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Off Campus

Who we are

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In a flawed world packed with stories of injustice, why do we always have to feel as if we were the wrong ones? Erroneously craving for labels introduced by society, in the end we just dream of being who we really are.

Homotransphobia” (neologism): “an obsessive aversion towards homosexuals and homosexuality, transsexuals and transsexuality”.

This is not a political article. By no means whatsoever we want to discuss politics. This article is about rights and human rights overlook politics, they are above it; it is politics that should look up to them and shape, tailor its actions according to those high-above standing rights.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Human history is packed with episodes of injustice: many philosophers, historians and writers have debated on how injustice and inequality are the result of a process of tampering of men due to progress in society.

As of today, some forms of hatred and rage towards people haven’t reached the level of recognition as serious issues as they should have. They are commonly undermined by still too many people as some random cases that happen every once in a while, unimportant, irrelevant. If only people opened their eyes and ears, they would realise how many guys and girls feel threatened to go out in the streets and feel threatened by being who they are.

Every day we hear stories of injustice, we have become accustomed to that. And some people just stopped listening: that is way easier than actually trying to go beyond the simple fact we come across and understand that there is something that has to be fixed.

People ache and suffer and if we are not able to see that it is just because we do not want to. I may be a dreamer but I like to believe that a “bettered” (and not better as in perfect) version of this society can — and must — exist.

But that cannot happen unless everyone acknowledges how this change is needed.

Change.

This is an all-embracing word, it encompasses the true gist of us all: we are change, we are progress and we are evolution. Why are we so afraid of it, then?

Maybe it is because we feel as if certain ideas should remain constant, fixed in time and space; certain ideals we were taught to be the right ones, certain values we were convinced should be passed down from one generation to the other.

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Some of us may believe that by embracing change the foundations they built all their existences upon would fail them and everything they dedicated themselves to would crumble.

Nevertheless, we cannot oppose change. It is going to happen one way or another. We are not meant to be static, we are meant to evolve and “progress is a stream” as the Italian writer Verga stated: it is going to flood all our certainties whether we want it or not.

And even if Covid has paused everyone’s existence, the issues that hadn’t been tackled before the pandemic came about are still going to be there afterwards.

Talking with people, it comes across that those who state they’re against a law that should protect from discrimination based on some criteria among which sex, gender, sexual orientation affirm that they are scared that this is going to bring about “censorship” (limiting one’s freedom of speech and of thought).

We should ask ourselves whether we are willing to compromise or not. Whether we are willing to enjoy an alleged complete freedom of speech and thought in a society that is not going to defend and safeguard us against injustice.

And if it is true that John Stuart Mill — “father” of liberalism — said that “the only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good […], so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs […]”, it is also true he stated that “all that makes existence valuable to any one, depends on the enforcement of restraints upon the actions of other people”.

Do we still want to believe that everything can boil down to some well-portrayed concept which is held up by people against other people to defend what they define their “freedom”? I wonder whether it is concretely enough to feel as if we had freedom when we do not have protection. Can freedom really exist if the only boundaries we have are the ones each individual sets for himself?

John Stuart Mill continues with affirming how “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others”. If you believe in the theory of liberalism, then you should also believe in how freedom, in order to actually exist, cannot be unlimited.

Every concept must always be considered from multiple perspectives and a law that protects people from discrimination is not going to be enough to solve the problem. Still, it is a starting point and a necessary one; there is always going to be room for improvement, room for corrections, room for adjustments. Is there any more room for broken people, scared boys and frightened girls who can’t be who they are?

In a society that doesn’t protect us, can freedom really exist?

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Passive freedom, freedom from something may exist, but what about active freedom? Freedom to actively be who we are, freedom to actively cross the street without fearing a humiliation that is not going to be punished.

We experience unsafety, we are unsafe. Unsafe as a girl in the streets. Unsafe as two boys holding hands at the metro station. Unsafe as parents perceive their grown-up children to be when they see them go and live in a big city and are constantly scared about how that place which should become a companion to all of them could eat them alive.

Having a chat with a few people my age, I perceived some kind of shyness and insecurity in talking about the topic of “diversity”. Not everyone I spoke to directly experienced acts based on homophobia or misogyny or whichever other form of discrimination. Still, many people do not like to share parts of their lives, not even with their families, feeling as if coming clean about their sexuality could lead to tensions inside the house.

We are in constant need of labels, of labelling ourselves into this or that category, craving for identification and acceptance; but we must understand that we need to accept ourselves first, otherwise nothing else is going to work. And accepting oneself in a society that screams how this and that are wrong, how laws for protection are in certain cases unessential turns out to be particularly complicated.

Why do we have to get back home every night feeling as if we were the wrong ones? And why those who offended us or hurt us sometimes face few or even no consequences?

Tell it to your 14-year-old child, to the 15-year-old girl you met at school, to your 16-year-old boyfriend: we are not wrong. We can’t be wrong.

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And if the state we live in does not strive to ensure us protection against these humiliations, degradations and crimes, then we cannot be the flawed ones. The state is the flawed one. The world is the flawed one.

And to those who tell me, to those who tell us that we won’t reach any kind of result through raising awareness, through standing our ground and screaming out loud that we dream of a better world, I say that they are wrong.

People struggle to accept who they are. That’s not because it is unnatural. Quite the opposite. It is so natural that it scares everyone who built their certainties and beliefs on some canned and pre-prepared thoughts they haven’t even understood completely.

Try and give up your rights. It won’t be pleasant. Stop opposing what is due.

This is not politics. These are not opinions. This is the core of humanity.

By opposing protection to people you are opposing the very essence of society.

“Nell’uomo c’è molto della bestia, eppure può, l’uomo, arrendersi? Ammettere di essere una bestia, e soltanto una bestia?”

(Giorgio Bassani, “Gli Occhiali d’Oro”)

“Inside men there is much of the beast, but can the man give up? Admit to being a beast and a beast only?”

(Giorgio Bassani, “The Novel of Ferrara”)

Author profile
Michele Forti

Just an average guy that read “On the road” a bit too soon and was led to tending to fall in love too much with too many things. In Bocconi I am studying International Politics and Government.

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