The St. Louis debate – if it can be described as such – did provide some elements for reflection. Not in terms of content, of course, for the political themes – understood as middle and long term strategies – were barely mentioned by the two presidential candidates to the White House, Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton. It was evident that the final blow was sought not in the field of proposals, of political projects or in terms of the vision of the future of the United States. The discussion grew heated with individual insults and accusations of sexism.
Many observers noted that in the recent history of the United States sex has almost become a cliché. It is understood not as the complement of a family or pertaining to life as a couple, but as a prudery, finding the right moment for more or less licit sexual advances, like those on crowded buses, licentious stories, record-breaking mating accounts.
The evaluation of this sad spectacle is not based on pure and simple moralistic grounds. It has much deeper roots that date back to the slow emergence of the primacy of the ego, which in the end proved to be a partial, one-sided idea of the ego. There isn’t a specific date. The Enlightenment did nothing more but to reconsider and reshape deeply-rooted claims that dated back to ancient times, to Greece, to the Roman Republic and later, to Imperial Rome, to the Middle Ages. The Renaissance consolidated the idea of the individual capable of changing the course of history, fighting alone against good or bad “fortune”: it is no coincidence that Machiavelli viewed Cesare Borgia as the strong man capable of unifying central Italy thanks to his “self-confidence.” What was later described as “modernity” and “post-modernity” has not only continued placing the ego at the centre of civil and ideological systems. It also sought the inexorable fall of all constraints (the common moral code, religion…) preventing the full realization of the ego. Relations with our neighbor, with others, with the community understood not only as a group of isolated individuals, but rather as a communion of people with an extra-personal project, was not taken into account. In this framework it is no surprise that Socialism and Communism did not appear on the historical stage as individualistic claims but as a new social project. Such project, also in its implementation, as occurred in 1917 Russia, inexorably clashed with the bourgeoisie claims of total freedom also in the realms of figurative arts, music, and literature. Many intellectuals were persecuted and even killed for proposing formalistic, individualistic forms of art that the people could not understand. The zealous representatives of orthodox positions viewed popular culture as the founding pillar of the “new” culture. But the popular element was intrinsically bound to the religious realm, which gave rise to the elimination of portions of the “peoples’” past.
On its part, religious culture has always given prominence to the community: mystical and hermitic realities form part of a world whereby the community is the fundamental core. Great religious writers, not only those identifying with Christian faith, have always considered the love for others, active compassion, as a basic element.
The current show of obscenities, of sexist and sexual references, the quest for sensation, and the protagonists are probably unaware of it, are but the long term effects of a reality that has slowly become addicted to the idea of an unrestrained ego. In the absence of charismatic egos, that while attracting media attention don’t need to resort to petty gimmicks, individualism takes on the appearance of the unconscious farce, the play, the ploy. It’s no longer an exception: it’s the rule. The failure of real Communism and the attempted – but never successful – removal of the religious realm, are two facets of the same coin – although these two facets have little in common. But the social and community elements, along with sharing, viewing the other person as our goal, with values that are distant from pure materialism, cannot be erased. In fact, this should be the new point of departure for creating a different idea of the world.