Commentary. Salvini’s political career is built on an army of people who appear to believe that securing their future can only be done by the abandonment, drowning, torture and rape of thousands of other human beings.

Carola and Salvini, a clash of civilizations

Carola Rackete is a brave woman and an example of solidarity, who defied the prospect of imprisonment to give the gift of life to the shipwreck survivors whom she went to save. 

Matteo Salvini is a cowardly and cynical man who underhandedly negotiated his escape from the trial in which he was accused of blocking shipwrecked migrants—only to continue to send refugees off to death and torture, on whose suffering his whole political career has been built. 

Salvini has rallied an army at his feet, partly organized, partly spontaneous, made up of people with violent, sexist and vulgar language—as proven by their presence everywhere on the Internet—who appear to believe that securing their future can only be done by the abandonment, drowning, torture and rape of thousands of other human beings. 

What happens beyond the borders of the country doesn’t interest them in the slightest: for now at least, they have outsourced the job of executioner to others (even if this is at the ultimate expense of Italians, such as Giulio Regeni: in that case, their motto becomes “Business first!” or, indeed, “Egyptians first!”). As history shows, tomorrow it could be their turn on the chopping block—or their turn to play the role of willing executioner.

On the other side, those who are rallying around Carola—as they rallied before around the meek figure of Mimmo Lucano—are the people for whom the value of human life is higher than any other consideration. 

Accordingly, it is unavoidable that a bitter confrontation with Salvini’s followers will ensue. The first blows have already been traded on account of their sexist and racist language. This horrifies us, because we know that those words and those tweets are harbingers of real-life violence: of a universe of horrors, filled with disregard for life—not only that of others, but, in the end, their own as well—which is rising up to threaten every aspect of our common existence.

Thus, we find ourselves before a real “clash of civilizations” (for which Carola and Salvini are symbols), which, instead of pitting nations, religions or continents against each other, divides people who live right next to each other (the “Italians” whom Salvini pretends to want to defend, but actually only cares about some of them) and even impulses inside each of us, or inside some of the people we know, who are mostly not outright Lega supporters. 

We must deal with the issues that lie at the origin of this clash of civilizations: those which provoke objections such as “we can’t welcome everyone,” “there is not enough space,” “why don’t they stay at home?” and the faux-conciliatory (and currently no longer used) “let’s help people here at home.” Do we have answers to all these? Yes, but these require stepping outside the mainstream, going beyond the narrow interpretation that politicians, the media and the “big newspapers” are pushing every day (including Travaglio’s newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano, which on this point has chosen to side with those it otherwise claims to be fighting).

Meanwhile, Salvini, who is vituperating every day against the other EU governments—ironically, except for those working the hardest to sink both his and Italy’s prospects on the economic front—is handing them a priceless gift by willingly becoming the face of a policy of rejection which had actually been introduced and promoted at full steam by the “Europe of austerity” that Salvini is pretending to fight. It was a policy driven by Frontex (now the European Border and Coast Guard Agency) with the full support of all the intelligence services of the member states. In short, he is pulling their chestnuts out of the fire.

But neither the EU nor Salvini can stop the refugee flow. They are failing to stop it as we speak: hundreds of refugees are arriving in Lampedusa every week—something Salvini would rather sweep under the rug. And more of them will come as the conditions worsen in their home countries. The wars and dictatorships are the result of the looting of their lands and the degradation caused by climate change—which is in no way their fault, but caused by the economies of “developed” and “emerging” countries. 

On this point as well, Salvini, as a climate change denier, fits perfectly with the EU, which pays lip service to the Paris agreement but rejects it in practice every day with its policies, despite the fact that—as climatologists warn—we only a few more years to prevent an irreversible change in the climate that made it possible for the human species to live on Earth in the first place.

Thus, we are moving forward with the wars, with the manufacture and sale of weapons, with pumping out oil, with building gas pipelines, highways, tunnels, organizing Olympics and all sorts of other “great works.” This is where the clash of civilizations, which we are now able to perceive through its symbols (Carola and Salvini), is showing its true roots: if we do not preserve the planet, we will not be able to save the lives of future generations, we will multiply the numbers of refugees seeking shelter, we will degrade our common existence, we will surrender to rampant cynicism and we will transform “Fortress Europe” into a prison for everyone, including us.

We don’t have much time left to act—but solidarity and respect for those who are worse off than us, who are suffering more than us, are inescapable preconditions for having respect for ourselves and for those around us. Both are rooted in a respect for the Earth and the environment, no longer seen as objects to be strip-mined, but as fellow travelers whose life cycles must be protected as well. 

To do this, we must first reverse the precipitous trend of climate change by means of ecological conversion: large-scale investment plans that can offer new and more acceptable job opportunities for all, including the many (or few) immigrants arriving in Europe, which will only need them more and more. 

Most importantly, such plans could also make it possible for those migrants who desire it (and very many of them do) to return freely to their homelands, or to alternate between Europe and their countries of origin, and make their contribution to the environmental and social regeneration of their ravaged territories.

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