Thursday, January 3, 2013

Roberto Benigni in "La più bella del mondo": the two enemies of the Italian Constitution

On the 17th of December 2012, Roberto Benigni, an Italian actor, director and comedian, performed on an Italian tv channel in a reading of the twelve fundamental principles of the Italian Constitution. The title of the show was "La più bella del mondo", which means "the most beautiful one in the world". Benigni is no scholar, that is not a secret. But what I like about him is his passion for Italian history and art; he is actually famous for his interpretations of Dante's "Divina Commedia". I really enjoyed the whole show and his comments on the twelve principles, highlighting the beauty of our Constitution and how our funding fathers were able to safeguard all the basic liberties right after the experience of Mussolini's Fascism; however, my favourite part was the one in which he discussed what are the dangers that our Constitution faces: the indifference of people to politics and low turnout in elections.
I wanted to translate the whole bit, because it's something that doesn't necessarily apply only to Italy, and I find it really beautiful. I also included the video, for those of you who speak Italian. Enjoy.   

"Before I move on to the reading of these twelve fundamental principles, I will tell you two enemies that the Constitution has.
The two enemies are: first, indifference to politics. Now you will tell me: "Benigni, given the harsh times, how can you tell us to respect politics?" No, actually I'm not telling you to respect politics. I'm telling you to LOVE politics. It is the highest creation of the human thought to built our life together. In order to organise peace, serenity and work there is only politics, there isn't another science, and who is involved knows this. Not being interested in politics is like not being interested in life. If someone says "I just don't care anything at all", it's like they are saying that they don't care anything not only about their own life, but about their kids' life: if they go to school, if they get a good education, if they get treated when they are sick, if they get marry, if they get a good job. "No, I don't care, you think about it". How can you not care?! Your kids' life, and your own too, that is what politics is about: organising our life, building our life. The people who wrote the things we will hear in a while (the Italian Constitution) were politicians, men of politics, people who did politics all day long, and they wrote this great, magnificent thing which always saves us. And this is why we have to care about politics, maybe not all day long, but that is our life. If you despise politics you despise yourself. What we need to do is not to mix the institution up with the people who represent it at a given moment. There are terrible politicians. But if a father beats up his child all day long, the problem is not fatherhood, fatherhood itself is wonderful, it is that particular father who is dreadful. There are some politicians who we do not love, but they are not all the same. It is a terrible thing to say sentences like "Politicians are all the same". When we say that, we do a huge favour to the bad, dishonest and stupid: because it is like we did not recognise them, they think "Aha! Nobody noticed anything, they think we are all the same". It is awful, we are just encouraging that.
The second enemy of the Constitution, and of our living together efficiently, is not voting. Voting is the only mean we have, but to get there it took thousands, millions of victims, just to allow us to say what we want. Between two evils there is always a lesser one. Each one of us yields more power than we think in the world. Each one of us contributes, in an invisible but concrete way, to the realisation of what is good and what is bad, of what is fair and what is unfair. A tiny contribution  exists: the worst possible thing is to stand aside, not to vote. Now you tell me: "Benigni, I can do whatever I want" and it's true, the Constitution was written exactly to guarantee freedom, but there is an article about voting. It's like they are telling us: "We are giving you all the possibilities, but do not stand aside, even if you make a mistake and you vote for something wrong, at least you are giving me the possibility to fight it, to say that I disagree, and then we can organise our life; but if you do not take part, it is terrible, it is like with Pontius Pilate. Everything goes in the hands of the mob, and the mob always chooses Barabbas. It's like giving up your power. We should never do it"
(Roberto Benigni, in "La più bella del mondo", 17/12/2012)