Letter to The European Sting from Italy

(Mr Giuseppe CONTE, Italian Prime Minister.
Copyright: European Union)

This article was written by one of our passionate readers, Mr. Tomasso Merlo. The opinions expressed within reflect only the writer’s views and not The European Sting’s position on the issue.

The populist wave has brought out a more crude and extremist right than the traditional one. The big political question is whether we are facing some sort of hysterical passing reaction to major global changes, or whether the traditional moderate right has changed permanently.

Populism stems from one of the most widespread fears, change. Fear of losing our certainties in favor of an unknown tomorrow. Fear of losing our identity, fear of losing what we own, fear of losing what we believe we are. Legitimate fears generated by real challenges such as mass immigration, economic instability, terrorism, environmental and climate crisis and today also the pandemic.

Challenges that are all global and that force us to change the way we think and live and that are rapidly changing our societies making them increasingly diversified and complex. The recipe proposed by right-wing populism consists in rejecting change and therefore the fears connected with it.

It consists of slamming the door in the face of reality, hoping that the problems will resolve themselves. It consists in locking people up inside some concrete or mental boundary or wall, and in relying on some intrepid leader who also embodies our selfish instincts.

A supreme leader who protects us from change and who fights hard against political opponents considered as enemies. From their supreme leader, the populists do not expect honesty, they do not expect consistency or morality, and they do not expect him to achieve great results.

All they demand is protection, it is defense of the interests of their own tribe or category. All they claim is the freedom to mind their own business, to remain who they are while avoiding any commitment or sacrifice that goes beyond their own fence. Right-wing populism essentially proposes selfishness. An egoism that from the individual dimension is projected to the collective one, giving rise to egopolitics.

A policy that reflects and amplifies the classic characteristics of the ego. The exclusive pursuit of their interests even at the expense of others, the separation and division from others, the annoyance for “differences” including opinion, materialistic fanaticism, the constant need for some enemy to reaffirm their own inviolable identities, superficiality, arrogance.

Political recipes that reflect the rampant selfishness of our era. “Easy” and hasty recipes and therefore captivating and of great electoral success. But dramatically illusory recipes. Global changes cannot be avoided but can only be governed. And since we face global problems, only globally can we solve them. Ego-politics divides us between people, between categories, between nations and throws us against each other.

And by doing so instead of strengthening us it weakens us. Egopolitics likes to show off its muscles, but its recipes are typical of the weak. Of those who out of fear run away from challenges instead of facing them, of those who hide their heads in the sand. The strong face change in order to condition it with their own convictions, in order to direct it.

Egopolitics defends its supreme leader even when it commits obvious disasters. This is because citizens are reduced to fans, a bit victims and a bit megaphones of permanent propaganda and are content to believe rather than understand. But in a global context in which reality and therefore problems are increasingly complex, an equally complex political intelligence is indispensable to solve them, with an increasingly broad and participatory leadership.

And instead of sofa fans, popular participation. And instead of selfishness, altruism, union, cooperation. And instead of hate, tolerance. The sensational disasters caused in tackling the pandemic show that egopolitics is a wrong recipe.

However, the Trump epic has shown that right-wing populism is still deeply rooted in society even though the hatred he has spread has generated an even more massive opposite reaction that led to his defeat. It will not take long to understand if this is a trend and egopolitics will cause the formation of adverse coalitions across the West.

It will not take long to understand if egopolitics is just a passing hysterical reaction due to the great global changes taking place, or if the traditional moderate right has changed permanently.

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