Featured

Social media as virtual temple

by Carlo Pizzati

Is the rapidly rising trend of talking to the dead online the millennial way of seeing the Internet as god?

There are at least 30 million dead people on Facebook right now. Every day, 8,000 Facebook members die. By 2060, there could be more deceased people on Facebook than those who are alive. By then, we may be communicating in completely new ways and social networks might exist only as anachronistic testaments of a bygone technological phase — a digital graveyard of a forgotten past.

As we head into this possible future, it’s evident that a growing number of people are already talking to the dead on social media. And the way in which they communicate with the deceased is altering how we relate to the ideas of loss of our loved ones and to the idea of an afterlife. More importantly, this behaviour increasingly identifies the Internet with the notion of what is divine, sacred and holy.

This phenomenon re-emerged distinctly with the recent deaths of writer V.S. Naipaul and singer Aretha Franklin. Hundreds of authors, intellectuals and admirers gushed their grief all over their timelines, invoking the great lessons of the master and the powerful voice of the singer, often addressing the deceased stars in the second person. “You who taught us so much…”, “You who sang so heavenly…”, and so on.

It’s nothing more than an understandable variation of public mourning, one might say. But there are more serious implications in this common behaviour.16SM-P1-CARLOGTR4M2II61jpgjpg.jpg

The necromancers

Talking to the dead must have been a strong need since the early days of humanity. According to psychologist Julian Jaynes, the very first concept of god originated when an ancient tribe began to worship the decaying corpses of a king and queen. The royals were buried in their hut, sitting upright as they decomposed. At some point, someone heard their voices still imparting orders from a great beyond. And began to worship the inanimate bodies as deities.

All religions, to varying degrees, claim different ways of communicating with the afterlife. Orpheus is always descending into some inferno; Lila is always hoping to be reunited with her dead king, as narrated by Vasishta.

This may be motivated by the need to express love, or the attempt to accept loss. To varying degrees of gullibility or believability, through the centuries, clairvoyants, necromancers, channellers, diviners, crystal gazers and mediums with Ouija boards on seances have offered promises of connectivity.

The industrial revolution brought innovative technologies and new methods to supposedly communicate with the alleged souls of the departed. In the post-WWII period, spiritualists across Europe thought they heard “psychophonic” voices of the dead emerging from radio waves.

Today, in our relationship with the inexplicable, we witness a mixture of events on social media. There is the comprehensible attempt to keep the idea of the deceased person alive, reaffirming a spiritual belief in the existence of an afterlife. And the need to reawaken a functioning mourning ritual, lost with modernisation.

However, it is one thing to share admiration for dead artists, scientists and leaders, and another to inadvertently equate the Internet with the sacred enclosure of the temple, the traditional location for our dialogue with the invisible.

The annus horribilis that brought this phenomenon to the foreground is undoubtedly 2016. David Bowie, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Fidel Castro, Umberto Eco, Jayalalithaa, Harper Lee, George Michael, Elie Wiesel, Leonard Cohen, Carrie Fisher, Katherine Dunn, Gene Wilder — these disappearances unleashed waves of comments that allowed people to externalise the public discourse on death. #RIP, which can be interpreted as the classical ‘Rest in Peace’ or the more likely ‘Rest in Pixels’, reached record levels.

The Internet has clearly changed the way we relate to celebrities. It has also changed how we talk about them after they’re gone. In turn, this has affected how we talk about our own dead. People now readily externalise what is called “competitive mourning,” a race of comments like “only the good die young,” “I knew her so well,” and similar banalities.

Elaine Kasket (real name, nomen omen ) is a psychologist at Regent’s University London, currently on sabbatical to finish writing All the Ghosts in the Machine: How the Digital Age is Transforming Death in the 21st Century . She’s been trying to determine if it is healthy to talk to dead people online. “For digital natives born after the mid-80s,” she writes, “to put something on the Internet is to trust it will be received by someone, somewhere in the ether.”

Kasket says that since Facebook is a place many associate with their loved ones, after their departure “it’s natural to reach out to them in the same ‘place’ where you interacted, talked and joked,” when they were alive. The issue, the psychologist points out, is that online, the problem of “legacy hierarchy,” meaning who is entitled to represent the deceased, who can decide how they are remembered, who has “chief mourner status,” becomes a public problem.

Which is also why removing the social network profile of a deceased can be publicly traumatising. Basically, Kasket affirms, keeping a dead person’s profile online is the equivalent of preserving a bedroom, continuing to lay a place at the dinner table for someone who will never show up again. But posting on their Facebook wall has a twist: this was the place where often you had the most interactions with the deceased person, so the expectation of an impossible reply can be higher.

Pixellating death

How does this affect our integration of spirituality within our daily use of technology? We can assume it enhances it. However, there is a fundamental difference between talking to the dead in your own head (or out loud in the silence of your room) and posting your dialogue on a public platform, such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Virtualising the experience of our loved ones, while they are still alive, and getting accustomed to mistaking their pixellated avatar for our tangible reality, makes us want to hang on more to their Internet version, allowing us to continue experiencing a form of mediated presence.

A compulsive behaviour that has been observed in mourners is that of repeatedly returning to visit the page of a departed loved one. It is equivalent, in a previous technological phase, to calling an answering machine in order to hear the voice of someone who died — initially useful, yet if repeated it might slow down the process of mourning.

There’s also the problem of self-censorship while posting online. As Sherry Turkle, MIT professor and author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other , has explained: “We have come to believe that our experiences are not validated unless we have shared them. What we do online tends to make us look good. When we attempt to grieve or commemorate a lost loved one in a public forum, we censor what we want and need to say. We lose certain ways of talking, experiencing things because we don’t practise them.”

For example, we may need to insult, in our own internal dialogue, a friend or relative who died. It might be exactly what’s needed to gain closure and face grief. But most of us would not do that online.

Onscreen temple

If the Internet is being associated with a virtual temple, a sacred place of dialogue with the invisible, what are the implications on atheist and agnostic minds who may be engaging in spiritual behaviour without realising it? Or on believers who are beginning to divert their focus of worship from a real church or temple to a screen? In other words, is the Internet becoming the new temple for many millennials and Generation X web surfers?

If you listen to musician Alexander Bard (again, nomen omen ), the answer would be “yes.” Six years ago, this Internet activist became a spiritual leader by founding a new religion claiming that “the Internet is God”. He called it Syntheism.

The word means “together with god,” to indicate that humanity creates god as opposed to god creating humanity.

Of course, at the moment, Syntheism seems more of an artistic provocation rather than a real religion. Yet, Bard might have a point when he says: “I firmly believe Syntheism is already being practised — we are just formulating it.”

And, of course, Syntheism already has serious competition in the ‘Church of Google’, a website first taken down, but revived as ‘The Reformed Church of Google’ — their belief is that the search engine is the closest thing to god because it is omni-present, omniscient, omni-benevolent, as it professes (officially) no evil.

Artificial nirvana

These trends, some facetious, some more serious, are not alone. Extropians are a group of young scientists, looking at technological promises made by the pioneers of artificial intelligence like Marvin Minsky, or of nanotechnology like K. Eric Drexler, who predict a world where both body and mind will become obsolete, and where a combination of technologies and genetic engineering could lead to our capacity to download our conscience in a web server and reach artificial nirvana in a new post-human world.

It’s a popular trend in Silicon Valley, with its promises of doubling life spans with special diets or deep-freezing bodies with cryogenics. It is, more than science, a new form of utopian religion looking at a trans-human who can control nature and the universe.

Some traditional religions see this as the antichrist, or a Satanic endeavour to end humanity. Optimists see the birth of a connected world-brain through artificial intelligence as the realisation of what philosopher Hegel had predicted about society as a whole.

Computer as god

All traditional symbology is in place to understand why it is possible to experience technological communication in spiritual terms. Biblical Armageddon, or the “Technocalypse,” is envisioned as a sizeable solar flare that could wipe out all the hard drives in the world. The Dark Net is a metaphor of a hell ruled by a concealed, immoral, and murderous underworld. The Heavens could be the download of our conscience in a server, resulting in eternal body-less nirvana.

As with life itself, most people experience electronic networks as entities evolving from a force they do not really understand, and that certainly they cannot control — a self-organised, decentralised and distributed system, which is also how many experience the concept of the divine.

To allow the identification of a faceless abstraction like the Internet with an all-powerful god-like force, there’s also the fact that the traditional monotheistic idea of god in a human form, often that of an older, wise man, has been suffering a slow erosion.

In the West, there has been a crisis of the patriarchal symbology of god in the aftermath of the bloody World Wars of the 20th century which involved (negative) father figures like Hitler, Mussolini or Stalin, along with positive (for some) father figures like Woodrow Wilson or the Kennedys. Of course, the need for an older man with a white beard sitting on the highest throne of the land lives on in a place like India, for example. But the iconography of patriarchy is suffering as the interdependence of humanity with the natural world brings everything on a similar level.

The more we use the Internet, the more we experience existence as an interconnected network of dependencies, leading to a possible weakening for the need of traditional religious symbols.

This could mean a return to an animistic approach, as is the case with some New Age beliefs in which mountains, rivers and oceans, along with plants and animals, are seen not as objects and lives created by god, but as an integral part of a larger interconnected whole, components of a web of creation.

People of the PC

In an era of democracy, the hierarchical structure of some theological liturgies might suffer, as believers feel equally important in the face of the divine, just as they are in the face of Internet. It is not so far-fetched to see that, in our age, a God-like presence could be perceived in the network which connects us more frequently and deeply every day.

For centuries, monotheistic religions have identified themselves with a technological object which transmitted the religious experience far and wide thanks to a machine: the printing press.

Theology does come with technology. So it is not such a leap of faith, pardon the pun, to see that from “the people of the book,” we may soon be seeing the “people of the computer” becoming the strongest religion of the millenium, seeking salvation in the algorithm.

The writer is the author of Technoshamans. Mappillai,a memoir, will be published this month.

(Published in The Hindu Sunday Magazine September 16th,2 2018)

Promises of anti-globalisation, realities of fiscal revenge

Today’s so-called crisis of globalisation is nothing more than a new variable of the old battle between protectionism and free trade. On the one hand it is the tribalists while on the other it is the globalists. On one side there are the anti-Amazon, pro-retailers, losers of a global challenge, while on the other, there are the pro-Amazon, e-commerce winners.

Nothing more, really. The opening of trade walls has accelerated industrial evolution in such a way that workers have had to learn to adapt to almost every generation. The difference, today, is that the evolution didn’t happen within a lifetime, but a few times within that lifetime. This is why the Indian farmer, who initially moved to the city to work in a call centre, had to reinvent himself as an Uber driver and is now worried about driverless cars — all within one lifetime.

 Cause of discontent

Technological innovations are what accelerate the rhythm of change. The medium is the message all over again. It is the transformation of technology that affects society, not whatever that technology delivers (news, electricity, TV series). And this is why in the United States and the United Kingdom and in some parts of Europe, so many 50-somethings, unemployed, disgruntled voters who found it hard to reinvent themselves ended up voting for someone who promised to bring back an impossible past — a greater America, a more British Britain, whatever that may mean.

Up until 20 to 30 years ago, you could reach your pension age before a new radical evolution in the job market, which created its winners and losers. Today, the challenge is that evolutionary shifts happen not just once before reaching pensionable age, but often.

This is what causes globalisation’s discontent. Blue collar workers from the mid-West cannot move to Silicon Valley; it’s a totally different skill set, and only few can manage it.

1440934821.png

 A sort of revenge

U.S. President Donald Trump’s and Brexit’s victories can be seen as a sort of “revenge of the losers”. The victims of the system described above decided to vote for someone who promised to protect them. Ludicrous. And, in fact, little has been done by Mr. Trump or British Prime Minister Theresa May to help those workers. And little is being done. Their standards of living have not improved. Or have certainly not returned to previous levels. Nor is there any policy in motion indicating that the previous levels will return.

There won’t be any promised return to the past. Which doesn’t mean the economy will not thrive. It just won’t bring back the same old jobs to the unskilled.

For example, the latest U.S. tax reform promises to lower corporate taxes, rehashing the ancient myth job, the “trickle down” theory, will not impact the lower middle classes who voted for Mr. Trump. At the dangerous cost of increasing the deficit and widening the hole, Mr. Trump is lowering too high corporate taxes to bring them down to European levels.

It would seem to make sense even though the impact on total taxation will be marginal. Lowering tax on capital may increase wages for those skilled workers whose productivity will be positively affected by increased demand for capital intensive work, but while engineers might see an increase in their wages, the unskilled won’t benefit directly from it.

 

In other words, instead of fighting the ills of globalisation, Mr. Trump has found a way to economically hit the coastal electorate who mocked and railed against him — the Hillary Clinton voters. By lowering the maximal for family deductions and real estate taxes, he has hit those middle to upper middle classes in the east and west coasts who hate him. They are the ones who will not benefit from this reform. This is what he’ll obtain with this tax reform. Brilliant from his point of view because the reform dips into the pockets of people who never have and never will vote for him.

How will this impact free trade globally? U.S. manufacturing is down to 11.7% of U.S. GDP (2016), while farming agriculture is only 1% (2015). America produces services such as Amazon, Google and Facebook; these are the richest corporations. Their expansion is thriving globally. And so is the expansion of other multinational corporations.

Even though the discontent of globalisation is a leftover of the crisis of 2008, today we don’t see that it will really impact globalisation seriously. At least, so far, we don’t see the results of this desire to raise barriers. Globalisation is here to stay.

Carlo Pizzati is an author and professor of communication theory

this editorial appeared in the daily national newspaper The Hindu on Dec. 18th 2017 also readable at this link.

‘I hate the internet’ by Carlo Pizzati (from “The Hindu”‘s Literary Review)

Featured

Ephemeral, jagged, tailored to the mind of a 15-year-old, is the digital network pushing humanity into cretinism?

Writing a good novel about the Internet is almost as difficult as shooting a good film about the effects of drugs. You may try all the available fireworks, and you’ll still fail. Blurred images, out-of-focus edges, tweaked sitar sounds, ridiculous echoes, and still you’ll get nothing close to representing the experience.

So far, defining the Internet with the language of literature has been as hard as explaining consciousness. Attempts to subsume the Internet into contemporary literature have been embarrassing. How can the instrument of knowledge understand itself? How can our own mind, slowly melting into a server where we store our photographs, memories, comments, emotions, chats, bank details, dreams and aspirations, understand its own technological nature? More importantly, how can a powerful instrument of meaning like literature be used to understand what seems to be its nemesis, the constantly distracting need for useless and disconnected novelties—the Internet of social networks?

One writer has succeeded in this mission, and in such a creative manner that, although everything indicated he would miss the mark, he triumphed. First of all, he wrote it on a computer. And he sees the contradiction: “Now writers used computers, which were the by-products of global capitalism’s uncanny ability to run the surplus population into perpetual servants. All of the world’s computers were built by slaves in China.”

Jarett Kobek, the author of I Hate the internet knows what he’s doing. And he tells you. In detail. It’s beyond meta-literature. It’s pure brilliance.

vinera wallWriting “a bad novel”

It’s hard to write about the Internet because it is so ephemeral. Harder still is it to have the guts to self-publish a novel built with the hyperbolic language of online interaction. And then to market it as “a bad novel” that promises to mimic the Internet “in its irrelevant and jagged presentation of content.”

Kobek delivers on the promise, because his style is a mix between a troll’s rant against Silicon Valley’s tech barons and the language of Wikipedia entries, which is actually inspired by Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5.

I Hate the internet—A Useful Novel Against Men, Money, and the Filth of instagram, as the full title explains, has become an immediate sensation after an enthusiastic review in The New York Times. But it is a text that most publishing companies couldn’t print because of its candid attack on so much that Western society stands for. Including publishing companies. Funnily enough, success arrived thanks to the Internet. Kobek used his enemy’s weakness for the first successful pushback against the culture of Silicon Valley’s smiling billionaires—the perfect Judo move.

“Actually,” he admitted, “I could have called it I Hate Four Companies and Social Media. But that is such a bad title.” Indeed, the attack is not on the entire Internet, but mostly on its social media phase.

We knew about this

The damage to our privacy caused by the explosions of anonymous rage online has been diagnosed long ago. So don’t be surprised if the backbone of the plot of this book is simply the story, set in San Francisco in 2013, of 45-year-old Alina, a comic book artist, semi-famous in the 90s, who is ravaged by a Twitter storm.

It all happens because someone posts a YouTube video where Alina dares to publicly say that singer Beyonce has done nothing for social progress. The fans’ attack is vicious and life-changing for Alina and her friends.

The plot’s kernel is something you can find in TV series like ‘Black Mirror’ and ‘Mr. Robot’, or in the sit-com ‘Silicon Valley’, which mocks Internet moguls who constantly promise “to make the world a better place.” But in this book, as the narrator warns us, “the plot, like life, resolves into nothing and features emotional suffering without meaning.”

CONTINUED IN “THE HINDU”‘s WEB SITE, CLICK HERE.

The revival of deep reading online. by Carlo Pizzati

Nietzsche? Huh.

No, wait, the most senior student in the class shyly raises her hand.

“German philosopher? 19th century? Nihilists?”

Yes, I say, trying to thread on more recent cultural grounds:

“Anyone remember the Big Lebowski? ‘We are nihilists, we believe in nothing…’ ?”

Empty stares, absolute zero among these millennials. The average age in my postgraduate class is 22 years old. Here in India, universities ends sooner and graduate work stars earlier, and also here at the Asian College of Journalism in Chennai.

medium is the message cake

In this class we have tried to develop an “Independent Gaze,” the title of this series of lessons on the relationship between information and internet. The subtitle is so long that someone thought it was in and of itself the first lesson: “The metastasis of communication and the anorexia of information.” This last eating disorder metaphor is borrowed from Slavoj Zizek.

Slavoj what?

We stuffed our heads with new names – new to these minds not necessarily  informed by the Western model. From “Information Anxiety” of Richard S. Wurman to the most recent “The invention of the news” by Andrew Pettegree, by way of Marshall McLuhan, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson’s visions at the foundations of American journalism with its constant conflicts, to then study pissed off French intellectuals like Pierre Bourdieau, Jean Baudrillard, Paul Virilio, and move onto recent arguments developed by Lee Siegel in “Against the machine” and the topic’s milestone book by Nicholas Carr, “The Shallows,” on how our brain is allegedly transforming with the use of Internet, whilst not forgetting Morozov’s j’accuse on the presumed impact of the internet in contemporary history.

Sontag, Barthes, Berger and Camille Paglia made us understand how images win over text, just when Facebook announces that in a few years it will become predominantly a video channel. These are important themes, here, when in the past weeks the Indian capitals of Information Technology, just like our very own Chennai, have been visited by the likes of Zuckerberg form FB, Bezos for Amazon and Microsoft’s Nadella.

Thus we have arrived to the present and to understand what this famous New Intelligence is. The hate of originality, the hymn in favor of plagiarism, the cut and paste creativity glorified by Jonathan Lethem and Co. There’s even an “Uncreative writing” class being taught in an American university, naturally. Originality is off limits, and it is mandatory to copy everything from Internet.

At first, these millennials admitted having serious problems concentrating while reading online even short texts, even a few paragraphs, confirming what good old usability guru Jakob Nielsen used to say. Then they were obligated to do their homework on a blog. They were free to answer even with a poem or an image, or a tweet, if they wished to – as long as it was possible to relate it to a comment on the text for the assignment. Instead, they all articulated with words, their reactions and comments getting better and better with time, sometimes adding an image, or a chart with numbers and tables (meta-data is a global trend).

Now, at the end of the course, they seem to be realizing that they are able to read longer and longer texts online. They can reflect upon the text and use it in their school work for the required assignment. Of course, at the same time, they are snapping pictures with their phones to photograph the written slides projected on the wall behind me. It’s the e-learning age, they got tired of transcribing with a pen, after a while. No matter how much I insisted on the importance of focusing your thoughts through the continuous motion of your hand on paper. Quoting what Nietzsche said about his first impression of how using a typewriter affected his writing didn’t seem to help much.

A young student admitted that he goes online mostly looking for opinions about cricket, so that he can formulate better his own commentaries and analysis of this sport. Then he lets himself float away on the buzz of internet surfing which feels more pointless, lost in what maybe is also an informative and relaxing world of social media. But it became apparent to everyone that it is possible to read long texts online, drawing a true and serious intellectual growth from it, and at the same time using internet for pure fun on Twitter or Facebook.

This brought us to what is being explained by David Dowling from the University of Iowa, in the extremely long analysis that was the last reading assignment: “Escaping the Shallows – deep reading’s revival in the digital age.” As the paper explains, there is a clear contemporary tendency in exploring, comprehending and reading long texts; ebooks; analysis; long editorials; reportage; investigations; essays. Even if they are online.

The medium is the message, sure. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that a specific phase in the relationship between society and a new mean of communication is the only message of the very same medium.

Translated: if during an adjustment period we feel incapable of reading long texts in a new medium because of distractions, it doesn’t necessarily follow that our plastic brain won’t adapt and recover the necessary focus in order to enjoy long narrative or complex and extended reasoning, even if read online.

Naturally, if you have read this online, until here, you are also part of this “new” category. Congratulations.

There are phases of adjustment, well documented by academics in the field with graphs, proving that what appears as a landing point in our relationship with a mean of communication rarely is so. This does not mean we should abandon ourselves to an unchecked optimism leading us to believe in the best of all possible outcomes for humanity, always and no matter what. It certainly is not the case.

But the result improves also thanks to luddites and Cassandras like Nicholas Carr who actually  warn us on the worst and most stultifying aspects of our relationship with the new medium.

It is also thanks to them that this relationship grows and, as seems to be the case now, finds a system that is more useful to power up our intelligence instead of eroding it.

“Telling it like it isn’t” – an apologia for Romantic philosophy. by Carlo Pizzati

“The world exists to end up in a book” –     Stephane Mallarmé

Journalists lie pretending to tell the truth. Novelists and poets tell the truth pretending to lie. Journalists lie by definition. They are supposed to gather objective facts. It is obviously an impossible mission. There is no such thing as an objective truth, everything is subjective, everything is seen through the individual’s perception. Not only that – simply choosing a subject is already an exercise in exclusion of other truths. It’s inescapable.

When, as a journalist I found myself on the border between Guatemala and Mexico with undercover police units wearing a bullet proof vest, chasing gangsters who assault immigrants, I thought I was experiencing facts that I would then be able to translate into an objective reportage. It is obvious that my state of mind, the excitement and the fear had directed my attention towards something rather than something else. That’s why the superficial facts I described in such context, maintaining journalistic standards, are actually limited in depicting the truth of that experience.

Reality requires different tools.

The misconception is the belief held by the reader, or the viewer, that a journalist reporting for radio, TV, newspaper or the Internet is able to deliver all the relevant facts. It is no surprise that lately the journalistic profession in the U.S. and in parts of Europe is encouraging development in the direction of what is basically data gathering. However, compared to traditional journalists, even data-gathering is not that much closer to the truth, presuming such a thing exists. Meta-analysis is a fad. Don’t be fooled by the mechanization of analysis. Don’t be lured by the mermaids of the robonews tsunami.

you are here smokey

It is not a problem of scope or of the amount of data. It is a problem of depth. It is not an issue of who observes, but of how things are observed and especially, and more importantly, how they are told.

It is a problem of language.

The journalist is expected to rely on facts. Readers believe they are absorbing facts to compose a reality, or rather the truth. Even those who are relativists and who understand that the journalists’ article, reportage or TV show is limited to the narrator’s point of view, can’t help but open their perception to that specific truth – and herein lies the fallacy.

The impossibility of describing the truth lies at the source of journalism. It started with the birth of this mode of communication which now seems to be seriously suffering.

There is no magazine, there is no newspaper, there is no TV, no radio, no Internet site that can tell you the truth. The so-called news is not the truth. Of course, there is no such thing as the truth. But there is something that could get closer to a commonly shared experience of reality. Something that makes us understand more deeply the meaning of such experience.

men grow important

Humans have at their disposal a more ancient tool that is able to expand the experience of reality in a much more appropriate and useful way than journalism ever developed.

The problem lies in the fact that, at one point in history, many people who belonged to this ancient craft, were forced for economic reasons to migrate their talents into this new growing and well-paying activity called: journalism.

Before that, storytelling, even before it took on the guise of writing, was much more interested in describing not simple facts, but the deeper truth which deals more directly with the emotional, sentimental and true issues concerning humanity.

This is what most good writers do. However, instead of pretending to be able to be faithful to an objective, independent aspect of reality, they plunge into their own interpretation. Sometimes imagination abounds, sometimes it is just a simple tweak into the observed reality, however voluntary or involuntary that distortion maybe. “There are plenty of records of everyday life,” Italo Calvino said in a BBC interview right before dying. “Literature has to give something more, as a fantastic interpretation of reality.”

The fact that novelists, poets, fiction writers in general do not even attempt or pretend to report objective reality makes their tale, for some strange and seemingly unexpected reason, much closer to a deeper truth.

Once we tap into the feelings, empathy and identification with characters, suddenly something more universal emerges from the depths. That is why the freer “creative non-fiction” writers of today may be getting closer to a syncretic view which would join the forces of the intuitive power of fiction with the lucid grasp into detectable reality.

Between Homer and Herodotus, I choose Homer.

As we read, as we watch a story well expressed by an artist, a writer, a poet, the feeling of the true experience being communicated, a real event happening in front of our eyes, even though that event is obviously imagined, or obviously distorted from the original it’s trying to rebuild, we are touched – in that moment our understanding and experience of the story makes us feel we are closer to something real.

By contradiction, the more unreal the tale the more real it may feel, if the talent warrants this effect.

To give the first example that comes to mind, you may read the best reportage on whale hunting in Norway or in Japanese waters, and yet nothing will be as close to experiencing something that goes much deeper and beyond the experience of hunting a whale then reading good old Melville’s Moby Dick, isn’t that so?

And isn’t that what the Romantics were saying? Unfortunately, the word “Romantic” has been glazed over by a kitsch effect, the maudlin and flowery interpretation taking over the Anglo-saxon connotation of “romantic” as “non-real,” more evocative of a literary style that integrated fantastic knighthood tales into a more or less accurate historic context. It was the degeneration of the “pittoresco” which deteriorated the concept.

Sensibility based on imagination was the tool used to go beyond reason. The French Revolution, product of Enlightenment, had lead to the years of Terror, the ugly side of rationality, which, pretending to soar above humanity, stoops to inhumanly cruel lows.

But humankind’s tendency towards the mystery of infinity, according to philosophers Schopenhauer and Fichte, lead us always back to search for something else. Sensibility, inspiration, intuition lead our search, backed up by reason. Reason alone will lead to the cold world of meta-data.

new media old media

What is different now, compared to the religious context of the Romantic era, is the decreased power of the Church and of Religions in general in the Western world. And this is thanks to Rationality, this must be granted. But this makes it possible, today, not to jump any longer from the Light of Reason into blind Faith, like Kierkegaard or Pascal would.

Atheistic spirituality is not a contradiction in terms any more, just like, well, creative non-fiction. Another ugly development of Romanticism, nationalism, has less reasons to exist in a globalized world. Take away irrational Faith and close-minded Nationalism from Romanticism and you will have Nomadism (rarely before as common as today); Exoticism (investigating what’s foreign, drawing upon the great inspiration derived from feeling alien to the context); embracing of subjectivity and individualism; Spirituality as investigation into the unknown (a useful scientific tool also according to Einstein’s interpretation); and the study of History to remember that humankind is in constant change. And also a very healthy sense of Socratic Self-irony.

apc

Friedrich Shelling, a leading thinker of German idealism, reminded the world of the central importance of myth and aesthetic sensitivity in order to go beyond the philosophy of Enlightenment. He gave value again to intuition, underlining the impossibility for reason alone to grasp the Absolute. Romanticism pointed out reason’s basic limitedness in capturing the most intimate essence of reality, juxtaposing the tools of feeling, irony and instinct to Reason.

It is Hegel’s conception of Reason as immanent Spirit of reality which can be seen as the great-grandfather of the last century’s ideological massacres perpetuated both by Nazi and Communist states and by ideological terrorism incarnated both by nation states or paramilitary groups of all sorts. French post-revolutionary Terror was just the prodrome of the thirst for blood of Rationality of the 20th Century, which now could maybe be glimpsed at in our out of control reality of the contemporary Techonopoly.

It just might be that a new interpretation of the Romantics could save us from the next massacre, presuming that the genocide of traffic accidents is not already such slow and silent horror, a price of the embrace between humankind and the machine.

Session for the Nepal Literature Festival (Kathmandu, Nepal on Sept. 20th, 2014)

When I feel lonely, I look for a shopping mall. (from a first draft of a creative non-fiction book by Carlo Pizzati)

When I feel  lonely, I look for a shopping mall.

There’s one in every big Latin American city. I call a cab and ask the driver to take me to one of those shopping centers you see advertised in giant billboards, the kind with the  happy nuclear family with the Pepsodent smile.

“Alto Las Condes”, “Palacio de Hierro”, “Jockey Plaza”- Santiago de Chile, Mexico City, Lima. Different names, same kind of places. I’m on a hunt for a familiar scene.

Walking down the aisles of the mall, I feel like I’m at home, in a timeless bliss where there’s no past nor future, while the present is gently massaged by the desire to buy.

The naked objects of the timeless super-stores create a sense of anonymity. In this giant acquarium I become a fish without rank and identity, no “job title” to speak of.

Is there anything more anonymous than a square building looking inside itself, without windows so that not for a moment your eyes are diverted from their purchasing duties? This is a non-place where I come to be looked at, to be seen and to look at my own self. Here everything looks just so available and so attractive.

The mall always matches the one next your home, transforming it into a tranquilizing experience. Shopping is just another brand of credit card people’s Prozac.

In front of the merchandise, facing what becomes the meaning of life – work to live, to buy  useless object that overcrowd apartments getting always smaller and more expensive – finally I rest in a sense of calm which invites me to buy, to perform my role in the big mechanism.

Everywhere I’m that shopper, reassured by my credit card, accepted in all major chain stores and franchises. A buyer among buyers.
In this mood, I rest from the hot fumes of the exotic streets of Latin America, the continent where I’ve lived for 3 years, working as a correspondent for La Repubblica, one of Italy’s major daily papers.

Nature begins where culture ends or, rather, in those sterilized places like the mall, a hyper-ambiance whose purpose is to reassure. The plastic, steel, linoleum and wall to wall carpeting alienation rocks my eyes to sleep. Walking along the aisles stuffed with brands, I find another home, the great home of MacDonald’s, Blockbuster, Warner Village – the “Fourth Reich” of Microsoft-Nestlè-Ibm-Nike-Adidas, the one of the few names, but everywhere.

Inside every shopping mall, everything looks the same, everywhere. Objects as much as people.

And this makes me feel less lonely.

*   *   *

It was on my way to a flight to Buenos Aires that I first felt the need to draw a diagram of my life. I was riding a train, leaving once again Valdagno, my hometown in the humid valleys of Northern Italy, an hour ride from Venice.

I hail from a town that has been often described by visiting friends as being “a little like Transylvania”. The county it’s in has got it all – rain, factories, dark narrow valleys and the highest suicide, alcoholic, nuns, priest and lap-dance bar rate in the country. It’s a good place to go back and visit. Once in a while.

Valdagno, population 27.000, was also a good place to leave for good, especially at 16, as I was when I moved to Pensacola, Florida. I was an exchange student at first, then I staid on in the U.S. for a total of 11 years, spent between Washington D.C. at first and then New York City, where I’ve worked at La Repubblica’s U.S. Bureau.

This varied resumé is why I often feel like an intruder. I’m out of place in Italy, where I’m “americanizzato” while in the States – which feels like a second home – I’m always a grown up exchange student with an “exoticah accent”. Maybe that’s why I’ve moved to India!

And maybe that’s why, in that hybrid continent known as Latin America, I recognized a bit of myself. Not entirely Latin, because it is also Aztec, Inca, Maya, Arab, African and Chinese and not really “American,” a word which sounds much more northern. Latin America is a little bit of both. And neither. Like me.

And that’s also why I had to draw a diagram of myself as I was leaving for Buenos Aires. Blame it on the fog, outside the windows, hiding the lines of the cities and the landscape, transformed in a slow motion blinking lights show.

I was driven by the need to know that I exist, shed light on this confusion, exploring inside, after so many outside quests.

I drew a map to understand where I’m going, in this life.diagram latin america

“I” am that center of everything. Pretty easy. Around me, like satellites, there are memory, solitude, family, women, friends, my job, vocation, strangers, her, dreams.

Solitude, however, should not be a satellite but a color, the color of this piece of paper, where I’m drawing the diagram.

The color of solitude is yellow, and yellow is the light of the streetlamps shining through the windows on this legal size notepad.

Memory should be the  thickness of the sheet.

“I” should not be at the center, but spread around the edges of the paper, like the borders of what matters in this life, given that it is mine we’re talking about.

Women are the smell of the paper, friends are the wrinkles.

My job is the handwriting.

Things are the sound of the rumpled paper.

Family is the shape of the paper.

The vocation is the pen.

Strangers are the empty space around the notepad.

And the dreams are of her.

Tomorrow I go back to her.

*    *   *

Pasaporte…” orders the man with the mustache. The plexiglass between myself and the man in the uniform shows me a reflection of myself, a jet-lagged ghost overlapping the officer’s face.

Every time you cross a border you feel the uneasiness of an exam. The stare of the custom officer is searching something within you – your forbidden dreams, your vices, your inclinations. What you have done, what you might do.

Look in his eyes without challenging him. Smile, but not too much. Stay calm, serene, be ok.

The border is a zone of possibility.

Why do I like so much crossing borders, I ask myself while the officer leaves through my bordeaux-colored EU passport, where there are maybe too many stamps – 20 Mexicans, 12 Argentinians, eight Chileans, four Peruvians, two Ecuadorians, some Brasilians, a couple of Uruguay then Paraguay, Bolivia, Panama, Cuba, Jamaica, Venezuela, Kenya, Marocco, Hong Kong, the Philippenes, Tahiti and so on.

Not everyone is satisfied with some “Journalist” or “Periodista” visa stamped on it to justify so many trips. So, turning indifferently their head to the computer, they go looking for my name on the screen, hoping they’ve gotten their hands on someone who should be stopped. They maybe right. Someone should stop me from traveling too much.

Why do I enjoy that moment? Is it the blood of my smuggler ancestors from Valdagno who a 100 years ago crossed the mountains between Austria and Italy?

What am I smuggling, here? What makes me feel the pleasure of hiding something forbidden, carrying it across the line of legality drawn by the border?

The only illegal things I’m smuggling are my intentions, those of telling a story, distorting what I will see with my subjectivity. All right, I confess Mr. Custom Officer, yes, you, running your fingers through my passport, stamping it, throwing it across the counter, almost disappointed for not having found anything, not being able to keep me here in your limbo.

To be precise, the limbo has been abolished by the Catholic Church. Who knows where the soul of the agnostics and the non-christened will have to go after death. Before, at least, they had the consolation of that sort of V.I.P. Lounge section of Purgatory, whose name. “Limbo”,  always evokes a tropical dance. I almost hear the voice of a dj calling the souls to the dance floor: “And nooow…limmmb-oooh!”.

And yet the limbo, presumed hideout of souls marred only by the original sin, is that waiting room, that condition, undefined and far from a solution, that for me remains the perfect hideout for eternal intruders like me.

As I’ve said before, I’ve always felt at home in the alienation of fast-food restaurants, in the cosmopolitan airport waiting lounges, in the country-side amusement parks, among the noise of rowdy game rooms as much as in shopping malls.

I feel at home here because these are borders as well. This is also a limbo.

I can’t say, however, that I felt at home in the limbo of the Mexico-Guatemala border, where I arrived one morning to meet a Mexican cop who went by the name of “Rolfi”, the person who first taught me the meaning of the typically Mexican expression “ni modo”.

Used in moments of failure and distress, “ni modo” is the layman’s version of the Islamic “inshallah”, or God willing. It’s a fatalistic sigh, which basically means “forget about it, and go on with your life”.

This trip would teach me how useful saying “Ni modo” can be.

Image

*   *   *

The humid weather wets my neck and forehead. The heat breaths on me making my skin stick to the t-shirt as if someone had poured a glass of lukewarm soup down my spine. The streets are only muddy brooks that seem like they’ll never dry. There’s only a skimpy river deviding Tecun Uman in Guatemala from Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico.

It’s simply too hot, that humid tropical heat of the Cuban summer, of Bahia, Manaus, Caracas, Panama City, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Jamaica. Names that are as hot as their temperature. Ja-mai-caaaah, Hon-du-rasss, just pronouncing them makes me sweat.  Those temperatures mold the time-space formula in a molasses of shiny colors that seem to round off the corners of life. A calor verde tropical, a “Tropical-green heat” which lives in the lazy anticipation of the Frente del Norte, the cold wind coming from the north. It is hope that feeds Latin America, allowing it to endure the heat of its destiny.

In Ciudad Hidalgo, a special corps Grupo Beta Sur policeman offer me the chance to join a robbers chase. “Una pandilla de bandidos”, he says. They are looking for a group of bandidos and I’ve come here to find out more about their work.

The contact was given to me by a photographer friend, the Brasilian Sebastiao Salgado. He was on patrol with them, grabbing on ladders of cargo trains, jumping across the railroad into the woods, so he could take pictures of the illegal immigrants.

Thinking that Sebastiao had already done it, and that maybe that was the only way to find “the” story, I let myself be seduced by this proposal. So, as I hear the invitation to join them in a thugs-hunting expeditions I reply, maybe too quickly, “Si, señor.

The officer warns me: “It’s risky, you better think twice about it…”

“Don’t worry”, I reply, and than, taking advantage of the slang learned on the streets of Mexico City, I encourage them to put a stop to their doubts with a very macho: “vamonos, güeyes!”, which translates more or less into: “let’s go, homeboys!”.

The agents laugh and I’m told I can go, but, to limit the risk, I have to wear a bulletproof vest under my t-shirt. We get started on the expedition, the agents dressed like poor illegal immigrants  – checkered shirts and torn sweat shirts hanging from their shoulders and hiding sawed off shot guns and smaller guns, which they loaded back at Head Quarters.

Checov wrote that when in the first act you see a gun, before the end of the story it is most likely to be used. I hope this time the Checov rule won’t apply.

Image

Along the railroad where we walk, runs another of the “Roads to the North” where everyday hundreds of migrants flood in from Central America. They head to the US border, a desperate river of people trying their luck, searching for a gateway to los dolares. Hidden in their satchels, inside their belts or rolled up in their socks, they hide the savings of a lifetime. And that’s what the robbers are after.

There’s a boy from Honduras with us, the husband of a girl who only two hours earlier, exactly on this railroad, was forced to strip naked, then was robbed and gang-raped. He says he’ll tell us where the assault took place.

The heat feels like it’s swelling, growing, almost as if reacting to our sense of suffocation by growing even hotter, more humid, oppressive.

Rolfi, the cop who acts as my guide, says that it could’ve been the Salva Truchas, the cruelest gang in Mexico, made up by former Salvadorean guerrilla fighters who often sport a tatoo on their forehead which is an autobiography summed up in one phrase – “Mi vida loca”, my crazy life.

Those with three spots tattooed on the skin between thumb and index finger have already gone to jail for homicide. Those with a tear tattooed under the right eye have killed their own mother.

What am I doing then, in the middle of the railroad, with Mexican police hunting for rapists who killed their mothers? What’s wrong with me? Was it in order to find myself here that I spent my summers – when I was 18, 19 and 20 – working as an intern for the Associated Press in Rome instead of going on holiday like the other kids? Is this the landing spot of the wanderlust which has kept me going through so many trips? Why did I let the thirst for a new story push me all the way here?

Mexico has a police corp that protects from assaults and violence the ilegales coming in from Guatemala. For decades hurricanes and wrong economic policies have filled the “Roads to the north” with poor people who have transformed California into their obsession. But before getting there, or to Tijuana, you first have to survive a series of dangers.

For those who enter illegally, escaping the “uniforms” is easy. If “imigraciòn” catches you the only risk is being sent back to Tecun Uman, in Guatemala, where you can try again to break through the border. The real danger are bandits.

The Salva Truchas haven’t showed up yet. From a banana plantation, a farmer, fooled my our looks, warns us: “Be careful, get yourselves some rocks, you’ll find bandidos ahead!”.

Rolfi looks around, and reminds me to hit the ground and hide between the rails if I hear shots. He tries to let some steam off by saying to his partner: “Hey, pendejo, you remember that lady who was raped and scarred in front of her son, who had been tied to a pole? It was a Guatemalan cop who did it, everybody knows him, but they never caught him”.

The friend replies: “What about the Nicaraguan we found in the ditch after 12 hours who was screaming “I’m alive, help me!”, remember? He was missing one hand and the nose, cut off with the machete. The upper lip was dangling and bleeding like mad”.

“We looked for his hand and nose in the bushes”, says Rolfi, “And we found them, so they stiched ‘em up in the hospital. But two days later he was dead”.

The next few minutes are filled only by the sound of our own steps.

The boy from Honduras will show us the place where the assault took place. “Maybe the gang’s still there”, says Rolfi.

The boy, however, is too shaken to realize that we’ve already passed the little bridge where the first rapist had appeared, he’s still too shocked to remember that it was exactly under that sign reading “Peligro Zona Despoblada!” (Warging Deserted Area!) that the first bandido had made his appearence a few hours earlier. He’s too distracted, too nervous, he’s probably thinking of the violence his wife suffered.

But under that same sign, the same gangster pops up. I can see him clearly, even though it doesn’t really seem possible to me. A man with a rifle in his hands, and he’s pointing it at us. He’s so close that “I can see the white in his eyes”, as people say in these situations.
The gangster recognizes the boy and screams something at someone  behind us, hiding in the trees and in the bushes: “It’s them! It’s them again!” and he starts shooting at us.

I jump to the floor, as I’ve been instructed to do, trying to make my whole body get inside the bulletproof vest, while I hear shooting and explosions all over. I bite my teeth as hard as I can, staring at the wooden board of the railway in its every little detail, while I ask myself: “Was it really necessary to come all the way here?”.

The cops in front of me scream: “hijo-de-puta-cabròn-pendejo-de-mierdaaa!” running towards the guy, shooting randomly at him while the he runs backwards shooting at us. I say to myself, with a strange calm: “They are insane”. Then I add. “I’m stupid”.
I think that not having a helmet could lead to my getting a bullet in the head, I ask how stupid one must be to risk his own life like this: “What for?”.

For a newspaper article, for the desire to live a fragment of a life that is not mine, in a world very far from mine, which is about to become mine. I understand that for all the victims that I met, and that I’ve heard about, all it took was a moment like this to get sucked into a cosmic swindle like the one I fear I may be about to experience if I don’t keep my head down. Because, while I’m here on the ground with my hands crossed over the back of my neck, those guys keep shooting at each other in the woods.

I close my eyes and see, in the red darkness of my eyelids, a familiar image, that which I have seen since I was a child when I was about to fall asleep: the universe with the stars moving fast towards me. It’s like the tension towards the infinite that one feels when thinking about eternity.

I say to my self, fuck, this could be my turn…

I “think” the image of the stars in movement for a split second, as fast as an explosion. Is it possible that a bullet, getting close to my head has caressed me with its cone of death? The Germans  call Augenblicksgott a minor divinity that speeds around you as fast as a shiver. Is it possible that maybe in the instant a bullet nearly hit me I felt infinity?

When the sound of the shoot-out starts to fade, I raise my head. There’re three of us left: the boy, myself and a cop with a sawed off shotgun ordering us to keep our heads down.

Panting, I ask: “How many have you seen?”.

“One. Just ahead”, the boy answers.

“But we had two of them right behind us”, adds the cop watching over us. I see something moving some 60 yards ahead.

“Over there, there’s another one – I say between a sigh and a scream – The yellow one. Or is it one of ours?”. It is. I better calm down.

The hunt is on. There were two of them shooting from behind, and then the other, the one under the sign, who shot right away. We are hyper from all the adrenalin, but we try to keep cool, maybe out of dignity, or maybe to hide the joy of not having gotten hurt, after having faced a risk like this one.

We find the hideout. After kicking away a tarantula from the back packs, we find  a soldier’s uniform. It’s not the Salva Truchas then, but military people, maybe Mexican former soldiers who rob people to round off their salaries. It wouldn’t be the first time that happens, given the level of corruption in the army and police.

Out of a truck that just arrived jumps the raped girl, pointing to the cops the place where she was forced to strip. Her dark brown hair wound in two braids, the puffy cheeks on her tanned skin, after the hours spent walking under the sun while excaping from Honduras. The girl keeps her eyes to the ground, walking awkwardly, in short steps. How can one keep away from one’s mind the images of what has happened to her, after seeing where it took place?

She’s still shaken by the violence, bundled up in her gray jump suit borrowed by the cops. She walks keeping her arms crossed over her stomach. Her eyes aren’t able to hide the hope to see those cabrones dead.

The Beta Sur agents get back on the pickup truck for a final round. They stop some suspects for questioning. The hunt is useless. The gangsters know the terrain much better and have vanished. Rolfi kicks the truck’s tyre before bringing us back to HQ.

While we pass by a farmers’ village, the wheels crush a little pig crossing the street. But Rolfi keeps driving as if we had just bumped on a large pebble.  In the rearview mirror I see the farrow walking to the middle of the road, trying to move with her snout the flattened piggy pudding, with his entrails all over the dirt road.

The farrow then let’s out a scream in the air, condensing all her motherly pain. A scream that fades in a weeping sound as we move further away aboard our truck.

Seems to me this is the most appropriate soundtrack for the official “the end” of a day like any other in the life of clandestine immigrants, gangsters and police in the great limbo between Guatemala and Mexico.

“Ni modo”, says Rolfi, shaking his head and lowering his eyes on the driving wheel.

“Ni modo”, I reply.

The end

(copyright Carlo Pizzati © 2001-2014)

Nihil sub sole novum… all over again. (by Carlo Pizzati)

A new Indian friend made the mistake of asking me this question via email: “I want to ask you about Berlusconi’s expulsion from Parliament. Do you think this could actually be the beginning of the end of his political career or is it another stunt?”

I rarely, if ever, comment on politics, although I’ve been following it since I was reading daily newspapers in middle school and I’ve had a chance to meet a few politicians in my previous avatar as a full-time journo, also having to sedate them on a morning political talk-show at times. And anyway, people around where I grew up in Northern Italy have always been inevitably animated by the political discourse. Almost uselessly so. Anyway, here’s my reply, for those who are interested in such historical cycles.

“Dear Tariq,

As for Berlusconi, I shall not be brief.

His legal troubles? They are only likely to attract more votes from his aficionados. His expulsion from the Italian Parliament is not likely to be “the beginning of the end” of his political career. It has been one more reason to be at the center of attention, where he needs to be in order to control as much as he can the outcome of his legal trouble and political battles.

But that is not really the real relevant question. What could’ve been more threatening was the division within his own coalition party.

But I seriously doubt that the latest schism within his political movement is the beginning of the end of his political career. First of all, Berlusconi, whether we like it or not, has undoubtedly changed Italy. The sheer fact that the best hope for the center-left electorate is now Matteo Renzi is tangible proof of that.

Renzi represent, at least in terms of political communication, the Berlusconi culture, which is a mish-mash of second hand 1950’s American values, fake liberalism, pro-business promises and dreams supposedly in favor of the modernization on Italy. Renzi persuades with his smiles, his winks, his dynamism, he seduces with the power of theater, not with the substance of politics. This is why Berlusconi has triumphed. Well, that and a lot of crafty and often instinctive political genius. In 2006, Italian auteur Nanni Moretti perfectly captured this in an interesting movie called “Il Caimano,” inspired by the concepts I just exposed.

The Opera dei Pupi (Opera of the Puppets; Sicilian: Òpira rî pupi) is a marionette theatrical representation of Frankish romantic poems such as the Song of Roland or Orlando furioso that is one of the characteristic cultural traditions of Sicily.
The Opera dei Pupi (Opera of the Puppets; Sicilian: Òpira rî pupi) is a marionette theatrical representation of Frankish romantic poems such as the Song of Roland or Orlando furioso that is one of the characteristic cultural traditions of Sicily.

After a disastrous vote in Parliament this summer, the political movement that just split up, the People for Freedoms (PDL, Popolo delle Libertà) was lingering sadly in the polls, somewhere below 23 per cent. Once Berlusconi’s sidekick Angelino (“Little Angel”) Alfano – deputy prime minister of the coalition government of Enrico Letta – decided to split from his tutor, things now actually look rosier for the right wing. Absurd? Follow my math: in current polls, the sum of Alfano’s splinter group plus Berlusconi’s renewed Forza Italia, the original political movement he had founded in ’94, now reach above 28 per cent. It’s 5 points higher compared to when Alfano and Berlusconi were in the same party. Alfano has announced that his movement would ally itself with Berlusconi after the next elections. So what has brought about this so-called political divorce is a fake conflict. It is a tactical move in a long term strategy.

This is actually a very ancient game that used to be played by the Christian Democrats who ruled Italy since World War II until the Clean Hands operations of ’92. Constant battles between what were called “currents,” after many negotiations, a game of musical chairs in the Cabinet.

Italy has had, on an approximate average, a new government every 6 months since WWII. But only fools would think this has ever represented instability (except when the Communist party gained the majority in the European elections on ’76. And actually not even then). This was a constant game of re-balancing power within the ruling party, but guaranteeing continuity, which was especially important to American allies who had – and still have – strategic army bases in the peninsula.

Still from Paolo Sorrentino's "Il Divo" showing a Christian Democrat political "current": Aldo Ralli (Ciarrapico), Flavio Bucci (Evangelisti), Carlo Buccirosso (Pomicino), Achille Brugnini (Card. Angelini), Massimo Populizio (Sbardella) e Giorgio Colangeli (Lima)
Still from Paolo Sorrentino’s “Il Divo” showing a Christian Democrat political “current”: Aldo Ralli (Ciarrapico), Flavio Bucci (Evangelisti), Carlo Buccirosso (Pomicino), Achille Brugnini (Card. Angelini), Massimo Populizio (Sbardella) e Giorgio Colangeli (Lima)

In a way, what we are seeing is more of the same. Nihil sub sole novum.

What looks like a divorce is a maneuver to gain some moderate anti-Berlusconi votes. I would venture to say, actually, that this is a maneuver to gain back votes which could be attracted by Renzi’s great appeal to the moderate voter.

Berlusconi is not done. Nothing has changed.

And to paraphrase the overly quoted Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa in The Leopard: in Italy, as usual, everything has to change so that nothing changes.”

How Andrew and I joined the new Psychedelic Renaissance in Hungary. Sort of — by Carlo Pizzati

To celebrate Ozora and Sonica 2013 and to wish “Andrew” good luck at Burning Man!

CARLO PIZZATI

It was midnight, and we were lost in the woods an hour south of Budapest, when I first thought: this is wrong. Not just the wrong road, but wrong in a deeper sense. If we were going to a trance festival to open our hearts to the universe, why were we trusting technology more than our intuition?

We got to where we were because of the GPS, bouncing along with a white hare in our headlights somewhere near the Ozora Festival — the “tribal and psychedelic encounter” my friend Andrew and I were looking for. We were told to expect a day-and-night, rain-or-shine, mud-or-dust, week long psy-trance 24/7 music marathon whose participants would stomp the ground, loudly and often, to “extract energies from the earth.”

What were two middle-aged men doing in a mud puddle in pursuit of this folly, now abandoned also by the white hare? And without tickets?…

View original post 1,016 more words

Il filosofo del terrore islamico

Dieci anni fa pubblicai questo testo che analizza la filosofia di Sayyid Qutb, ideologo che ha ispirato Osama bin Laden e Al Qaeda. Dopo aver visto di recente “Zero Dark Thirty”, avere letto della condanna definitiva di tre islamici che pianificavano una serie di attentati in territorio britannico nel 2005 e il recente attentato a Hyderabad, in India, ho pensato di ripubblicare qui quest’analisi, visto che non è più disponibile in rete. All’epoca fu un testo discusso e dibattuto, sia in conferenze che in rete.

L’analisi si conclude con un invito all’Occidente a dare una risposta che non sia solo politica, economica e militare, ma poiché il contrasto nasce su una base filosofico-religiosa, anche la risposta sarebbe dovuta venire dalla filosofia.

A dieci anni di distanza, gli attacchi continuano, la risposta non è arrivata.
Il filosofo del terrore islamico
di Carlo Pizzati

S’è parlato di morte e ci sono stati morti. S’è parlato di guerra e c’è stata la guerra. Ma la nostra vera preoccupazione non è nata dalla guerra in Iraq, è iniziata l’11 settembre 2001. E’ causata dal terrorismo, non dalle battaglie in Medio Oriente.
La nostra nuova preoccupazione, dopo la fine della Guerra Fredda, inizia quel settembre di due anni fa. Le conseguenze di quel gesto ci hanno accompagnato per mesi prima dell’attacco all’Iraq. Continueranno ad accompagnarci anche dopo.

Al Qaeda c’era prima della guerra in Iraq e c’è sicuramente anche adesso, dopo la caduta di Saddam Hussein. Per questo è importante cercare di capire cosa c’è alla base ideologica e teologica di questo gruppo terroristico di fondamentalisti islamici.
Le radici di Al Qaeda, le radici ideologiche, non risiedono né nella povertà – come spesso si tende a credere – né nell’antiamericanismo, ma nelle idee di un pensatore egiziano che da ragazzo ha vissuto un periodo negli Stati Uniti, un teologo importante per il radicalismo islamico, morto nelle carceri del presidente Nasser in Egitto, nel 1966: Sayyid Qutb.
Qutb
Per lui, il vero problema del mondo moderno è causato dalla cristianità e l’unico modo per guarire dall’angoscia creata da quello che lui ritiene un antico errore dei “seguaci di Cristo” è il martirio.
L’interpretazione del Corano del filosofo di Al Qaeda unisce i tre rami dell’internazionale dell’estremismo islamico: gli Arabi Afghani di bin Laden e le due fazioni egiziane, Il Gruppo Islamico e la Jihad Islamica egiziana.

Il pensiero di Sayyid Qutb si sviluppa negli anni ’50 quando Gamal Abdel Nasser prende il potere in Egitto, detronizzando il vecchio re Farouk. E’ una rivoluzione nazionalista alla quale si uniscono anche i radicali come Qutb. Spesso nella preparazione dei colpi di stato i giovani ufficiali ribelli hanno bisogno di una figura paterna, di un uomo più vecchio di loro che giustifichi le loro azioni, che faccia da ideologo, da riferimento. Quest’uomo, per i Liberi Ufficiali, per i colonnelli Gamal Adb-Nasser e Anwar Sadat (i due presidenti dell’Egitto post-monarchico) è proprio Sayyid Qutb.

Ricordiamo che i più radicali tra i Pan-Arabisti (rappresentati oggi nell’ala più estrema e violenta dal partito Baath di Saddam Hussein) ammirano apertamente i nazisti e immaginano un nuovo califfato che dimostrasse la vittoria della razza araba su tutti gli altri gruppi etnici.
Qutb invece, vede la resurrezione di un califfato come pura teocrazia dove applicare rigorosamente la sharia, il codice legale del Corano.
Appena ottenuto il potere, Nasser s’impegna a reprimere le attività politiche dei radicali della Fratellanza Musulmana alla quale appartiene Qutb. Molti fuggono dall’Egitto, fra questi Muhammad Qutb, fratello di Sayyid, che si trasferisce in Arabia Saudita dove diventa un distinto professore di studi islamici. Anni più tardi, tra i banchi delle sue lezioni, si può intravedere uno studente dagli occhi languidi, figlio di buona famiglia saudita, che risponde al nome di Osama bin Laden.

Sayyid Qutb, rimasto in Egitto, viene quindi incarcerato da Nasser. Vive in una cella con altri 40 prigionieri, gran parte criminali comuni, passando 20 ore al giorno in loro compagnia e ascoltando da enormi altoparlanti le registrazioni dei discorsi di Nasser. Ma, rifiutando di emigrare in Iraq o in Siria dove gli era stato offerto asilo, Qutb accetta il martirio, rifiuta persino di chiedere la grazia a Nasser, e va incontro alla sua esecuzione nel 1966. In punto di morte, Qutb ha usato i suoi anni di prigionia per scrivere e far pubblicare di nascosto i suoi scritti. Il più importante, la base del suo pensiero, è “All’ombra del Corano”.
Qutb scrive che, in tutto il mondo, gli esseri umani hanno raggiunto una situazione di “crisi insopportabile”. La razza umana ha perso il contatto con la sua natura. Questo è un punto molto importante, che contraddistingue il mondo orientale, teso ad un rapporto armonico con la natura, da quello occidentale, che spesso vede la natura come una forza da domare, da controllare e da conquistare.

Qutb sposa quel concetto islamico chiamato tawhid (la singolarità di Dio, e quindi dell’universo). Per lui “l’universo non può essere ostile alla vita, o all’uomo; né può la “natura”, così come viene chiamata oggi, essere considerata come antagonistica all’uomo, opposta a lui, impegnata contro di lui. Piuttosto – scrive Qutb in “Giustizia Sociale nell’Islam” – lei è un’amica il cui scopo è lo stesso della vita e dell’umanità. E il compito degli esseri viventi non è di combattere la natura, poiché essi sono cresciuti nel suo seno, e lei ed essi insieme formano parte di un singolo universo che procede da una singola volontà”. Secondo alcuni musulmani, il fatto che prima della preghiera ci si lavi le mani con l’acqua e in assenza di questa, si usi la terra o la sabbia è proprio la dimostrazione di questo contatto con la natura prima del dialogo con Allah.

La disobbedienza a questa singola volontà divina è ciò che crea il disordine dell’esistenza attuale: questo è il convincimento del filosofo egiziano. L’ispirazione dell’uomo, la sua intelligenza e moralità stanno degenerando.
Osama_bin_Laden_portrait
Perché tutto ciò? La causa è la jahiliyya, l’ignoranza pagana della guida divina, e tutti i meravigliosi comfort e invenzioni di alta tecnologia non diminuiscono questa ignoranza. “La Jahilliya si basa sulla ribellione contro la sovranità di Dio sulla terra – sostiene Qutb – trasferisce all’uomo uno dei più grandi attributi di Dio, cioè la sovranità, e fa degli uomini dei signori sugli altri”. Ma questa disobbendienza alla volontà divina si manifesta in forme nuove, assume le sembianze della “rivendicazione del diritto di creare valori e regole di comportamento collettivo e di affermare che il diritto di scegliere il proprio modo di vivere è una prerogativa dell’uomo, senza considerare ciò che Dio ha prescritto. Il risultato di questa ribellione contro l’autorità di Dio è l’oppressione delle sue creature”.

I rapporti sessuali stanno deteriorando ad un livello “più basso delle bestie”. L’uomo è divenuto un essere miserabile, ansioso, scettico, che sprofonda nell’idiozia, nella follia e nel crimine. Sembra quasi di leggere Thomas Bernhard. Nella loro infelicità, la gente si rifugia nella droga, nell’alcol, nell’esistenzialismo: di questo è convinto Qutb. La ricchezza e la scienza non servono a salvare la razza umana. I paesi più ricchi, infatti, sono i più infelici.

Il grande errore
Quando ha inizio tutta questa miseria morale? A questa domanda Nietzsche e altri filosofi nel ventesimo secolo rispondono indicando nelle origini della civiltà occidentale, nell’antica Grecia il momento in cui l’uomo commette quello che Qutb definisce “il fatale errore”. Un errore filosofico prima ancora che teologico che consiste nel porre una fede arrogante nel potere della ragione umana.

Ed è proprio questa fede che ha creato i tempi moderni nei quali la “tecnologia tiranneggia sulla vita”.

E’ un’analisi affrontata dai filosofi del ventesimo secolo e riproposta anche recentemente da molti pensatori contemporanei. François Raspail conia un aforisma che condensa in una frase l’idea di “scienza, sola religione dell’avvenire”. E sono molti che vedono addirittura avvicinarsi un altro scisma, non solo quello tra la scienza e Dio, ma anche quello tra l’uomo e la tecnologia. Come scrive Paul Virilio nell'”Incidente del Futuro”: “Dopo millenni, non tanto di umanesimo quanto di antropocentrismo (greco-latino e giudaico-cristiano), si prepara un grande scisma, di cui viviamo solo gli inizi”.
Secondo la tradizione cabalistica la “morte di Dio” è legata alla fabbricazione del Golem, quindi la tecnologia soppianta la spiritualità. E ora, con inquinamento, incidenti, cibernetica, fertilizzazione in vitro, protesi di vario genere, computer e Internet che sostituiscono la memoria e spesso l’immaginazione, il Golem-tecnologia potrebbe minacciare l’uomo.
Il concetto è stato illustrato perfettamente in un film di successo come “Matrix” in cui gli esseri umani sono trasformati in “pile di energia” per nutrire le macchine: fantascienza che riflette una delle paure dell’uomo contemporaneo. E le stesse paure, formulate diversamente le esprime Qutb.

Torniamo al filosofo di al Qaida e allo scisma tra ragione e spirito, così come venne concepito nell’antica Grecia.
Qutb differisce dall’analisi dei filosofi occidentali poiché non individua l’errore nel pensiero dei filosofi ellenici bensì punta il dito sull’antica Gerusalemme.
Furono gli ebrei, i primi seguaci di Gesù Cristo, scrive Qutb, ad operare quella scissione tra mente e corpo, tra ragione e fede.

Secondo Qutb la persecuzione dei cristiani impedì che il messaggio di Gesù Cristo, che l’Islam considera solo un profeta e non il Messia, fosse comunicato ed esposto accuratamente. I Vangeli, “risultato di fraintendimenti ed improvvisazioni, non sono accurati ed affidabili”, dice Qutb.

I Cristiani, secondo Qutb, enfatizzarono il messaggio divino di spiritualità e amore portato da Gesù, ma rifiutarono il sistema legale dei Giudaismo, il codice di Mosè che regolava ogni momento della vita quotidiana.
Al suo posto, i primi cristiani importarono nella loro teologia la filosofia dei Greci, la convinzione che l’esistenza spirituale sia completamente separata dalla vita fisica, che esista una zona di puro spirito.

Ecco un esempio di ciò che dice Qutb: nel IV secolo dopo Cristo, l’imperatore Costantino si converte e così tutto l’Impero Romano si cristianizza. Ma fu una conversione – dice Qutb – fatta con opportunistico spirito pagano, dominata da scene di lussuria, ragazzette semi-nude, gemme e metalli preziosi. La Cristianità, avendo abbandonato il codice Mosaico, non poteva difendersi né essere difesa moralmente. E quindi i cristiani, inorriditi dagli usi e costumi dei romani, si difesero dal deliquio imperiale con il culto dell’ascetismo monastico.

Ma per Qutb anche questo è un errore perché l’ascetismo dei monaci cristiani è in conflitto con la qualità fisica della natura umana. In questo modo la Cristianità ha perso il contatto con il mondo fisico.

Il codice mosaico, con le sue leggi sull’alimentazione, l’abbigliamento, il matrimonio, il sesso e tutto il resto, comprendeva il divino ed il terreno in un unico concetto, che era il culto di Dio. La Cristianità ha diviso queste cose in due: il sacro da una parte, il secolare dall’altra. “Date a Cesare ciò che è di Cesare, a Dio ciò che è di Dio”.url-1

La scienza
Ora siamo nel VII secolo. Arabia. Dio porta la rivelazione al suo profeta Maometto che stabilisce la relazione corretta a e non distorta con la natura umana. Maometto detta un codice legale molto severo, che mette la religione in armonia con il mondo fisico. Le profezie di Maometto, nel Corano fanno dell’uomo il “vice-reggente” di Allah sulla terra: lo incaricano di occuparsi del mondo fisico, non semplicemente di viverlo come qualche cosa di alieno alla spiritualità o come una stazione di sosta sulla strada dell’aldilà cristiano.

Ed è per questo che gli scienziati musulmani del Medio Evo prendono talmente sul serio questo invito da cominciare un’analisi sulla natura della realtà fisica. Così nelle università islamiche dell’Andalusia e ad Oriente, gli scienziati musulmani, approfondendo questa ricerca, scoprono il metodo scientifico o induttivo, che apre le porte a tutto il successivo progresso scientifico e tecnologico.
Il califfato tracolla, sotto l’attacco dei crociati, dei mongoli e di altri nemici. Qutb dice che è perché i musulmani dimostrano di non aver abbastanza fede nelle rivelazioni di Maometto. “Non riuscirono a trarre il massimo dalla brillante scoperta del metodo scientifico”.

Le scoperte dei musulmani giungono in Europa. Qui, nel XVI secolo, il metodo scientifico islamico inizia a dare risultati e nasce la scienza moderna.
Ma la Cristianità, con la sua insistenza sulla divisione tra mondo fisico e spirituale, non gestisce bene il progresso scientifico, e quindi questa scissione dilaga nella cultura e forma l’atteggiamento della società verso la scienza.

Secondo Qutb, gli europei iniziano ad immaginare Dio da una parte e la scienza dall’altra, la religione di qui, la ricerca intellettuale di là. Da una parte la naturale propensione dell’uomo per la ricerca di Dio e per una vita ordinata da regole divine, dall’altra il desiderio umano di conoscenza dell’universo fisico. La Chiesa contro la Scienza e gli Scienziati contro la Chiesa. Ecco l’errore della cultura giudaico-cristiana, nell’analisi di Qutb.

Il dominio dei progressi scientifici permette all’Europa di dominare il mondo e gli europei infliggono “l’odiosa schizofrenia” su genti e culture in tutti gli angoli del globo.
E’ l’origine della moderna miseria: l’ansia della società contemporanea, il senso di sbando, la mancanza di motivazione, di senso, il desiderio per i falsi piaceri.

url

Imperialismo occidentale
Questa crisi della vita moderna viene percepita da ogni persona in grado di pensare nell’Occidente cristiano. Ma la leadership europea sull’umanità – secondo Qutb e successivamente secondo i suoi seguaci – impone questa crisi su ogni persona anche nel mondo musulmano. I cristiani in Occidente subirono la crisi della vita moderna come conseguenza della loro stessa tradizione teologica, il risultato di circa 2 mila anni di errore ecclesiatico. Ma i musulmani hanno dovuto subire la stessa esperienza perché è stata imposta loro dai cristiani, il che fa pesare questa esperienza doppiamente: all’alienazione si aggiunge l’umiliazione.

Qui Qutb tocca un tema facilmente riconoscibile: quella sensazione che la natura umana e la vita moderna siano in qualche modo in contrasto. Che la vita moderna crei chiusura, paure, sensi di colpa, complessi, freddezza, incapacità di comunicazione.

Già dagli anni ’50, Qutb riesce ad identificare il tipo di agonia personale che Mohamed Atta e i terroristi suicidi dell’11 settembre devono aver vissuto nel loro tempo, nelle loro vite. L’angoscia che viene dal vivere un mondo moderno di idee liberali mentre si crede che la vera vita esista altrove, in un mondo coranico di obbedienza alla legge divina. Il presente contro il passato, il secolare contro il sacro. E’ da questa confusione, da questo contrasto – generato dall’errore dei Cristiani, secondo Qutb – che nasce la rabbia terrorista.

I colpevoli
Nella visione di Qutb i colpevoli di tutto questo sono non solo i cristiani nel loro errore, ma anche gli ebrei, che lui vede come ingrati a Dio, senza scrupoli, arroganti quando al potere. Il sionismo è parte dell’eterna campagna degli ebrei per distruggere l’Islam. Ma ancora più pericolosi degli ebrei sono i musulmani che vanno a braccetto con l’errore cristiano, quelli che hanno inflitto la “schizofrenia” cristiana al mondo islamico, come ad esempio la Turchia di Kamal Ataturk.

Per rispondere a questo errore, per punire i colpevoli e riconquistare il ruolo della legge divina nella vita quotidiana Qutb ha un piano, un piano rivoluzionario per rimettere l’uomo in contatto con il mondo naturale e con Dio, togliendogli le angoscie del vivere…

In sintesi, lo sguardo filosofico e teologico di Qutb sulla realtà e sulla storia rispecchia in qualche modo la riflessione di gran parte della critica sociale e filosofia moderna, ma riviste attraverso il filtro del commento coranico, della visuale musulmana. Ciò gli ha permesso di proporre una serie di contromisure che nessun pensatore occidentale oserebbe considerare e prendere sul serio.

L’America e l’Islam
Qutb critica gli Stati Uniti non perché questa nazione fallisca nel tentativo di essere una società liberale, ma proprio perché E’ una società liberale. La sua critica riguarda la riuscita divisione tra STATO e CHIESA. E’ di nuovo qui l’errore. Non si tratta di una critica politica, ma teologica, o ideologica.

“Il conflitto – scrive Qutb – non è economico, politico o militare, spostare su questo piano l’analisi serve a far apparire noi islamici che insistiamo nel parlare di religione come dei fanatici, dei retrogradi”.
“Ma in realtà il confronto non è sul controllo del territorio, sulle risorse economiche o sul dominio militare: se crediamo sia questo, cadiamo nelle mani del nemico e non avremmo nessuno da incolpare per le conseguenze tranne noi stessi”.

Per Qutb l ‘esigenza dell’Occidente, guidato dall’America, è sempre stata quella di eliminare l’Islam per salvare le proprie dottrine dall’estinzione. Ed è per questo che Crociati e Sionisti si sono coalizzati nell’attacco al mondo islamico. Non un attacco militare, non un attacco sui territori: la gente con idee liberali cerca di “restringere l’Islam ai riti emotivi e rituali, impedendogli di partecipare alle attività della vita per contenere la sua completa predominanza su ogni attivita umana secolare, una preminenza che si guadagna in virtà della sua natura e funzione”.

Per fermare tutto ciò, per fermare l’invasione delle idee liberali dell’Occidente e degli Ebrei, aiutati dai musulmani “moderati” – scrive Qutb nel libro che gli causa la condanna a morte: “Pietre Miliari”- all’Islam non resta che formare una “avanguardia” (termine che gli viene probabilmente da Lenin, anche se Qutb pensa piuttosto ad un piccolo gruppo animato dallo spirito di Maometto e dei suoi Compagni all’alba dell’Islam).

Questa “avanguardia” di veri musulmani inizierebbe il rinnovamento dell’Islam e della civiltà in tutto il mondo. Si ribellerebbe ai falsi musulmani e agli ipocriti, facendo come fece Maometto, e cioè fondando un nuovo Stato, basato sul Corano. Da lì l’avanguardia farebbe risorgere il califfato per portare l’Islam in tutto il mondo, proprio come Maometto.
L’avanguardia riporterebbe la shariah, il codice musulmano, che diventerebbe il codice legale di tutte le società.
“Una vita per una vita, un occhio per un occhio, un naso per un naso, un orecchio per un orecchio”.

Qutb non accetta di considerare queste punizioni come barbare o primitive. La sharia, nella sua visuale, vuol dire liberazione. Altre società, ispirate a principi non coranici, costringono la gente ad obbedire alle leggi fatte da altri uomini, li assoggetta a dei padroni. Ma nella sharia, nessuno è costretto ad obbedire a dei semplici umani: la sharia, nelle parole di Qutb, significa “l’abolizione delle leggi fatte dagli uomini”, il sistema islamico significa “la completa e vera libertà di ogni persona e la piena dignità di ogni individuo nella società”.
In altre parole “in una società in cui alcune persone sono i signori che creano leggi e altri sono gli schiavi che obbediscono, non c’è vera libertà, nessuna dignità per ogni individuo.”

E’ qui che Qutb crea una sorta di sincretismo tra la sua interpretazione di ciò che significa l’obbedienza alla legge del Corano e l’uguaglianza tra gli esseri umani. Forse la sua filosofia viene influenzata – o forse è un tentativo di contrapporsi – dal socialismo di Nasser, ma in sintesi il suo richiamo è per una vera uguaglianza dinanzi alle regole irremovibili e severe del Corano, e non di fronte alla manipolabilità delle leggi umane, usate solo perché alcuni controllino altri. Solo uno Stato islamico potrebbe porre fine alle ingiustizie.

Per arrivare a questo, al ritorno di un califfato islamico nell’intero mondo, per combattere l’alienazione del mondo moderno basato sulla disarmonica divisione tra Dio e legge c’è solo un modo: la jihad, la guerra santa, la lotta, la violenza, così scrive Qutb.
Ed è per questo che secondo Qutb questa avanguardia dev’essere disposta al martirio così come viene declinato nella sura della “Vacca” nel Corano.

“Coloro i quali rischiano le loro vite e vanno a combattere, coloro i quali sono pronti ad offrire le proprie vite per la causa di Dio sono persone piene di onore, puri di cuore e benedetti nell’anima. Ma la grande sorpresa è che quelli tra di loro che saranno uccisi nella lotta non devono essere considerati o descritti come morti: essi continuano a vivere, come Dio Stesso chiaramente specifica”.

L’assenza di una risposta filosofica dell’Occidente
E’ proprio attraverso questi ragionamenti che Qutb sceglie di sacrificarsi per rispetto ai tremila seguaci egiziani che credono nella sua parola. E infatti alcuni di quei tremila divennero poi le basi del terrorismo egiziano degli anni ’70, la decade successiva alla sua esecuzione. Gruppi che poi confluirono nella formazione terroristica di bin Laden, fornendo ad Al Qaeda la dottrina fondamentale.

Ed è dal ceto sociale di Qutb, dalla media borghesia, che il terrorismo musulmano continua ad arruolare adepti. Non sono i poveri disperati a farsi saltare in aria, a dirottare aerei e buttarsi contro i grattacieli, ma persone con un’educazione, studenti, “talebani” che conoscono il Corano e che sono stati conquistati da questa filosofia, da questo credo. Sono persone che credono di poter dare una spiegazione all’infelicità del mondo, basata secondo loro su secoli di errore teologico, e che credono di lottare per riportare l’umanità ad una società perfetta.
La saggezza, la pietà, la morte e l’immortalità sono, nella loro visione del mondo, la stessa cosa.
Per quanto malsane dal nostro punto di vista, queste sono serie basi filosofiche e teologiche dalle quali sferrare un attacco.

E noi? Siamo in grado di rispondere con altrettante certezze o profondità? I nostri presidenti rispondono con gli eserciti. Questo è il loro ruolo in una società che ha ancora bisogno della logica della guerra. Eppure Bush dopo l’11 settembre aveva promesso una guerra di idee. Ma non è all’altezza e idee non ne ha portate. Ha cacciato Saddam Hussein dal potere, dice di avere tagliato i finanziamenti di Al Qaeda, ha dato una dimostrazione della forza. E’ sufficiente? No, non è sufficiente. La crisi dell’Occidente indicata da Qutb esiste, ne parlano filosofi e leader religiosi da decenni. Ma quando finirà il pensiero debole che sembra voler cantare la ninna nanna del crepuscolo di una civiltà?
Siamo di fronte all’esigenza di trovare una nuova etica che ci permetta di vivere nella libertà conquistata con la democrazia ma senza indebolirci. E non bastano le promesse di una politica morale che emergono dal Dipartimento di Stato americano e i corsi di Etica ai quali vengono sottoposti i cadetti di West Point. E’ il mondo intellettuale e spirituale che dovrebbe rispondere in questo momento. E’ altrettanto importante che difendersi dal terrorismo.

16 maggio 2003
(Carlo Pizzati ©)