We don’t even see the other side

by Lorenzo Piccoli

As I ride my bike in these beautiful Swiss landscapes I listen to interviews, audiobooks, and podcasts. Thanks to Giallu I have recently discovered the Axe Files and I would suggest to those of you who have a keen interest in American politics and some spare time to use it for listening this podcast. There are three points coming out of these sessions that are worth sharing with you now, because they are fundamental issues of our contemporary way of living politics and they apply to the debates in the US as well as to most of the European countries where I have lived. They certainly apply to Italy. They go like this:

First, it is increasingly common that we only read news we agree with. This, of course, has been facilitated by the rise of the internet: with Facebook, twitter, and googlenews we tend to read only articles of persons to websites we sympathize with. These articles are likely to reinforce the opinions we already have, rather than offering a view on the other political sides. It is a vicious dynamic.

Consequently, we are unable to seriously engage in a political debate. Not only: we talk contemptuously about people we disagree with.This, mind you, is widespread among everybody, especially my friends on the left of the political axis. How many times have I read conversations like ‘Matteo Renzi is shit’, or ‘Donald Trump is crazy’, or ‘Bernie Sanders is a socialist’ without even trying to engage with the ideas and the arguments. There is a tendency, in other words, to demonize political opponents.

This, of course, makes reconciliation almost impossible. Ultimately, aspirational leadership has the capacity to break through contempt – see the Obama campaign of 2008, what a marvellous campaign it was. But reconciling differences and creating an inclusive narrative in such toxic environments is becoming an incredibly difficult challenge. Those who want to improve the political climate should probably try harder to see the other side of the debate and engage seriously with the arguments and the ideas rather than demonizing the individuals.