Italian intellectuals, lost to populism | Culture

Italian intellectuals, lost to populism | Culture

Giulio Andreotti, a genius of evil transfigured seven times in Christian Democrat prime minister, always had the exact word for the most devilish predicament. The anecdote, a nebula in the newspaper archives, indicates that in the 1980s he visited Spain to closely observe the Transition. The journalists insisted on knowing his verdict. To the third, he offered a whisper as accurate as a whisper that would define for decades the intellectual and political gap between the two countries: "Manca finezza"

Italy always cultivated that subtlety based on the ability to find solutions in moments of decomposition without renouncing intellectual density. A cultural fabric and a political universe that historically advanced hand in hand: the old dream of the communist party. The intellectuals – Italo Calvino, Leonardo Sciascia, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Umberto Eco, Renato Guttuso …- gave strength to the ideological body of the left through political and media hegemonic structures that today have lost influence. There is silence around the populist government, partly also because of the resignation of the old Italian class of thinkers to intervene in the public debate. Also by the fracture created between two worlds that are not recognized where populism triumphs: the street and the academy.

The crack was never so obvious. In a sequence of April (1998), Nanni Moretti He watches in amazement as Silvio Berlusconi bursts with Massimo D'Alema in a televised debate. Then he yells at him from his sofa: "Say something left-handed, D'Alema!" Before the bites of the Cayman, the filmmaker snorts and ends up conforming: "Say something …". In Italy there is not a left to shout at 20 years later, but neither is a Moretti pushing from the ideas (although he has just released a new documentary). They are the toxic effects of a haze difficult to transit for their intellectuals, disoriented with the new communication channels of political discourse and the difficulty of combating a form of viralized postverity from the same offices of the Government. When did the change start?

Rewind history

Filippo Ceccarelli, author of the exhaustive Invano Il Potere in Italy. Da De Gasperi to questi qua, a historical journey on the decadence of Italian politics that covers the lists of successes of 2018, asks to rewind the tape of this story until the night of November 2, 1975 on the beach of Ostia, where Pier Paolo Pasolini was killed in circumstances never clarified. His death, like that of Prime Minister Aldo Moro, represents a historic hinge for Italian thought. "He was the last true intellectual whose ideas had a political influence. And more than an intellectual, he was a kind of prophet. Overcome that, everything changes, "he says in his house in the Roman Trastévere, where he kept his fabulous political file before donating it to the library of the Chamber of Deputies. Ceccarelli remembers the Roman film director and his influence on politicians such as the socialist leader Nenni – to whom he dedicated a poetry – and the Communist Party. It evokes Enrico Berlinguer on Youtube and his stoic last rally in Padua while a stroke bombed his brain. "Today do not look at the intellectuals, look at technology. Berlusconi, advertising, consumption … all that really determined the individual and collective changes. The intellectual who understands things and distributes them has ended some time ago, "he says.

The debate, some of the interviewees ask for this report, must begin with an earlier question: What is an intellectual in a populist society? Nuccio Ordine, author of The usefulness of the useless, shoots against the University as the origin of the change. "The professors were militant people who thought that knowledge was always at the service of a civil horizon. Today that line is lost sight. The reforms [iniciadas en tiempos de Berlusconi] have transformed teachers into bureaucrats, that civil conscience is dissolving, "he says, reviewing some of the theses Gli uomini non sono isole, his last book. "The product of populism is very dangerous for the cultural fabric and also affects the political level, increasingly low. Two phenomena that should be read together: when the intellectual is a bureaucrat and loses the civil horizon that should move their choices, it is normal that all this happens. But why is it accepted in universities? "

One clue points to the fall of the two blocs that sponsored Italian political thought for 40 years: the Christian Democrats and the Communist Party. The end of the cultural hegemony that leaders like Palmiro Togliatti dreamed of, as the political scientist recalls Giovanni Orsina, author of The democrazia of narcissism. Breve storia dell'antipolitica. "Today there is no ideology that manages to convince ordinary people that a great future awaits them. The leadership is molecular and does not occur through a large current, the protagonism is ephemeral and is achieved by other channels: the five minutes of glory. In such a situation, intellectual mediation is useless. He had never seen such a deep fracture. The populists have no culture to lean on and the intellectuals shout to the wind. It is a structural problem that will affect other countries. "

The assassination of Prime Minister Aldo Moro at the hands of the Red Brigades marked a change of course that opened the way for the gradual irruption of Silvio Berlusconi and his advertising strategy applied to politics. The journalist and writer Aldo Cazzullo, author of Giuro che non avrò più fame. L'Italia della ricostruzione, believe that there is the second turning point. "The left has lost cultural hegemony since the time of Berlusconi. The mass culture no longer passed through books, newspapers, the university, the academy … It went through television first, and then through the network. And that explains the hegemony of Berlusconi and then the M5S. The Internet today determines the cultural fabric in the countries where populism governs. The new phase of cultural hegemony is there, "he says.

The direction is clear: ideas, books or intellectual density are not enough. In the era of populism, thinkers, writers and artists with predicament in social networks are sought: Influencers, in sum. Roberto Saviano, with millions of followers, has long been one of the few voices opposing the government of the League and the M5S. The writer, under escort for a decade for his revelations about the Camorra, contradicts the thesis that there is no one against populism, but believes it is a lone and risky work. "In a moment of confusion and bewilderment as we live, the intellectual wonders how he can be useful and effective with his action. We live in a climate of constant provocation, a win win for the one who governs. How do you react to the dictatorship of the tweet? Do you shout against fascism or against a band of incompetent cynics? Do you study more effective and less frontal modes? Do not forget that intellectuals no longer have a political base of reference. No longer exists. After the refusal to vote the IUS Soli or the agreements with Libya to prevent the landings of refugees, the PD became the lobby of the League. Today who attacks the government is alone against everyone, "he says in a long audiomessage through whatsapp.

Last summer there were changes. The echo of that silence was deafening and some tribunes offered themselves as a speaker. L'Espresso, the weekly reference in Italy led by Marco Damilano, was the first to take the step. "Some historical voices that opposed Berlusconi have remained silent in recent times. We thought we had to make the intellectuals come out in the light. The opposition party is not here right now. The unions are not there. There have not been general strikes, debate on budgets … The industrialists are an opposition that moves by interests. If you do not hear the voice of intellectuals, what would be left? That is the question. So we've campaigned, "he points to the phone.

The magazine has pushed a whole movement of figures that began to raise their voices a few months ago. "Populism causes a certain difficulty of interpretation to the old intellectuals, but has triggered a reaction of younger figures. And it is a new phenomenon, because there is nothing comparable M5S in the rest of Europe. In fact, this match [nacido a través de un blog y una empresa de comunicación digital] has put in difficulty many intellectuals who at first had supported them. There is not one left, "says Damilano.

Raise your voice

The graphic novelist raised his voice Zerocalcare or Michela Murgia, author of Istruzioni per diventare fascist, a controversial book about the winds of change that cross Europe. On the phone, it infuriates him by pointing out that the intellectuals are silent. "Is not true! It's fine with that chant. There are very strong intellectual voices that oppose the Government. The work we are doing can be seen reviewing the attacks from Matteo's profile Salvini. We have scratched our pockets to buy a boat and there are people who receive insults and death threats. There is an intellectual class that reacts: it is not about Gianni Vattimo or Claudio Magris, they do not access as many people as we do, "he also quoted the latest Strega prize, Elena Janeczek, or the writer Sandro Veronesi, that last July published an open letter to Saviano and other authors asking them to get involved.

The role of the intellectual, practically turned into an activist, seeks accommodation in populist times. And Veronesi and other individuals, strongly attacked by the bases of the League and M5S, bought a ship and launched themselves into the Mediterranean to help in the rescue of migrants. He was used to write Cani d'Estate, a pamphlet, he says, about what happened those days. "In the Novecento the bourgeoisie attacked the intellectuals, but the people did not. That now that spectrum is oriented against us has caused us to feel attacked personally. I am of the old guard, I am 60 years old: they are the last years in which one can play the physicist in this fight. Not all the intellectuals have moved, it is true, but they will do it. Unfortunately, it is not a path that allows us to go backwards ". Nor to the old days of the finezza


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