Traces N.6, June 2003

Educating in Order to Overcome Fear

The grievous and deadly series of terrorist attacks affecting different countries in the world is a phenomenon that fills us with dismay. The use of violence in a blind–and at the same time, carefully studied–manner is an extreme deviation of hate, one that sees the other always and only as an enemy. No cause, neither political nor much less religious, can justify this murderous coldness. We all live in fear, to the point that every plane that flies over our heads evokes gloomy forebodings.
Those who cultivate and arm the kamikazes want to arouse this sense of insecurity. It is a mad yet lucid strategy. In fear and dismay, life is paralyzed and relationships crack. And hardships, instead of tending to make us bond together, are made even more acute.
Entire peoples are thrown into a state of terror, as is demonstrated by the shocking bulletin of the past months. It is a complex war that does not give hope of anything good.

In this situation, the worst thing is irresponsibility–for everybody, including us, from the heads of state and of the international organizations down to the leaders of the various political groups. Yielding to the logic of division and of taking sides, of the Manichean schematization between good and bad, is the bitter fruit of a general irresponsibility. Politics as the art of compromise–a formula coined by former Italian prime minister Andreotti, one of the most important politicians in Italy–could in this particular moment offer the realistic path for a search for efficacious tools to solve the problems peacefully.
But neither can we, who are not heads of anything, be irresponsible. Each one, as the Pope–the true beacon of hope in the world–has reminded us, has an important task, in the entreaty to God and the conversion of the heart. Politics can stanch, can organize, can coordinate. But the real battle to crowd out the logic of hatred and fear is called “education.”
For fear arises under different forms and for different reasons. But it is always in what TS Eliot called “desert and void,” the desert that is also “squeezed in the tube-train.”

Education is the energy of construction and renewal to have something to oppose to the desert where life gets lost when it is reduced to a meaningless toy, and thus a possible prey to every plan for possession. In 1987, Fr Giussani spoke of a “Chernobyl effect” that reaches all of us as the result of a reduction of the “I”’s desires brought about by those in power. This is why education initiates the vindication of the human as awareness that the life of each one is constituted as a relationship with the Infinite, and that in this lies the reason for its value and the indication of its destiny. Positivity as the law of personal and social action is expressed in persons and peoples in whom a tradition is alive, a critical transmission of a human experience and of its purpose, in which desire finds its source and its positive answer.
This is why we all feel responsible for fighting against the desert.