The future of Europe: dismantle populism

This evening I attended the most interesting event host by Open Society at the Hub Brussels, aimed at launching Counterpoint‘s report on the spread of populism throughout Europe.

I am still eager to go through the whole study, but screening it with studious frenzy and after having listened to the discussion in the Hub, I can say that the work is worth to be analysed in detail. Briefly, the report aims at underlining some of the causes of the rise of populist, xenophobic nationalists parties in Europe, focusing of the French, Dutch and Finnish cases. Apart from a detailed statistical analysis, it also provides some valuable policy suggestions, claiming that a majority of populist voters are in fact “reluctant radicals” attracted by populist parties for very different reasons, which derives from common identifiable causes: lack of education in primis.

Populism: a matter of education

The discussion over the findings of the report, however, spread far beyond the geographical and thematic boundaries of the reports itself, touching the very essence of the crisis of democracy we are all experiencing nowadays in Europe. I have to say that I found myself pretty in live with the point made by Prof. René Cuperos . e basically affirmed that the “stigmatisation” of far right/populist/xenophobic parties is useless and dangerous, given that the rise of those parties is linked – not to say caused – by the failing mainstream political parties, which suicided politics in the last two decades. Descending to a more practical level of discussion, European political elites belonging to the so called “mass parties” did not managed to retain contact with the voters; instead they detached themselves more and more, failing in manage the (inevitable) changing process Europe and the concept of European democracy in a globalised world. In the very end, European political elites are failing in managing transition, change: populists parties are therefore legitimate claims of part of the populace, the one more affected by globalisation, by a knowledge-driven economy, by immigration.

While listening to those valuable contributions, I could not refrain from thinking at the Balkans and at their European path. In the last chapter of my manuscript (which will hopefully published soon), I have “unleashed” my critical vision of the European Union, affirming that the halt of the enlargement process shows all the limits of a cracked European identity: our leaders did not nurtured the European ideals enough to make them root within our democratic system. The greediness of local and personalistic interest harmed the Union more than anything else, including the economic crisis. In more than 50 years of “life together”, EU Member States are still not enjoying all the EU instruments at their best. This lack of committment, the general lack of knowledge of the EU is due to the narrow-mindness of most European politicians, which de facto halted the development of an European identity. That is why, I believe, we are still talking about populist movement in Europe. That is also why EU Member States national policies are driving the Balkans towards suicide foreign policy trajectories, like the one Nikolic is taking towards Russia.

The big question, however, remains: how to manage change? How to manage fear derived from change? I cannot provide an answer at this moment, mostly because, regarding this particular topic, I am the objective of my own research.

Curiously, though, I find myself more comfortablein discussing the future of Europe from the Balkan perspective than from the Italian one.

DADA: a stunning answer to Italian quest for (young) talents and (really) expert academics.

I am a lucky Italian student.

Most of my colleagues, university students like me, would disagree on the general meaning of this affirmation. It seems that being an Italian it is not a synonym of a natural born privilege, but within few decades it became an equivalent of looser, defeated by history. Not to mention that, being a student, seem to be as useless as never before…

Dear Reader, if this is the case, if you believe that Italy has nothing more to offer then sun, beaches, wine and good food, you have a pretty sad perception of my country.
Thus, this post is about hope.

A group of inspired researchers, headed by prof. Antonio Palmisano, gave birth to an amazingly interesting review: DADA.
Its subtitle explains more about it, but it does not picture the variety and the innovation of the review itself. As the “post-global anthropological review”, DADA surely fills an empty spot, creating a space where to analyze and debate cultural events of topical interest, with a clear anthropological perspective. Have a look at the first special edition‘s summary: it is rare to find such a complete and, in the same time, diversified collection of contributions. None of my metaphors would fit the experience of reading it by yourself. As a very good friend of mine used to say, “if life’s too short to spend it reading unworthy stuff”, stop reading this post and download DADA. But come back, afterwards.

Because DADA is much more than a review, and I can show you why.

As described by prof. Palmisano on DADA’s website, among the objectives of the review, one should catch your attention immediately: it pledges to involve young people in effectively producing articles within the framework of an international, scientific, academic, interdisciplinary review.
Given the nowadays panorama of Italian decadent academic community, DADA experiment is not just revolutionary, but also encouraging. It delivers a fundamental message to foreigners, Italians and (most important) to my colleagues: Italian Gross Domestic Production of Culture it is not over.

As a collaborator to the review (my article on Matvejević will be published on this blog soon), I am proud to have been part of this experiment. Given the results, I hope that this experiment will become a successful, continuous example that Italian students, guided by wise academics, are “alive and kicking”.

I beg your pardon, dear Reader, if you might feel this article as an abruptly arrogant show-off. Bear in mind the excitement and satisfaction that a 20-something year old student might feel, after collaborating to such a gratifying experience, while feeling stuck in a retrograde country, without real future perspective.
If after this statement you still fell offended by the aforementioned arrogance, it is my belief that it is time for you to move and do something to revert the situation.

Or to join the black blocks, if you feel like.

Notes for a Manifesto of an apostate of politics

I am reading about medieval history in Europe.

One conclusion and one only rises from those lectures: if you have to devote your life to a religion or to an ideology, most probably the only one that makes sense nowadays is environmentalism. Peoples and their leaders tried many times to take power, and power seems to be the only real pattern in human history. Up to now: if the prospect is not to have a planet to rule anymore, I guess that any power-led ideology (including religions) is pretty useless…

Of course, we are going to show our "best" before environmentalism becomes the new order... (Image taken from "The Economist")

This should sound pretty banal. But if you reconnect the concept of “power” to Carl Schmitt writings, I guess that the whole affirmation becomes more interesting.

Medieval torture

In the name of God, let's see if the wheel of fortune turns on your side today...

Moreover, bearing in mind European Christendom history (from the creation of the papacy, thought the schism, the crusades, up to the birth of protestantism, to finish with the continuos interference of the Vatican in secular power till in recent times) or Communism, you may get an amazing picture of what in the end hierarchies, principles and values of those religious/ideological bodies exist for: manage power on Earth.

Ergo, if you want to be a real progressive intellectual, disembed the discussion around power from the classical arena – made of armies and troops, geopolitics and economical strength, ethnical clashes and historical disputes -and embed it in a new field: ecology.

I am afraid that this might indeed be the future. I say I am afraid because it would be a lifelong exalting experience being involved, as a youth interested in politics, in a new wave of self-assuring, holistic, self-referential, calming and reassuring big political ideologies and/or religious revival. But I think this is not going to happen, at least in Western countries.

So, in order to tackle the issue we are indeed facing (socio-economical on top), a brand new approach has to be found. At this point a bell rings in my mind: Serge Latouche‘s degrowth theory. Too easy-breeezy to be even considered as an feasible option…
We’d better sit down and find a better solution.