The golden rule

Publish date 02-05-2023

by Gabriella Delpero

It seems to me particularly urgent today to reflect deeply on our way of thinking about aggression. It is clear to all that we live in a society and in a time characterized by a widespread and profound malaise, which too often leads to attitudes and actions imbued with rudeness, arrogance, oppression, ruthlessness, up to the real violence, verbal and physical. And I'm certainly not referring to the numerous episodes of crime news that occupy the main pages of newspapers and news bulletins, but much more simply to what we see constantly surfacing in the language, behaviour, social and interpersonal relationships of each of us. Certainly the term aggressiveness is not easy to define because it includes a plurality of meanings and can describe phenomena that are very different from each other: it is one of those nouns that can also be called suitcase words as they range from extremely negative to almost positive .

There is, for example, an aggressiveness understood as a means of achieving important objectives or overcoming obstacles (therefore almost synonymous with enterprise, vitality, achievement or success), but there is certainly a destructive aggressiveness, which it results in acts of aggression and violence and derives from deep-rooted feelings of anger and the explicit desire to inflict harm and pain on others. But what is at the origin of this destructive aggressiveness? We often hear that it must be identified in the fact that the daily coexistence among us human beings is today "poisoned" by a dose of rudeness and lack of respect unknown until not long ago. And from rudeness to aggression (especially verbal) the step is really short. In reality, this explanation is not entirely convincing, because the past - even the recent one - is not said to be by definition always better than the present. In fact, in terms of behavior human progress certainly exists and in the meantime it has continued to make progress, but it proceeds in fits and starts, it is not a kind of straight line in constant ascent. So we can on the one hand say that today's aggressiveness is in some cases a small thing compared to that of some eras of the past, just think of the great tragedies of the twentieth century. At the same time it is equally true that in our behavior and in our daily human relationships something is missing of which we most felt the importance some time ago: reciprocity and a sense of community are lacking. An exasperated individualism reigns supreme everywhere: everyone puts himself, his own fulfilment, well-being and success first. And it is to all this that too many of our children and young people are basically educated today: to think above all of themselves and their own personal interests. The consequence is the precariousness of ties with others, which are perceived as temporary and are often lived in an instrumental way. What matters is the personal performance, the role, the image exhibited. There is no awareness of one's being an incomplete person, in need of others, their closeness and their attention, just as the others, all the others, in turn await the same closeness and attention.

From here to the progressive unraveling of an entire society the step is tragically short. In the end, we could be reduced to being a mass of strangers in perpetual competition with each other, whose relationships are precisely characterized by a high rate of mutual aggression. A decisive u-turn is needed, especially on the part of those who play an educational role towards the new generations and therefore have a great responsibility towards the future of our societies. Perhaps it would be enough to go back to declining in some way even today the ancient golden rule: "Do to others what you would like them to do to you".

Gabriella Delpero
NP February 2023

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