari

“Democracy is not free. The costs of staying free” by Luciano Violante (Marsilio, 120 pages, 14 euros) deals with a topic that hardly anyone wants to talk about. And perhaps it is not incorrect to say that it is a moral issue. The mass media don't deal with it because it doesn't only involve politics, corruption or famous people and therefore it doesn't make news. But that doesn't mean it's a less serious problem at all. The dark evil that Violante brings out lies in the behavior of all of us in an age that thinks it lives and thrives with wrong ethical values. In a somewhat irreverent way, it could be explained with that parlor game in which one word must be answered with another which logically seems to constitute the most appropriate combination.

But if today we say "rights" as an answer, we will receive many adjectives and hardly that noun "duties" as the civic sense and also our Constitution would like. It is the symptom of an individualistic and selfish mentality according to which everything is due but nothing must be given. Rampant ignorance makes us forget that freedom and democracy are never irreversible conquests but must be protected and defended and that this involves some renunciation of one's claims in favor of collective well-being. It is an uncomfortable truth that will hardly be heard enunciated by political leaders who are always chasing consensus. Luckily Luciano Violante has no such qualms. And it can be remembered that he did not even have them in the years of his parliamentary experience. "Democracy is not free" is above all a complete description of what is happening in the world and in fact represents a danger to freedom.

Indifference and populism (which are basically two sides of the same coin) are successful in various countries precisely by leveraging individual selfishness. A serious threat is represented by the so-called "elective tyrannies": from Russia to Turkey, heads of state legitimized by the popular vote feel they are indisputable custodians of the Good and therefore capable of changing the rules in an authoritarian sense. The fact is today that 70 percent of the world does not have democratic governments and that the other 30 percent are also experiencing difficult days. The assault on Capitol Hill has raised fears for American institutions. France has a president with no majority in parliament. And the UK changed three governments in just a few days. These are signals that can no longer be answered as done so far with banality. Among the urban legends that have proved unfounded there is also the one that economic growth would be the way to have more rights. Recent history (see Turkey) demonstrates that greater prosperity does not mean greater democracy at all.

Only one solution remains and it is the one suggested by Luciano Violante's book: to be aware that freedom is a collective good and involves some individual renunciation. It is an epochal change of mentality. But, as Giacomo Ulivi wrote, a young hero of the Resistance, shortly before being shot, we need to redo ourselves in order to be able to do all the rest.

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL on Sat, 18 Mar 2023 08:05:46 +0000.