Show list of the lessons
3.5 Charity and politics
The philosopher Dario Antiseri, in an intervention on the italian TV channel Raitre for the program “Ballarò” of February 16, 2010, taking up the position of Popper, an Austrian philosopher who lived between 1902 and 1994, said: “It is not a question of the Right or the Left, here is a question of rules. That is, an open society is open to the greatest possible number of ideas and ideals, different and perhaps conflicting. The basic question that, as it were, the theorist of the open society, or in any case the defender of the rule of law, poses, is not who should be in charge, but rather how to control those who are in charge. Because, if you look carefully, if we look at the answer that has been given in the course of the history of political thought to the question of the masters “who should be in charge”, is an answer that has led to disasters: philosophers must be in charge because they know what it is good and what is evil, industrialists, priests, and so on. Then the past century came: who should command? This race; who should command? This class. I mean, really, the basic problem, I repeat, is not who should command. While we think the question “who should command” is so obvious, Balthazar must command, others … this is not the problem. The problem is another, that is, how we control those who are in charge; that is to say, through which rules we control who commands. So, every time we, as it were, hit one of these rules, which can be the Constitutional Court, the Judiciary, the press, television, etc., one of these tools, of these presidia, a piece of freedom dies. It is often said: the people command. Applies to Right and Left. No. In a state of law the people do not command, the law commands. Sovereign is the law, and it is a law that sets limits to those who command. This is an important thing, because the people elected Barabbas; the people, as it were, went into raptures for Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, etc. So I respect the people, but the people must be neither mythicized nor discredited. Lord Acton, a great English Catholic liberal, said that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is why the price of freedom is truly eternal vigilance.”
Consequently, the real question turns to the voters’ commitment after the elections: not so much “what tools does the candidate offer me to get controlled”, but “what will we do after the elections to control the elected”. But history shows that it is not certain that a people knows what its good is, so with what criteria will the people try to control who governs? In this sense, I don’t share Antiseri’s trust in the law, a trust that already Jesus did not have, and even less St. Paul in his letters.
When we tried to distinguish the three ways of thinking, I wrote: metaphysical thought believes it can affirm that this table exists; weak thought denies this possibility; practical thinking asks what to do with this table. At this point, it is a question of questioning ourselves about doing, since every man can believe that the best, most authentic way of acting is what he believes to be the best and most authentic. Faced with this subjectivism, relativism, the natural consequence is conventionalism: that is, the best way of acting is to constantly try to agree. The basis of the conventions is the being of the people who work for them. Therefore the political commitment must consist in working first of all on one’s own personal being, and then proposing it to the community as a contribution to the path of all.
At this point it is good to keep in mind that our being coincides with our cultural being, because the image we make of ourselves always passes through our brain, which is a human brain. It is impossible for us to think of ourselves except from a human perspective, and therefore from a perspective of human culture. Then the human criterion of doing charity and politics, that is, the way to the question “what to do with this table”, must have as a basis the work of each on his own culture and then the proposal of this contribution to the community.
Therefore, the reason why to fight, for example, against hunger in the world, is because a hungry person, due to her urgency to eat, has no possibility to devote herself to research on herself, to self-criticism, to her culture; we must fight against dictatorships because every dictatorship, by imposing the thought of the dictator, prevents citizens from working to self-awareness, with the possibility of choosing which thought and culture to use. This is more than freedom, because the term freedom on its own is reduced to the possibility for everyone to do what they like, with all the problems that follow.
A people that fights only for bread and work, forgetting to fight for support for culture, is destined to elect a dictator, there is no escape. This was the Italians’ mistake in having elected Berlusconi: they elected him because they saw him as the one who would give bread and work, losing sight of what culture he was the bearer. In some ways every people is doomed to this error, because democracy ultimately means mass power, but mass means superficiality and therefore it is obvious that the mass does not cultivate cultural research about itself. Therefore, if the Italians depose Berlusconi because he did not give bread and work, in order to choose another one that gives bread and work, they don’t solve the problem, because the problem is the lack of cultural awareness in the Italians themselves. Then the real revolution is not made by electing someone who finally brings bread and work, but with the management of what makes culture, that is, school and the means of communication, and if anything electing those who prove to be more bearers of culture. It may also happen that a people depose a governor bearer of culture, because it is easy to take hold of the mass by waving all the problems of lack of bread and lack of work, which will always be there. A more culturally formed people will be more immune against leveraging these material arguments. If a governor is interested in culture, he will automatically be interested so that everyone can access it, while those who make bread and work propaganda are already working to become dictators, distracting people from cultural awareness. The same happens when in a family they work only so that the children have bread and work and not cultural reflection.
It could be objected that without bread one cannot have the energy, the life necessary to cultivate culture, but this reasoning is valid only in appearance, actually it is deceptive. On the contrary, we must keep in mind another one: if one seeks culture, he will automatically look for bread in order to have material life and make culture; the starting motivation must serve to not forget that that bread must be sought not for itself, but to get to the next step, that is to do culture; instead, those who start with the search for bread are much more likely to forget immediately that the bread had to serve them for another thing.
In other words, if we ask ourselves what to do with this table and nobody in the meantime questions himself, it is sure that we will hand over the table to some dictator: it will be one of us, or a law, or any rule. In this sense it is always the people who create the dictators; even if a governor is not such one, when the members of the people do not reflect on themselves, they automatically make him a dictator.
In Italy the difficulty toward culture could be traced back to the fragmented political origins; Italian and world unity can then be achieved only by starting from this awareness in doing culture: culture creates union.