Returing to our dwelling in order to shape the future

by Giulia Tommasi

In this period of epic turmoil, instigated by the crisis of democracy and further exacerbated by the global pandemic we are currently living, it is, more than ever, vital to reflect on the origins of the problem and to formulate informed solutions. 

It is significant that the word “crisis” derives from the Greek verb krino, meaning “to choose”; but chiefly, “to separate”. A moment of crisis is, consequently, a period inviting us to choose, to separate what is useful from what is not, in order to start a new journey, which begins from the present, from the decisions we make today.  

The example of those who have come before us and experienced the complexity of human life can offer us support, a firm ground upon which to redefine our objectives. In fact, this is what François-Xavier Bellamy, Member of the European Parliament, is successfully doing, who, thanks to his humanistic studies and his political experience, is able to propose an articulated view of the world in which we live, and a solution for the crisis, which he addresses in his latest work, recently translated into Italian from French, Demeure. Pour échapper à l'ère du mouvement  

As noted by Bellamy, our society is centered on the value of change. Change has become our preeminent principle, a norm of being. Yet, this value reveals its own intrinsic fleeting nature. Just think of fundamental terms for our society, such as “modern”, which is derived by the Latin adverb modo, “recently”. That, which is recent does not benefit from a solid basis: it can itself change and disappear, leaving a void. As such, we feel as though we are on uncertain and unstable ground.  

In response to our insecurities, politicians promise change. Yet, change for which reason? The direction of this frenetic march towards the future is unknown; its goal is indefinite; and it fades into an uncertain destiny. Without purpose, there is no real reason for movement to exist. Though, whosoever might decide to stop is considered a traitor, a failure.

Political debate is reduced to a simple opposition between those who move forward and those who stop or even want to go back. A sterile and banal polarity, compared to what a real political exchange ought to be: a fertile dialogue searching for truth, as Socrates reminds us. True politics is undertaken by asking oneself where one wishes to go, demanding a direction to be followed, building a sure path, beginning with our daily words and actions.  

However, Bellamy reminds us that in order to have a point of arrival, we must first have a clear starting point. It is necessary to have a spiritual grounding, tied to our intimacy, our own essence. These are our roots: our family, our Country, the world. In one word: our dwelling. The place where we live. Like the word “crisis”, so too “to live” reveals a rich etymology, full of significance: the word derives from the Latin, habitare, which means “to continue to have”.

Our dwelling is that, which remains. When everything flows by us, or crumbles under our feet, our dwelling endures. It is the place to which we can always return, which does not change address. As such, we have to live out of our immoveable, uncompromising places: those of our soul and those of the world. This does not amount to rendering oneself un-moveable; nor refusing to recognise the value of change. On the contrary, the method that Bellamy invites us to undertake allows us to restore a real sense to movement and progress.

Modern optimism, based on the idea that change is surely better than what we already have, turns out to be a collective depression. In fact, there is no guarantee that the new will be always better than what we already have. This is precisely why politics exists: because the future holds risk and it is necessary to evaluate what we should retain and what we should improve. If we wish to restore the real meaning of politics, we need to adapt the world to the change we want; not to adapt ourselves to the world.

The superficiality of modern optimism, which projects its desires on the future, without first basing them on any firm foundations, encourages us to practise indifference and renunciation. To address this, we should replace this criterion with hope, which is a spiritual aspiration and renders our actions meaningful. Hope must illuminate and guide us like a lighthouse, taking us back to our dwelling, as a foundation to help us see far, in order to live, in the etymological sense of the word, fully aware of progress.