Wednesday, October 27

The evil of the century | Ideas

Poster of Forza italia, Berlusconi's party, for the elections to the European Parliament, in Rome, in 1994.
Poster of Forza italia, Berlusconi’s party, for the elections to the European Parliament, in Rome, in 1994.Franco Origlia / Getty Images

At times it seems that we have gone crazy. It seems as if we are more racist, xenophobic, sectarian, extremist, bigoted, and generally more stupid than some time ago. It seems like it, but no. I doubt that European societies have changed much.

Do we do a little memory? The Nazi hierarchies (the real ones, those of the extermination camps) remained embedded in the German administration until well into the 1970s. The Maghreb workers who immigrated to France, during the “30 glorious years” that followed the war, had personal data tattooed on one arm and slept in filthy barracks. Spanish emigrants in France, Germany or Switzerland endured humiliation and marginalization. Legalizations of divorce or abortion are relatively recent, especially in Spain, and led to intense discomfort in certain sectors. The turbulence and clashes have always been there.

Transfuguism, motions of no confidence, insults. The vicious loop of Spanish politics has no end

What has obviously changed is politics. Today it may be implausible, but until quite recently politicians assumed as a fundamental mission (in addition to reaching power and filling their pockets if possible) the preservation of social peace and they dedicated themselves, in general with little success, to solving problems . I am not talking about the famous Spanish transition, but about the exercise of power in the whole of the continent. The difficulties were considerable: decolonization, the economic crisis of the 1970s, the Cold War until 1989, the creation of the European Union. The ideological differences were actually much broader and fiercer than they are today. Nothing was easy.

The great novelty of the 21st century with respect to the day before yesterday is the incendiary policy. Politics as a conflict factory. The first politician of the contemporary era, Silvio Berlusconi, did things that until then were considered indecent (such as the integration into the government of fascist residues) and resorted to deception with a relish hitherto reserved for communist or military dictatorships, but, With his tipsy showman tone at a Miss Viterbo pageant, it was hardly noticed that he was destroying Italy’s precarious institutional fabric. Today Berlusconi almost elicits a smile. Any pedestrian politician of our day lies with more enthusiasm than old Cavaliere and, above all, exudes more hatred. Problems, which are always there, are no longer something that one way or another, one day or another, will have to be solved: now they must be aggravated and turned into existential tragedies, just as it is necessary to turn someone who thinks differently into a mortal enemy. , because it has been discovered (oh, great patented novelty exactly a century ago) that fear and hatred provide votes. I speak of vows out of habit. As it is becoming fashionable not to recognize adverse electoral results and, simultaneously, the idea that an electoral victory gives the right to absolutely everything spreads, the very basis of representative democracy suffers an erosion of bad prognosis.

Societies are fragile. The overwhelming flow of information (true or false) stimulates our paranoid tendencies. Politicians who put out fires would be convenient. Increasingly, however, those who should act as a firefighter are acting as arsonist. Is power so attractive as to justify so much destruction?

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