WALLS. The ogres that undermine the communities

As a child, I believed that two elderly widowers who lived in houses close to mine were ogres. One of them was a “good ogre” and the other one was an “evil ogre”. I was free to project all my fears and childish boogeymen on the bad ogre. The other one instead was the captain of my securities and order in my little world.

Fear of the evil ogre has today become a strategy for success and consensus.The citizen who is afraid is easy prey of whoever presents himself as the captain of order. Not the “strength of order” but the order of strength, proposed as the solution to all problems.

They raise the tones of conflict, exaggerate disorder, agitate the spirits of the people with projections of disturbing scenarios…and this is enough to create chaos, that then requires a “good ogre” to tame it.

It is a bit like the anecdote of the antivirus companies that create the virus to sell their solutions. Political reflection, then, will be irrelevant if it does not come into contact with the fears of our contemporaries who are attracted to the product of the populist culture.

Who will be able to make it clear that security is the exact opposite of obsession with security? Who will manage to open the eyes of those who really are deluding themselves that only by conducting asylum seekers into the black hole of the underground will our streets be truly secure?

What is the risk of believing in the boogeyman of the bad ogre? The rage in finding objects (and people) on which to project instincts, impulses and resentments is less than that meaning of citizenship that is made up always and everywhere of ideals, values and traditions that characterize our common humanity.

Contempt for those who have been forced into exile — the Pope wrote as well in his Message for the World Day of Peace — is one of those vices of politics that “are the shame of public life and put social peace in danger”. It will not be a “good ogre” to protect us from evil. The need to feel ourselves and recognize ourselves as a national community has nothing to do with the sense of an identity based on a presumed ethnic cohesion.

This sense of solidarity and living together is the spiritual and cultural basis that preserves our feeling of humanity.

The appeal that is resounding is then also ethical, as well as political, but is also an appeal to the imagination. Because — we must finally have it clearly in mind — the good ogre and the bad ogre don’t exist.

Director of La Civiltà Cattolica @CivCatt, Consultor at Pontifical @VaticanCultura, Board of Directors @Georgetown University. Jesuit.

Director of La Civiltà Cattolica @CivCatt, Consultor at Pontifical @VaticanCultura, Board of Directors @Georgetown University. Jesuit.