Three days ago Milano was locked. We were informed that we are not allowed to travel and we were asked to stay home as much as possible. Two nights ago Italy was entirely locked and security measures were added. For instance, there is a prohibition of aggregation (and I see it’s enforced by the police). It’s all pretty surreal.
There is a good reason for this to happen: the virus is spreading fast and hospitals are congested. In several hospitals there is no more room in intensive care. Not everyone can be treated. Intensive care priority is given to patients with the highest life expectancy. Just like in war times.
People are responding in different ways. Many “smart” Italians crowded the bars in the past days despite the ordinance and rushed in hordes to the trains to travel from Milan to the south of Italy right when the travelling was about to be banned. In other words, benefitting oneself by setting aside the welfare of the community and even family.
How did we get here?
Stupidity is an emergency
In Italy public television used to be quite good. As well as information and entertainment there were many cultural programs. In its early days there were several educational programs too and it helped Italians to have similar reference points. When private television started (yes, Mr. Berlusconi), it brought novelties and the level of programs dropped. In order not to lose viewers and advertisers, public television started competing and lowered the level of their programs. In short, now all channels, both public and private, deliver a high degree of trash.
What can we expect from viewers lobotomized by reality shows where competition is taken for granted, narcissism is a value and the ones that make the biggest drama are rewarded?
It’s the triumph of individualism and egoism. Years of this brainwashing paved the way for current influencers to became role models and more. And even if we can’t generalize, the dramatic true is that a multitude of Italians are not really able to take responsibility for their actions. In occasions like this emergency, they just try to find a way to get an immediate personal advantage. Evading the rules. Who cares about the others...
Education: where is it coming from?
Television is not the only factor that influences peoples’ behaviors. Of course, there is school. The tragedy is that education programs kept being impoverished by measures like cutting the teaching of history of art (in Italy!) or drastically reducing the number of teachers. And then there are families, but parents aren’t necessarily a good moral example (especially if they grew up brainwashed by poor TV programs).
I am not stating that all Italians have a low civic sense because this is not true, I am saying that civic sense is not really encouraged.
My years spent travelling around the world covering different sorts of news taught me to see things in different perspectives. What is considered true and normal in one country could be considered awkward in another. I have seen women wearing burkini and black gloves to swim in Algeria and women wearing “dental floss” on the beach in Brazil or Miami. It’s a cultural thing. What is considered “right” comes from religion, family, mass media and the entire social environment.
When I lived in Paris I discovered how it is living in a society that — generally speaking — considers public facilities as something that belongs to the entire community and therefore to be treated with respect. In Italy people tend to consider anything public as something that belongs to no one. In Paris people are happy to have a park with beautiful flowerbeds to admire. In Italy some people pick flowers from flowerbeds. A huge difference in civic sense.
Crisis = Opportunity
Yesterday I was thinking that this health crisis is bringing up and magnifying our problems and it would be great if we would take the opportunity to face what we need to face. About our civic sense and about how our society is going in a non-sustainable direction. A few minutes later I ran into this interview with Li Edelkoort, where she states that “we should be very grateful for the virus because it might be the reason we survive as a species […] In the end, we will be forced to do what we should have done already in the first place.”
She is mainly referring to what French economic historian Serge Latouche has already been preaching for many years: happy degrowth.
To consume more is not to live better. A huge change is needed in order to have a prosperous society that put the environment and people’s well-being first.
I am glad to read this concept explained by a trend guru, it means we are ready to see it going mainstream.
The virus seen as a help
Another article received my attention. The title is “5 ways coronavirus could help humanity survive the ecological crisis” and lists:
• Demonstrating a less industrial future is feasible
• Driving a massive contraction in demand for cruises and aviation
• Shifting towards more resilient local economies
• Ending the trade in wild animals
• Highlighting the horrors of factory farming
Great! So, I am not the only one thinking that there is also something good in this crisis. And yet, we have to deal with the everyday life that now includes a deadly threat and an economic halt in most sectors. It’s hard to see the bright side.
While I am writing I receive an email with the results of a poll among professional photographers about the actual situation. Many comments of my colleagues are encouraging:
“Let’s detox from routine.”
“Later on we will have a clear idea of what happened and all the benefits it brought.”
“Supporting each other is the key to everything, it always has been, but it took a virus to make everyone understand.”
This last statement made me think about a book that I read many years ago, The Healing Power of Illness: Understanding What Your Symptoms Are Telling You by Thorwald Dethlefsen and Rüdiger Dahlke. Here’s a quote:
“(the patient) must be ready to question everything he/she thinks about him/herself and consciously integrate what the symptom tries to make him/her understand on a physical level.
Healing is always linked to dilation of consciousness and maturation. If the symptom has arisen because a component of the shadow has fallen into the body and manifested itself there, then healing is the inverse process: the principle of the symptom is brought to the level of consciousness and thus redeemed from its material existence.”
The angle fits really well with my thoughts about the opportunity that this health crisis is bringing up, as it magnifies our problems. Guess what? I run into a Facebook re-post of Italian psychologist F. Morelli that observes how, in this moment of racist reminiscences, “a virus arrives and makes us experience that, in an instant, we can become the discriminated.” In other words, after an escalation of racism against migrants, we find ourselves being the plagued. Pretty amazing.
And about what we have to learn: “the virus sends us a clear message: the only way out of it is reciprocity, a sense of belonging, community, the feeling of being part of something bigger to take care of and that can take care of us. The shared responsibility, the feeling that the fate not only of you but of everyone around you depends on your actions. And that you depend on them.”
Wonderful words and… so far away from the behaviors of those Italians that in this moment of crisis show only interest for an immediate personal advantage. My only reassurance is that, if they will not learn anything from the situation, people around them might.
Debunking the issues
This emergency is bringing up many problems. For instance the cut of 37 billion euros to public health care in the last decade. A cut that translates into a drop in the level of care: an estimated loss of more than 70,000 beds in the last 10 years, with 359 closed wards, in addition to the many small hospitals converted or abandoned.
While this is “just” a matter of recognizing the need of adequate funding for our health facilities, the lack of civic responsibility seems to be more complex to solve. Will we be good enough to take this opportunity? Will authorities treat the matter as an emergency? I find another article, “Coronavirus: il fallimento educativo sta uccidendo l’Italia” (Coronavirus: educational failure is killing Italy). Hey there is a number of people pointing at this issue. That’s a good sign. This crisis could help us evolve
And maybe we are already changing a bit. I see people writing on social media:
“can we still tolerate that a nurse’s salary is this low while a football player gets that ridiculously huge amount of money?”
“The virus has revealed the vital importance of an efficient, ready, equipped, organized public health service. And yet we had forgotten it”
“Our country is in pieces, all pretensions and no knowledge of duties. This needs to change”
“Now that health care in the world is staggering, let’s ask ourselves if we can still afford endless wars”
I read another article: How did the Bubonic Plague make the Italian Renaissance possible?. “The Black Death (1347–1350) was a pandemic that devastated the populations of Europe and Asia. The plague was an unprecedented human tragedy in Italy. It not only shook Italian society but transformed it. The Black Death marked an end of an era in Italy, its impact was profound, and it resulted in wide-ranging social, economic, cultural and religious changes. These changes, directly and indirectly, led to the emergence of the Renaissance, one of the greatest epochs for art, architecture, and literature in human history.”
Are we about to witness a new Renaissance?
Last night in Naples a man waiting to be tested for Coronavirus lost his patience while queueing and spat on two doctors that are now in quarantine.
If a new Renaissance is on the way, it’s pretty far on the horizon. It’s up to each one of us to shorten that distance.
This is a story of the Futurist Club
Written by: Enzo Dal Verme
About the author:
Currently based in Milan, Enzo has been working in the photographic and information industry for over 20 years. His celebrity portraits and reportage pics have been published in Vanity Fair, l’Uomo Vogue, The Times, Glamour, GQ, Marie Claire, Grazia, Amica, Madame Figarò, Elle and many other magazines.
He currently shares his time between photography and strategic communication consultancy. At times the two things overlap and… a new adventure is on the way (stay tuned!).In general, he prefers to focus his attention on solutions rather than problems and on making that solution really appealing and sexy. Brutally practical idealist, he has a predilection for using mainstream media with a subversive twist :)
Now very willing to work on sustainable and cruelty-free projects. Consumers’ money needs to go sustain ethical businesses and stop funding unethical companies.
He loves tofu.
In collaboration with
Are you as an educational knowledge institute (university, polytechnic or otherwise) interested in getting involved in the International Cool City Hunt please click here.