The year of truth

Publish date 18-03-2024

by Renato Bonomo

I happened to see a very funny reel on Instagram. In rapid succession, fragments of the end-of-year speeches of various French presidents were presented. The various Giscard d'Estaing, Mitterand, Chirac, Hollande announced to the French citizens that the following year would be a difficult year. Despite belonging to opposing political groups and engaged in different historical eras, they all used the same words and the same adjective to define the imminent new year. Congratulations to the assembly…

A thought comes to mind: has there ever been an easy year? A year free from misfortunes or crises? The recent experience of the pandemic has certainly put us to the test. During isolation and forced closures, we seemed to be living in a unique and unrepeatable time, which no previous generation had ever experienced (so terrible that now we have already forgotten everything!). What an error of perspective to think that only our point of view exists! But what should we say about those who today - now and now - experience enormous tragedies such as war and hunger in the Holy Land, in Ukraine, in the Horn of Africa?

We can take two other examples, one further away and one closer in time. The fourteenth century was not an easy century: famines, plague, wars, city and peasant revolts, scarcity of resources and rising prices. And then the Avignon captivity, the crisis of the empire, the schism within the Catholic church... Can that be enough?

We come to a more recent and familiar past. My grandfather, born in 1899, was drafted into the First World War. After training in Bologna, he was lucky enough not to leave for the front, but he suffered all the disastrous effects of the First World War: fascism, another world war which for him meant a gun pointed at his head by an officer German. Then he - who was a leather craftsman - at the height of the economic boom was overwhelmed by the new industrialization which forced him to close his business and die in 1963 with a funeral paid for thanks to the help of some relatives.

Perhaps, examples like these help us give our perceptions their dimension and weight. Another reflection reminds us that, despite its many defects, democracy still has the possibility of telling the truth (amidst so many opinions and falsehoods... difficult to recognize) and reminding citizens that things may not be going well. In authoritarian regimes things don't go wrong because they can't go wrong.

Authoritarian regimes lie about economic data, deceive their public opinions, announce new eras without the limits of the present and the past. But will it be true? Freedom – as long as it is preserved – will be a formidable antidote to the falsehoods of politics. This does not mean that democracy is then identified with pessimism. If it is true that in democracy falsehood and illegality can be denounced, it can also indicate authentic paths of hope.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt's inaugural speech on March 4, 1933 is memorable: «I believe that this is above all the time to tell the truth, the whole truth, with sincerity and courage. Today, we cannot shy away from honestly addressing the current conditions of our country. This great nation will be able to endure again, as it has already been able to endure, and it will also be able to rise again to prosperity. So let me fully express my firm conviction that what we must fear above all is allowing ourselves to be overcome by fear, by that nameless, unreasonable and unjustified fear, which paralyzes the movements necessary to transform a retreat into an advance."

Renato Bonomo

NP Febbraio 2024

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