“Going beyond fear.” It is impressive to see how diocesan weeklies, the benchmark and voice of our territories, have managed to grasp in unison the current state of heath of Italian society. As they do every week, they described from an original and never predictable perspective, which is that of the Gospel, thoughts, questions and concerns of the population. The conclusion of many reflections is to “go beyond our fears.” It’s an invitation that reverberates a commitment – to go beyond – an emotion that is increasingly widespread, that is, the feeling of fear.
There is no need to be an expert to realize the extent to which this emotion, that psychologists describe as a primary emotion, dominates our large urban centres. It is enough to stop a moment and observe our daily behaviours. The subject was addressed already two years ago by psychiatrist Vittorino Andreoli in an interview to SIR: we are living “against the backdrop of a disastrous level of civilization”, he said. Today, he added, “the culture of the enemy prevails: widespread shallowness causes self-identity to be based on the existence of an enemy. The need for an enemy is critical to self-definition. This amounts to an anthropological regression that is ruled by human drives.” The news of the past days confirm this assertion. From the Aquarius incident to the murder of Soumaila Sacko, from constant femicides to episodes of bullying, and the list could sadly go on…
The “enemy culture” prevails, resulting from the inability to handle fear, or rather, from someone else’s ability to appeal to people’s fears that are fuelling social hatred.
Let it be clear : hatred doesn’t only express negative feelings. There is a “sound” form of hatred that becomes an expectation for something yet to be fulfilled or achieved. Such an example is a couple expecting a baby, or the youths who these days are preparing their final exams. Those are physiological fears that make us stronger and improve human maturity. Conversely, some fears are pathological fears. Those are the fears that block and paralyze us, that in most cases give rise to frustration and anger. At social level, this happens when we are faced with diversity, which calls into question our certainties that we believed to be carved in stone. From that perspective our fellow other is seen as a threat we must defend ourselves from. Today that threat is represented by migrants and Roma, a few decades ago it was Albanians, and before them the Jews. Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, CEI President, in the message released last Saturday on the migrants issue, rightly said: “I cannot deny the complexity of the migratory phenomenon: pre-fabricated answers and ready-made solutions have the effect of fanning the flames, to no avail.” To this we add the intention to confine it to vicious cycles that fuel social media debates, reiterating and amplifying baseless or fake news to the detriment of reliable, relevant and well-founded content. Thus
Fears escalate into a sort of spiral that seems to resist all attempts to discredit or debunk fabricated information.
What can be done? Is there a way out? “The best antidotes to falsehoods – said Pope Francis in the message for this year’s World Communications Day – are not strategies, but people: people who are not greedy but ready to listen, people who make the effort to engage in sincere dialogue so that the truth can emerge.” It’s a challenge that recalls the strain and the beauty of thought and of community commitment for knowledge. The starting point is to listen, within the appropriate timeframe of silence and discernment. It’s the indispensable condition to receive every spoken word, that becomes living flesh, and grasp its true meaning, within its historical circumstances that include suffering and joy. Only in this way will we develop the necessary antibodies enabling us to recognize limits and problems, and, as far as possible, overcome social fears. In this respect our communities could truly contribute to the development of a different culture; they have a lot to teach with prophecy and creativity, avoiding the quicksand of disharmony. Indeed, fears can be overcome. It must be done. We need to extend our gaze … It’s the right moment to avert a dead end.