Imagine. It is a rainy Tuesday evening. You realize that you wanted to tidy up the attic since a long time. Imagine. You find an old box. You open it, and a huge quantity of paper bobs up. And then you remember: your grandmother always told you that once, in the old times, the newspapers were printed. From your perspective, from a rainy Tuesday evening in the 22nd century, it is pure madness. You are curious, though. You just grab the first on top of the heap.
You open it. A stale smell of dust and ink. Page five. An article about the European Parliament. Yes, you think, you heard of that. Probably from your grandma. You start reading.
Yesterday in London Nigel Farage announced that the group ‘Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy’ will be re-established. In a crowded conference room, he smiled – for the benefit of the photographers – next to Robert Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, then he gave the speech. The role of the Polish MP (Congress of the New Right) is pivotal in this moment, because after the departure of Iveta Grigule from the Latvian Farmers Union, now there is again at least one MP from seven different countries. Nigel Farage stated, as a triumphant opening of the press conference: To paraphrase Mark Twain, ‘Rumours of our death have been greatly exaggerated’.
But who is Mr Iwaszkiewicz, and who are his colleagues?
The other countries represented are Italy, with seventeen MPs from the 5 Star Movement of the former comedian Beppe Grilllo. Sweden, bringing two MPs of Sverigedemokraterna, as well as Lithuania with two representatives of Partija Tvarka ir teisingumas (Order and Justice Party). Rounding out the group, we find Petr Mach from Czech Republic, and Joëlle Bergeron from France.
The name of this Parliamentary group is universal and redundant at the same time. It is not clear who could oppose freedom, but the point is: which values, characteristics, and extension do we apply to the term ‘freedom’?
An old Chinese philosopher once told me: ‘You see, when you want to catch a hare, if you go hunting with dogs or falconry, on foot or horseback, it will always remain a hare. Freedom, however, never remains the same. It changes according to the type of hunt. And if you train dogs to capture it for you, it is likely that they bring back a dog’s freedom’.
Even more complicated is to understand how distorted can be the concept of direct democracy. Especially when this is vindicated by politicians who participate in elections and claim to represent the people. This is called representative democracy, I would suggest. The Romans said: excusatio non petita, accusatio manifesta. If you have nothing to excuse yourself, do not apologize. You would otherwise implicitly admit guilt.
Now you stop reading, because all this Latin and reasoning is fatiguing you. Outside it keeps raining. You browse the wavy paper between thumb and forefinger. Then you get back to the article.
It is probably worth to remember that an MP of the Five Star Movement claimed that, according to a conspiracy theory documentary (Zeitgeist), ‘in America they’ve already started to implant microchips inside human bodies. To record, to control the population. (…) With the internet many minds are awakening and truth is emerging’. The truth. Another concept which is too often dependent on perspectives.
A spokesperson of the party (Roberta Lombardi) wrote on her blog that Fascism was not that bad. ‘We have to acknowledge that it started in a promising way’. Truth, democracy, freedom. How much can words change of meaning? And are these values truly universal, or rather the exclusive benefit of a lucky minority?
UKIP would certainly exclude Muslim people, for example. As well as Eastern Europeans. And black people. And gay people. And even if you’re a straight British, it is better if you march through the city shouting Hitler-youth songs, as Farage himself did. And, as everybody knows, signing a law for same-sex unions would cause to your country natural disasters such as storms, disease, pestilence and war. Right, Mr Silvester?
Xenophobia is a familiar ground also for the Swedish Democrats. Even if they re-styled the image of the party trying to distance themselves from their neo-nazi past, replacing it with a graceful blue flower, this doesn’t work all the time. Unless considering a verbal abuse against a Swedish-Kurdish comedian as a clear sign of freedom and democracy.
And finally, who is Mr Iwaszkiewicz? Well, the leader of his party claimed that the ‘average woman is not interested in politics, (…) only those who know something about politics should vote’. Since he is also convinced that women are less intelligent than men, his logic is pretty strong. He even said that there is no written proof Adolf Hitler was aware of the Holocaust.
One can only conclude that the range of meanings that the words ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ can assume is incredible broad. So broad, that the meaning itself risks to disappear.
You put away the newspaper, you look outside the window. It doesn’t rain anymore. You think that the good, old times, were not that good in the end.
“What is the Third Estate? Everything. What has it been hitherto in the political order? Nothing. What does it desire to be? Something.“
Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès