The world in our hands
Publish date 26-05-2022
How to read the complexity of international relations. We talk about it with the political scientist Vittorio Emanuele Parsi, a guest of the University of Dialogue
From a world made for things to a world made for people. Utopia? Possible revolution? A change really within reach? Still too early to say, but certainly the pandemic represents a historic crossing point. The political scientist Vittorio Emanuele Parsi has no doubts. If everything goes back to the way it was before, humanity will have lost an opportunity, but certain processes are by no means taken for granted.
Professor, the worldwide pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in income and also in access to care. How much has the current economic model influenced?
Very, very much. The economic model is central to what is happening. If the purpose is human beings, certain assumptions of setting up society are unacceptable. Where is it written that the rights of money are more important than the rights of the person?
We need to change a mentality by building ideas and making it clear that being generous, supportive, good is something that is good for us first and foremost.
You hypothesize some scenarios for the post-pandemic. The first is that of the restoration ...
And it is the worst, that is the possibility that we will substantially return to the previous model, without questioning either economic or political relations, that is, relations of power. This is more or less what we are seeing, with the strong urge to believe that we will return to growth as before. With a paradox. It is true that we are already growing as in 2019, with an excellent GDP and level of exports. Too bad we forget that we also have the same unemployment rate and a totally unbalanced income distribution.
For the second scenario, he uses the metaphor of the end of the Roman Empire.
Yes, to indicate a slower process, a re-adjustment of the power relations between the major international political actors, namely China and the United States. In summary, we could witness the end of the centrality of the West, with all its positive and negative contradictions and the taking over of another centrality. This scenario, similar to the restoration, does not question economic and power relations. Who is driving changes, but essentially nothing changes. However, there is a third possibility.
The Renaissance, or the end of the hegemony of a certain way of thinking about economic relations. The pandemic has shown us this path. For example, the states understood that it was necessary to help people, to put them at the center. It could be the beginning of a change, but everyone must do their part.
What margins are there for this to happen?
In recent years I have had to compare myself a lot with economists, because economics today has a bit of the function that theology had compared to politics in Dante's time. If in his time you wanted to destroy a political idea, you said it was a heresy; if today you want to bury a political idea, you say that it is economically unsustainable. I use a navigation metaphor. It is as if we were on a vessel that is holding a pace that will soon reach a turning point. Everything will depend on the expertise, the commitment of the crew: do we want to pull the sheets and the ropes like desperate ones? Do we want to get wet to do it? Are we willing or not? This is the key point. This will not determine the strength of the wind, but being ready to make the turn at the right time depends on us. I believe that events are maturing along with ideas.
What role can politics play in such a complex world?
An absolutely fundamental role. Politics has the function of regulating decision-making power. Power is nothing more than the tool for doing things, but the struggle to achieve it must be done in the open. Political struggle is a way of educating social conflict.
But then there is another equally important dimension of politics which is the ideal dimension. I want to be able to do what, to transform what? And on this we must be extremely demanding.
How do you become one?
Simply wanting it and getting your hands dirty. I know very well that it is difficult, because certain politics rewards loyalty, obedience, those who do not bother too much, partisanship.
However, we cannot give up on our ideals. Only high ideals make it possible to reach even good compromises.
The other side of international politics is also cynicism.
We saw it in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the West. For twenty years we have fueled the utopia of exporting democracy, only to then abandon the country to the obscurantism of the Taliban. How can human rights be promoted today? If there is one thing that these years have certified from an objective point of view, it is that the use of force is not decisive with respect to anything. What happened in Afghanistan where we lost, even though we were much stronger, demonstrates this very well. In 2001, the Taliban government should have been brought down and the Afghans should have found ways to organize themselves. There are no shortcuts and above all, no one is omnipotent.
And then why should a people follow our example if we are only capable of filling them with bombs? That said, there is a huge problem today: Afghans as a people are starving. We should ask ourselves how to help them. It's possible. We should do it. The alternative is to let them die and it is unacceptable.
Doing so would cost very little, compared to what we normally spend when we shoot someone. And mine is not a pacifist speech.
Where do you see hope today? And above all, what can individuals do?
Individuals can do a lot on the subject of hope, because hope is first of all within us. Hope means that I don't give up. Hope, even from a secular point of view, is our desire to fight for something. It is to think that every single meter you take can take you to the end of the field. It is to say: 'I'm here. What to do?'. We can apply this method to the post-pandemic, to the change of economic relations. Things only happen if we make them happen, they don't fall from above. In my opinion this is excellent news because if we can act negatively, we can also make a difference by acting positively.
A cura della Redazione NP
NP Febbraio 2022
How the pandemic is changing politics and the world by Vittorio Emanuele Parsi Piemme, 2021.
With Covid-19, humanity has rediscovered itself vulnerable. We woke up suddenly, disbanded, like a ship without a rudder. Humanity must use the opportunity of the pandemic to rethink its navigation and its route. The post-pandemic could fuel widespread resentment, or rekindle a new hope.