We are living in a period of transition with constant turbulence and remarkable contrasts. It is a time of crisis and many of us are convinced that crises can be overcome thanks to cooperation and common efforts, for which the spirit of solidarity of human beings plays a binding role which allows the proper sequence of gears. . The father of modern sociology, Emile Durkheim, warned that without this unifying and harmonizing component, social cohesion would weaken in a thousand ways. Today, this dystopia of generalized social upheaval is still possible.
In this first quarter of a century, tensions seem to be intensifying. We live in a time when societies oscillate between centrifugal forces which try to bring back scattered pieces in a united center, and centripetal forces which disperse wills, leaving behind social debris. It is a broad and general problem, with many variations and facets, and with expressions at the family, community and social levels.
During the pandemic, we saw how, at the family and community level, people are able to generate supportive behaviors in the face of the disease. The resilience that the realm of solidarity generates at these levels is undoubtedly touching and the human tragedy would be even more evident if there were not such a realm of solidarity, but things get complicated when we address the issue at social level.
It is at the macro level that communities or human groups become anonymous masses. This is where there are greater possibilities for a “they” and an “us” to form, and for “the others” to be recognized not by direct and palpable contact, but in a mediated manner, with stories tinged with ideologies, prejudices and misunderstandings.
Today, this media coverage of the other is exacerbated by social networks and by the infinite groups and virtual communities that form in this sea of information, disinformation, invitations to hatred and conspiracy theories. The result is an identity fragmentation which makes it difficult to resort to links of solidarity and, consequently, the formation of long-term collective projects. Moreover, it is not only that the other is in the media in a single moment, but there is a constant battle of qualifications and disqualifications which neutralize or destroy the legitimate voices with the will to build.
Politics is one of the areas most affected and, in turn, the most affected by this phenomenon. The new political tactics which occupy the media space point with insistence towards the formation of narratives anchored in the binomial friend-enemy. What once made the difference between one force and another in reference to public policies is now being rethought in terms of “us” and “they”, those who are and those who are not. Disqualifications which may be based on more general identities such as religion, ethnicity and nationality, or on more specific identities such as those who believe in animal rights and those who do not.
Indeed, the great challenge of electoral campaigns today is to be able, on the one hand, to create the dividing line and disqualification and, on the other hand, to put the pieces together on their own ground. They divide and amalgamations are created which produce electoral majorities. This tactic produces short-term results, but is detrimental to the more substantial programmatic constructs that give the policy its transformative character in the long term. With the added danger that when these amalgamations are built on identities that exclude others, the cyclical polarization implicit in each election period is more likely to become an endemic polarization that hinders any reconstruction effort.
These dynamics can be doubly destructive in historical moments like the ones we are going through. In this new Latin American political cycle that is opening, major reforms will be inevitable if we are to face problems such as inequalities, pandemics or climate change. Today, solidarity does not only consist in helping our neighbors or our brothers, but it must be reflected in much more complex measures, such as the fiscal pact, the strengthening of social protection systems, the transition to a green economy, multiculturalism and the recognition of diversity. , among others. All this, in democracy and in freedom.
Politics can no longer be satisfied with playing the game of identity fragmentation, rewarding transactional political management. In any case, it is a question of promoting political leadership capable of rediscovering the meaning of concepts such as “public interest”, “common good” or “general will”. Terms that are today greeted with enormous skepticism and disinterest, precisely because the public sphere is infected with the same virulence that afflicts the world of fragments.
Any notion that brings us back to the idea of drawing a roadmap for the State today requires a double effort so that it can pass through the different levels of government. The leaders who show up for the new cycle cannot fail to see that the time they will have to manage will not be “normal”. There is a necessary elevation of political management. This implies that even the names that are already leading the new cycle, like Guillermo Lasso in Ecuador, Gustavo Petro or Sergio Fajardo in Colombia, Lula and others in Brazil, will have to enter with another paradigm and, above all, recover ideas by strengthening team spirit and evidence-based public policies and strategic thinking to counter fragmentation. The unknowns are innumerable, but the field of action is extremely narrow if we want to find this center of solidarity which will allow us to take up the challenge.
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