Change is possible

Publish date 20-05-2020

by Monica Canalis

Politics tested: a question of responsibility.


At Sermig we have adopted a method to make each experience an opportunity for growth and training: at the end of our meetings we ask ourselves what we have learned, what is left in it, to treasure it and start again with more teaching. This method can also be applied to collective experiences. What can national and European politics learn and plan from the greatest epidemic of the last century?

The risk is that the shock of the loss of human lives (almost 30,000 in Italy alone), the isolation and loosening of social ties make us enter into a sort of annihilation, a collective depression, combined with the feeling that nothing will be more like first, in economics as in social life. I think the reasoning should be reversed: the trauma that we are experiencing may just be an opportunity to make sure that things are no longer as before. The virus has brought so much pain and has impoverished many people, but it has also opened our eyes to the distortions of our development model and to the real priorities of public policies.


Healthcare first. In the last twenty years in Italy the National Health System has been eroded little by little, reducing beds and staff, neglecting local medicine and forgetting to update the Plan for pandemics. The 2001 reform of Title V of the Constitution (the one dedicated to Regions, Provinces and Municipalities) also showed its limitations, with the birth of 21 regional health models, very different from each other. Healthcare should be one of the cornerstones of the recovery and should be understood not so much as an expense, but as a productive investment. Health and well-being of citizens are in fact reflected on work productivity and social cohesion, just as large healthcare infrastructures can represent a driving force for territorial development and job creation through research and teaching activities.


The Covid 19 epidemic teaches us that healthcare is indeed an essential service, which can block all other activities if it does not work well and if it is not widespread and fairly widespread. For this reason it will be important to restore high levels of public health expenditure, review regional autonomy in health, avoid the imbalance on private health (which, unlike the non-profit agreement, is purely profit oriented), strengthen telemedicine and the digitalization of procedures (from the dematerialized recipe onwards) to reach even the most remote internal areas, re-evaluate and favor home care for the elderly and disabled people and at the same time enhance (and regularize) more than what has been done so far the family carers, the carers, domestic workers and social and health workers, reforming the service standards of the RSA (Assisted Health Residences) to guarantee maximum dignity even to those who are most vulnerable. A broad agenda that can accelerate after what we have experienced.

In an epidemic we get sick and heal together, my destiny is tied to yours, if you get sick I can get sick too, if you follow the rules you protect not only yourself but also me. The pathology is not individual, but collective, I would say almost community and leads us to have at heart the fate of our neighbors, neighbors, schoolmates, colleagues, because ours can also depend on their fate. We are together on this boat, as the Gospel passage chosen by Pope Francis for solitary prayer in St. Peter's Square reminded us. Someone used the metaphor of war to describe this sharing of the struggle, but war contrasts the fighters while in this situation we must learn to join efforts, coordinate and join the same cause. Everyone, all humanity. Globalization has accelerated the spread of the virus, but it is also speeding up the sharing of scientific discoveries, treatment protocols and vaccine trials. Wars have divided humanity, while this epidemic, albeit at the cost of human lives, is uniting us against a common enemy that has no political flag.


This, with difficulty, is also happening in Europe. In the first few weeks, Member States have not shown a spirit of solidarity.

Each has kept masks and other Personal Protective Equipment to itself, the European Civil Protection Mechanism has not worked, many countries have resisted new shared financial measures. Then, gradually, a shared process was activated, the final outcome of which we do not yet know and which could also lead to a strengthening of Europe: 1120 billion euros from the European Central Bank, 200 billion euros for companies from the European Investment Bank, 100 billion euros for SURE, a sort of European layoff fund, a portion of the "European Stability Mechanism" dedicated, without conditionality, exclusively to healthcare expenses (36 billion for Italy), up to the decisive intervention of the Recovery Bonds for reconstruction costs. Coronavirus can be the grave or revival of the European Union. If Member States decide to share risk, debt and investment for reconstruction, Europe will emerge stronger than before. If, however, they continue to veto and make mistrust prevail in the name of a counterproductive national sovereignty, the European dream will enter into a probably irreversible decline.


This virus derives from wild animals whose ecosystem has been threatened by humans and has spread due to inadequate and unprepared health systems. Even very wealthy countries like the United States and the United Kingdom are reporting many victims. Politics is therefore called upon to devise a development model that respects the environment and social balances. An authentic human development that achieves environmental and human sustainability and does not aim only at profit. "True development cannot consist in the simple accumulation of wealth and in the greater availability of goods and services, if this is achieved without due consideration for the social, cultural and spiritual dimensions of the human being" (Encyclical "Sollicitudo rei socialis" of the 1987). In the historical comparison between statism and liberalism, between socialism and capitalism, between renunciation of the freedoms and responsibilities of the welfare state and the libertarian illusion of the consumer society, the epidemic must stimulate the formulation of a third model, a human capitalism, an economy social, which avoids pure materialism and places human dignity at the center of political and economic choices. The intermediate bodies will be allies of this strategy. "The sociality of man does not end in the state, but occurs in different intermediate groups, starting with the family up to the economic, social, political and cultural groups, which have their own autonomy. It is the subjectivity of society, which joins the subjectivity of the individual "(Encyclical" Centesimus Annus "of 1991). We will only emerge better from this global crisis if we change our development model, investing in social and health policies, respecting human rights and the environment, strengthening the community spirit and international cooperation.


As Stefano Zamagni reminds us, in the new world of dopovirus the number one enemy will be liberalism and we must learn to distinguish between capitalism and market economy, recognizing that it is not necessary to accept the former to save the latter and that the social order is the result the interaction between state, market and civil society.

What is certain is that the epidemic is a watershed and nothing will be the same as before. Politics will have the responsibility to interpret this change in favor of the common good, with much creativity and courage.

As the Czech statesman Vaclav Havel said. "Politics cannot be only the art of the possible, that is, speculation, calculation, intrigue, secret agreements and utilitarian scams, but rather it must be the art of the impossible, that is, the art of making better themselves and the world ».


See the focus Reflections in Time of Covid 19

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