Commentary. Limiting one’s own freedom, fulfilling duties towards others, is not an uncritical submission to a supposed “health dictatorship,” but a claim to a way of life radically opposed to absolute and egocentric freedom.

The green pass and the duty of solidarity

The Green Pass issue involves fundamental rights, is part of a rapidly evolving reality and a context where power relations and political decisions are responding to economic rationales. The following argument attempts to hold together factual reality, the constitutional framework and a critique of the present condition.

The reality is that there is a pandemic, recognized as such by the WHO, and vaccines exist as a tool, approved by national and supranational public bodies, which is of fundamental importance for dealing with it.

Hopefully, sometime in the future, the epidemic will be defeated, and we will have found cures or perhaps solutions other than vaccines; however, at the moment, these are the facts, and the Italian Constitution is based, first of all, on a notion of starting from reality in order to transform it (Article 3).

The constitutional framework is the following: the Constitution provides for the possibility that, when the interest of the individual and the interest of the community are repeatedly invoked, the legislature can decide on compulsory health treatment, while preserving in any case the limits imposed by the respect for the human person (Article 32). This is a provision consistent with the structure of a Constitution that combines the recognition of “inviolable rights” with the fulfillment of “mandatory duties” of solidarity (Article 2), and with a vision of the person who is not an isolated monad, but inserted into a network of social relations, into a community. Without evoking in any way the “total citizen” and the “total state” (Bobbio), this means envisioning a path of emancipation that is both personal and collective, which takes into account the full development of the person and at the same time that of the society in which they participate, and, within a perspective of substantial equality, devotes particular attention to those who find themselves in a condition of need and frailty.

Moreover, freedoms are never absolute, but inevitably need to be balanced against other rights and/or the rights of others. The provisions described form the reference framework for the limitations introduced with the Green Pass, which thus have a specific constitutional foundation in provisions such as Article 16.

If we conclude that the Green Pass or compulsory vaccination are legitimate measures—in light of the current situation and trusting current science (while knowing that the latter cannot provide unshakable certainty)—as they are reasonable and proportionate in the context of constitutional provisions and the balance between the various rights, it is still the case that nothing takes away from the need to fight against the process of dismantling, regionalization and privatization of health care, against cuts in education and its corporatization, against—taking the argument further—a model of predatory capitalism responsible for social and environmental devastation (including its connection with epidemics), and against global inequalities, primarily those regarding vaccinations. Limiting one’s own freedom, fulfilling duties towards others, is not an uncritical submission to a supposed “health dictatorship,” but a claim to a way of life radically opposed to absolute and egocentric freedom.

This is to be undertaken in the context of a continuous activity of vigilance and criticism, in the awareness both that facts can change and that there is a tendency to normalize the emergency, which must be fought; and—this goes without saying—without prejudice to the freedom of expression of thought, criticism, objection, which, if they are to be effective, must shun crusading and criminalizing tendencies (which have a key role in a system that tends to unload the anger linked to inequalities on the enemy of the moment).

In conclusion, a final note: what about the Green Pass versus mandatory vaccination? Does the Green Pass really represent a persuasion-based approach, based on the respect of rights and a conscious citizenship, as opposed to mandatory vaccination which represents an attitude of imposition, obedience to authority, an infantilization of citizenship? I have my doubts: far be it from me to support “authoritarian institutions” in any way, but nonetheless, it seems to me that the Green Pass unloads the burden on individuals, without a political assumption of responsibility; to say nothing of the dishonesties that are hidden behind the “recommendation,” or the disguised obligation, typical to both the pastoral use of power and the vision of a freedom without limits and of an atomized society.

Of course, the fact remains that an obligation in the name of solidarity does not magically create a society based on solidarity, but interpreting it from this perspective can be a small step towards building one.

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