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Culture - Emanuela Fumagalli


Emanuela Fumagalli


Is it possible to eradicate once and for all the curse of violence from human society? In the light of the historical and everyday experiences we could say no… but at the same time, the reflection on the crisis, the instability and the transition in which we find ourselves today leads us to see things in a different way: mankind is still bound to a phase of violence, but it could also be close to making a new evolutionary step towards a new nonviolent world. It is as if at present it has one foot in the old and the other in the new. A phase that is in the process of being outlined, like a breach slowly widening. My quest consists in finding those elements and images that can help us see this path towards a really humane society by understanding the historical moment in which mankind finds himself.

Therefore, why is there violence? Why cruelty – which is more than violence -, why this violent intention towards other human beings? These are questions that leave each one of us distressed, in difficulty. What happens to the human who continues to use violence towards other human beings?

Behind violence there is always a denial of the other man’s human nature, it is always a disavowal or a non recognition of the human standing in front of me. But I believe that another gaze on the actual situation of violence is possible and that it is possible to say that the human being is a very young being, a still new being, and that consciousness can not yet come out of this quite prehistorical, violent condition.

Two millions of years ago this human being still walked on all fours and didn’t do much more; three or four hundred thousand years ago he discovered fire: it’s not long ago, only ten thousand generations.  He only learned to melt metals eight or ten thousand years ago.

In any case, some hundred of thousands of years ago, the other human beings where food for him, and he ate them: he caught the enemy, cut off his head, sucked his brain out and ate him. Only some hundred of years ago they were still eating each other, then they stopped, instead of eating each other, humans decided to enslave each other. It sounds horrible, but al least it’s better than before. So the human enslaved people, made them work for him, but he didn’t eat them anymore.

After a long time of slavery, for whatever reason, he discovered that those slaves worked harder if they were given some money. In addition, if they were cured and instructed a little bit, they produced more and better, so he improved their living conditions. He found that if people felt relaxed with their future they would work better. In this way, life conditions changed, and even if humans still live in a violent and cruel situation, in a short time he continued to advance. He steps forward with his intention to transform himself and his environment, and step by step he changes conditions.

But he is still using violence. When will he stop using violence? As soon as it will provoke a visceral repulsion inside of him, when violent actions will produce repudiation, a visceral, vegetative refusal. This hasn’t happened yet. Is the topic of visceral rejection understandable? Some actions can produce it. This is not a very elevated example, but eating excrements produces it. Violence still doesn’t make people feel like that, it does not create such a visceral rejection that makes it impossible to act that way.

There will come a time when the physical and psychological transformations of the human being will ensure the impossibility of violent acts, because his body and his psychism will reject them. This will happen, this is our direction. Don’t worry, history is not over.

The problem is that this change can take a long time to happen, maybe a couple of million of years. This change can take a very long time, if it is physical and we can observe that no important physical change has occurred in the human being over the last three thousand years.

Therefore we can do nothing, and everything will be all right, because – in the end - the human being will generate in himself those transformations leading him to abandon violent actions.

This will happen, the question is how to speed up this process. What can we do in order to accelerate this process? This is part of our action, it is part of the sense of what we are doing. We are implementing the sense of the structural action, day by day we are building and affirming the sense of the nonviolent action. This is our contribution, maybe it is a small crumb, yet important in the historical process, with the purpose that the human being go forward from prehistory – in which violence is still part of his daily activities – towards a human being in which violence is remembered as part of his ancient past, so that in the future he can laugh at us the same way we now smile at those men who once ate other men.

And – who knows? – maybe this is the most wonderful aspect of our action: it doesn’t end in ourselves. We are not fighting for nonviolence in order to avoid being hit by one’s own father of being rebuked by one’s own brother, we are struggling to build a nonviolent society, to ensure increasing better conditions for the new generations, to grant the continuity of humanity’s future and to ensure that this prehistory will be as short as possible and that the human being will be in the position to get over the threshold leading him towards a real human history.

Since the dawn of human history, civilizations emerged, developed and than declined in relative isolation. Contacts among them gradually increased, people and their cultures got in touch mainly because of trading, war, conquest and migration. Technology has slowly but relentlessly stimulated this interaction. In this last century, characterized by the globalization process, isolated people or cultures do not exist anymore, they are all related and interconnected in a global network, a unique and unprecedented condition in human history. The actual one is a closed system where events happening somewhere in the world affect the rest of the planet. Suffice is to remember the fall of Berlin’s Wall in 1989 or the terroristic attack on the Twin Towers in New York on 11th September 2001.

Unfortunately, change which is bound to crisis can be accompanied by different kinds of outbursts of violence: conventional wars, nuclear accidents, collapse of international financial systems, interruption of basic services (water, electricity, transports, etc.), mental illness and suicides. Nuclear powers’ interests and the insanity of violent groups, that could have access to small sized nuclear material, represent one of the worst threats of the modern age.

In this worrying landscape there is still much to do, not only to avoid events that are part of a world’s dehumanized agony, but to gather and unite people of all nations and cultures who share the new emerging sensitivity. In fact, the new will not be born from an old sensitivity, a mental shape of mindset now obsolete that constituted the essence of the old and that are precisely those who lead the system to its necessary phase of collapse and failure. Change will not occur by patching of recycling the old, or by a humanitarism that doesn’t touch the congenital root of violence.

Like it already happen before in human history, new civilizations arose from deep crise with a new spirituality, a spirituality that – at this stage – will have among its main pillars the culture of nonviolence. In this profound crisis that is enveloping us and that is getting worse day by day,  we can affirm by faith that this violent system will necessarily break up and leave space to something new and totally different, and we can also recognize some tangible signs of this.

A first signal is the attitude of younger people. They don’t have references in this system, they don’t join it, they are looking for different models and this bodes well for us.

We caught other signals during the World March of Peace and Nonviolence: we saw many people getting organized and enthusiastically joining, asking for nuclear disarmament and the abandonment of war as a form of conflict resolution. Many consciences awakened and sometimes a different way of staying and collaborating with others, a different and new way to feel the human being was perceived. Another signal has been the 110 million people contemporarily protesting against war in Iraq… these are strong signals in this age of disintegration and atomization, where sometimes it seems impossible to organize common actions. Many actions done by people in their familiar and working contests in order to overcome violence are less visible, believing that personal and social change are not opposed to one another, but rather feed and stimulate each other, recalling the fundamental principle of treating others as you want to be treated.

So we wonder: what is happening then to the simple people? What might help them? I believe that acting among people by giving confidence to young people would help to create this drive. The way is easy: to start ourselves first to participate in the construction of this evolutionary step of the human being, something that goes beyond our lives. We are supporting in a direction of which we may not see the final result, but this action is valid and full of sense.

In order to conclude, I would like to thank Fernando Garcia and Thomas Hirsh who gave me many ideas for this speech.

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