The rower’s ”parable”

  • Italiano

An effect of politics being personalized is the myth of regeneration, that is expecting regeneration entrusted to yet another new man. As if before him there were nothing but rubble, embezzlement or ineptitude. It seems to me that this temptation has pervaded today the democratic field. There is the year zero rhetoric. The last twenty years we have left behind are talked about as if all were equal, all equally responsible. The right and the Left, Berlusconians and Antiberlusconians, reformers and conservatives, honest and less honest people: no difference.

Whereas there is no memory of the great achievements of Ulivo party, of a reformist impetus whose protagonist was probably the best ruling class in Italian history. Joining the Euro zone, Prodi’s and Ciampi’s “rehabilitation and growth”, the liberalizations which have unblocked trade and energy, consumers’ habits, the modernization of the school and of the labor market, a way of interpreting duopoly, son to Mattarellum, which for the first time transformed Italy into a model to study and emulate abroad, and not the homeland where to practice in all kinds of exotic cases, certainly foreign to our tradition of belonging. Then a strong outpouring of public ethics, of which they prefer to emphasize (marginal) claims of alleged cultural superiority, rather than the (widespread, prevailing) spirit of dedication to the community.

We have not been able to change the country, they argue. It is absolutely true, but errors are due, in large part, precisely to the fainting of the original insight, the selfish personal and divisions to the detriment of the political community. “Those who have made the biggest mistake”, to quote the title of a hard and beautiful book on Marco Damilano, are those who have put themselves before the common project, their own ambitions before the interest of the country.

I have often thought that one of the causes of all this lies in the “game of the oars gone mad”. In rowing you win if you row at the same pace, but above all, in the same direction. Then, you can argue over who should be steering and if the pace may have route adjustments. In other countries elections serve precisely this aim: to change the helmsman and adjust the the route or the rhythm of rowing, but knowing that they cannot question the entire thing they are doing. On the boat of Italy, every rower rows the way he likes better, but above all, in the direction s/he likes better. And many rowers hold their oars high above the water and have no difficulties in acknowledging their responsibility.

It is easier for them if the helmsman remains concentrated exclusively on himself and on his own successes. Except that this way, the boat does not move forward.

Politics, and the action of the government, in particular, are the team game par excellence. Everyone does his own duty because they have the skills to do so, because they feel to be in a winning group, in which they feel at ease, because their contribution is appreciated in a way they considers satisfactory ( …)

I was and I am convinced that this policy has its limits. It is good that they are there. This is Aldo Moro’s lesson: without respecting the limit, every single thing is a political one, and, at the same time, nothing is politics anymore. There is no more service: everything comes down to power. Therefore, if you are called to “serve” your country under exceptional conditions – driving an executive with “broad-based government” exposed, by definition, to the need to find a difficult equilibrium between the forces of the governmental majority – and your first duty is doing only that. Do it for good, while maintaining a profile as alien from speculation as possible. So, you cannot but put institutions before anything else, even before yourself and your ambitions.

From Going Together, Going Far (ed. Mondadori)

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