Italy: A Portrait
EDITORIAL, 25 Jun 2012
#223 | Erika Degortes and Johan Galtung
For quite some time now reading Italian newspapers or listening to news and radio broadcasts turned into an insult not only to information itself but to all Italians. National television channels are literally monopolized by football and all kinds of weather apocalyptic scenarios. And what about the wide space devoted to the Pope? We wonder what the nearly 1.580.000 Muslims (according to the Caritas-Migrantes 2011 Immigration Statistical Dossier -1.200.000 according to the World Muslim League) may think about it, not to mention Jews and Buddhists, a large portion of the population about which one never hears.
Inadvertency? No, manipulation!
In Italy the system of censorship is very sophisticated: they just talk about anything else, the discourse goes astray.
You do not realize that something exists–not an idea, a minority, a product, even a country–unless it is on television. You never hear any news about foreign countries other than Germany, France, England and the United States. Such is the world according to the majority of Italian media.
They have been extraordinarily capable of maintaining information about the recession just outside the circuit of the news. This is Berlusconi’s legacy.
His control of the press and television is unprecedented in Italy. His entire career has revolved around the concept that it is appearance not reality that counts, thus favoring the entrenchment of’ incompetence, corruption and national decline in an era where celebrity counts more than ideology, and politicians are actors, comedians. Thanks to the visibility obtained through their work, they can easily get votes, just as happens in India. Berlusconi has personalized politics in a new way to Italy. He has changed the electoral rules, so that voters could not choose between the candidates proposed by the parties, and has broken down the traditional boundaries between public and private sectors, including, among members of Parliament, his personal entourage. Berlusconi knows the mind of the Italians, having helped shape it with his media empire.
The Educational System has become a mechanism at the service of national goals, politically, militarily, economically and ideologically speaking, with the only interest of keeping alive the glories and traumas of the past with the result of making the Italian school system a fossil and reducing Italy to a decadent country. In senior high schools, future leaders are trained in classical studies, with almost no attention to modern languages or international law and the principles that have governed our economy for quite some time now. To make sure things will change it is paramount that education reflects the ideals of a true humanism so that children and adolescents are able not to fear or deny differences but rather be curious and learn from each other solutions to their problems: how to make urban gardening, how to practice a different religion, how to use solar panels, how to address conflicts.
What Can Italians Learn From Others?
If we do not want Italy to be reduced to a media farce it is necessary to develop in real life an attitude of openness and curiosity that makes see others as human partners, not as enemies. For this you need to cultivate three essential conditions: empathy, dialogue, creativity.
Empathy means putting yourself in the shoes of other, empathizing, asking questions.
Dialogue means that we always have something to learn from others, that we do not possess the whole truth and do not belong to any category of chosen people. Therefore we are not justified in assuming any oppressive/violent behavior.
Creativity is a skill that develops over time and increases with curiosity about others, allowing us to search and find concrete solutions to real problems. Solutions that have worked in other parts of the world and that, with appropriate adjustments, can also operate in Italy. Creativity is a characteristic of youth that improves when the school system is not oppressive and only focused on indoctrination.
Education shall be directed to the ‘know-how’ in everyday life including something that students can do concretely at the local level.
Intellectual Centralism and Cultural Federalism
Italy is an interesting mosaic: north and south are very different from each other; the same applies to the various regions. Rome is a world unto itself: large, cosmopolitan, autistic in some ways, such as Florence and Milan. None of them represents the complexity of the country that ranges from highly advanced areas to the remnants of a rural culture. The intellectual centralism is nothing more than one aspect of the Western centralism that manifests itself in the way the West perceives itself in relation to Nature, Humans, Society, World, Time and Culture.
The solution may lie in federalism not only in the linguistic sphere, which is already a reality in the peninsula, but also in education/training.
Dependence on ministerial programs ought to be reduced, not just to develop decentralized ‘do it yourself’ solutions, but also to revitalize local knowledge and economies, leading to new flowering of small communities, fostering self-sufficiency, identity, reducing the economic dependence from the center without sacrificing quality, and including young people, women and the elderly in a new idea of urbanity.
The space thus conceived is accessible to all; it is cheaper and allows people to feel at ease, giving trade and cultural exchange a new dynamism.
And when the space becomes a world of local communities?
Fortunately, today there is an infinite variety of technological tools that allow us to open a window into the world, different from the one proposed by schools, universities and the media. This makes possible to acquire a high-level education without having to travel, an endless process that enriches our lives in 360° and allows us to use our human potential more effectively. The online education system is trans-border, trans-cultural and intergenerational. Anybody may access it in order to develop knowledge and awareness of Self and Others—regardless of age or other factors.
Is this sufficient? Probably not, but it is a good starting point!
Johan Galtung, a Professor of Peace Studies, is Rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He is author of over 150 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years – 100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.
Erika Degortes is a TRANSCEND Convenor for Europa Latina, co-director of the Galtung-Institut for Peace theory and Peace practice, and TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU‘s Courses Secretary.
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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 25 Jun 2012.
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