Until recently, change simply meant improvement. In the sense that life evolves, everything moves forward, progresses: the country where we grew up, where we live – in other words, everything around us. In my mind, we have always been heading towards something better, in comparison to what was there before. For this reason, I have never really been afraid to face change: instead, I have always experienced it with a certain peace of mind. Indeed, things happen and you have to adapt to them, but ultimately, they’re good things. Now, however, change has taken on a new dimension.
I’ve been reflecting on my own experience and my role and would like to share some of my thoughts with you.
I deal with the “dark” half of our country: crimes, historical crimes, political crimes, the mafia – all of which happened in real life – and it’s led me to wonder whether we’re better or worse than “back then”. In terms of what I’m entitled to, and reflecting on my work in my career, I would definitely say that we’re better now than we used to be. Infinitely better.
Let me give you an example. Today, we talk a lot about haters, and people feel threatened when they are subject to provocations, intimidation, and insults on the internet and social media networks. But let me tell you about the late 1970s, an era that I lived through and remember well.
The threats back then were somewhat different: these types of threats were gunshots. During the Years of Lead (a period of political turmoil in Italy spanning the 70s through to the early 80s), the entire country was living in fear: we experienced years of violence, which simply can’t be compared to what happens now. Today’s biggest fears, which we read about in the news, concern politics, haters, tragic episodes of mothers killing children and so on; yet this is so different to Italy in the 70s and 80s, when organised crime was prevalent, with the Brigate Rosse, and gangs like the Magliana and the NAR. At this time, the death toll was almost as high as the numbers you’d expect in a civil war. What is more, there was a five-year period, from 1978 to 1983, where the number of deaths was similar the amount you would expect in a war. So, we have improved since then: the change here is undoubtedly an improvement.
This recent time with the pandemic and resulting lockdown led me to reflect on a number of things and I began to think differently… I became aware that things could go backwards instead of forwards. Get worse and not better.
You could no longer do the things you used to do, but not for lack of money, but rather for lack of freedom. I’m talking about the kind of life changes that a lot of people have undergone, experiencing a sort of “civil war” in their own house. Suddenly something happens that prevents you from living like before.
So today, change has taken on another meaning for me, namely adaptation.
You’d come to understand that everything can change at any given moment, just like during the war. This is a discussion I was able to have with previous generations, i.e. parents and grandparents. These generations have witnessed first-hand how everything could change over the course of one night, the concept of “yesterday was done, and today will be too”.
Our generation has never experienced this extent of restrictions. Many of my fellow writers have also shared these thoughts, because they’ve been frightened, they’ve been scared, and yet they’ve not even had to endure significant upheaval, other than being forced to stay at home.
I consider myself an expert on fear, and I believe fear is positive and can be a significant advantage if managed correctly, because it is a form of knowledge. When fear turns into a curiosity to discover something unknown and unfamiliar, it leads you to discover another world. That, for me, is the purpose of fear.
The pandemic has been, and is, a very real, “tangible” fear when compared to other kinds of fears, such as global warming, seeing Australia on fire, more and more droughts in Africa, and so on. This case is different: the fear is not distant – it is right on our doorsteps. People started thinking: “this could happen to me”, as they watched people die; leaving the house became almost impossible at the peak period; people had to organise their time differently; they had to deal with the idea of becoming poorer; with a pandemic on their doorstep, children had to be kept “locked up” inside. This was a scary time for everyone.
Historically, when we experience this type of situation, the most you can do is get through it, and we quickly move on from it, forget about it.
Such a time, resulting in changes in perceptions, should teach us that health and culture should always take precedence over the economy. Maybe we finally realised that the only real difference in the world is that between being alive and being dead. Things like poverty and wealth do not really matter when put in such a perspective.
I am hopeful that we can keep thinking like this, with shared values. Rediscovering shared values can help build a better future. If we are to implement such changes for the future, we should be approaching the future with flexibility, optimism, sharing and a sense of mystery, for accepting mystery means accepting a touch of fear, but this gives us the desire to know and discover.