Everything would have gone as usual at the May Day Concert if it hadn’t been for the speech by physicist Carlo Rovelli. There was the long procession of singers which the experts immediately ranked amongst each other, earnest hosts, with the expected rhetorical flourishes but not too much, and, most importantly, the many tens of thousands in the audience, young and not so young, who stood out in the rain listening and taking part in this yearly rite.
This time, the event seemed to everyone to be less repetitive, with less papering over conflicts and more focus on real issues, because the gap between the grim present of precarious work and the vision of the Constitution is so deep that it cuts down to the bone.
At the same time, during the event – as if to steal the focus from the “other” day celebrated by the young people in the audience at the Concert, which was, as always, organized and supported by the three trade union confederations, CGIL, CISL and UIL – Prime Minister Meloni, who likes to refer to the three unions by the derogatory term “la triplice” (“the Triple Alliance”), as the fascists have always done in Italy, put out a TV spot as intentional counterprogramming to the union fervor in the square: a commercial about “her” feverish workday, with the ministers reduced to extras in the background, featuring a series of dramatic shots that delved into the corners of Palazzo Chigi, so striking that it made the cinematography of Ettore Scola’s A Special Day look like a student film shown at the Experimental Cinematography Center.
But then came Carlo Rovelli’s speech, which highlighted the difference in even starker terms.
The theoretical physicist, an expert in “white holes,” considered among the world’s greatest science communicators, with a gentle and calm demeanor as always, addressed the young people in the square by reading a speech he himself wrote in which, after each point made, he repeated a powerful line: that the serious problems of the world, in which “not everything is wonderful,” can only be addressed by young people: “only you can face them head-on.”
“There is an ecological catastrophe that is coming and it’s threatening to ruin your future,” he said, “and no one is making the decisions to stop it because that would bother some people; there are inequalities that are growing bigger, but I want to tell you that we are heading towards a war that is growing bigger, and instead of looking for solutions, countries are provoking each other, invading other countries, pouring fuel on the fire of war, and international tensions have never been as high as they are now.”
Speaking out about the environmental catastrophe could have been enough by itself; likewise the denunciation of the inequalities that are rampant and will only worsen with the measures of the Meloni government, as denounced in their speeches by the confederal secretaries, Landini in particular; but the insistence on the topic of war was what ended up being called “too much,” a “scandal.”
“We spend more than $2 trillion dollars on military spending,” Rovelli continued, holding nothing back and articulating what the majority of Italians think, according to the polls: “Instead of using these resources for music, for building roads and so on, we use them to kill each other. The powerful want to be more powerful, and, in Italy in particular, they want to be vassals of the powerful, but war is also being waged because making weapons is one of the most lucrative activities in the world.”
Strikingly, he didn’t stop there, but, amid applause from the audience, he accused the members of the government directly: “In Italy, the Minister of Defense has been very close to one of the largest arms factories in the world, president of the federation of arms manufacturers. The Ministry of Defense must serve to defend us from war, not be a peddler of instruments of death. Everyone talks about peace, but they add that you have to win to make peace. To want peace, but after victory, is to want war. And the Italian government is deciding to send an aircraft carrier to showboat right next to China – [this is true, it was announced by the Navy General Staff] – these are the choices that risk destroying our lives.”
Then, once again addressing the young people, he delivered a rousing call to action against the “warlords”:
“That is not the world we like: the world does not belong to the warlords, it belongs to you, because there are so many of you and you can change the world, together. You can stop the destruction of the country, you can stop the warlords, you can build a world by working together to solve problems. Dream a better world and build it, don’t live waiting for dreams that don’t come true. Don’t be afraid to paint the walls, to change this world.” All words full of stark truth, and exhortations that are more than justified.
The government, of course, was enraged at this speech, since the current war is its insurance policy: as long as it still lasts – thus making them an odd kind of bedfellow with Putin’s criminal choices – international Atlantic support is guaranteed.
Crosetto, whom some call the “gentle giant” – who seems to only grow in stature and weight with each rise in military spending for Italy’s rearmament, which is inexorably going up; and who, after having run Leonardo, as Defense Minister is now ensuring the spread of Made in Italy arms and arms companies around the world, like Parmesan cheese – expressed offense at being called a “peddler of instruments of death.” (But didn’t he, together with Meloni, rush to ship missiles back to the Emirates, who are at war with Yemen and already occupying Bahrain with the Saudis?)
After the Concert hosts apologized “because there was a lack of debate between the sides,” the “gentle giant,” with lordly haughtiness, said he wished to invite Rovelli to dinner to clarify the nature of his work. The latter said he would go, but stressed that “it’s not personal.”
No, it’s really nothing personal – only a restatement in so many words of Article 11 of the Constitution, written after the tragedy of World War II: “Italy shall repudiate war as an instrument of offense against the liberty of other peoples and as a means for settling international disputes; it shall agree, on conditions of equality with other states, to such limitations of sovereignty as may be necessary to allow for a legal system that will ensure peace and justice between nations; it shall promote and encourage international organizations having such ends in view.”
The goal, therefore, is peace – not the black hole of war.