A global peace: interview with Laura Tussi

Laura Tussi is a journalist, writer and teacher, who deals with non-violent and intercultural pedagogy. Together with Fabrizio Cracolici (President of the Nova Milanese section of ANPI – National Association of Italian Partisans – in the Monza & Brianza province), she is the promoter and manager of an institutional project launched by the cities of Nova Milanese and Bolzano, emblematically entitled “Per non dimenticare” (Not to forget).

Laura, would you like to tell us about the project “Per non dimenticare”?
It’s a big commitment and a collective root research project that involves also administrations and institutions on the broad themes of the Italian Resistance movement, anti-Fascism and deportation. In short, it is about peace. The project involves a historic audio-visual archive with over 220 civil witnesses, who were deported to the Nazi-Fascist concentration and death camps for political reasons. They were partisans, factory workers, strikers, opponents of the established authorities and people who refused to do their military service.
This archive is a real milestone in the fight against the most insidious revisionism; with this term, I mean all those currents which cannot be defined as “opinions”, because, as Gramsci and Matteotti said, Fascism and Nazism are not opinions: they are criminal mass phenomena that wish to conceal, mystify and hide the truth about the horrors committed by Fascism and Nazism.
With the help of Fabrizio Cracolici, we are digitalizing a whole series of videos of survivors from the camps that were registered in the ‘80s, ‘90s and at the beginning of the XXI Century by the municipal lending library of Nova Milanese. Many of the witnesses have passed away by now, so today it’s up to us to continue towards the protection of the Constitution to guarantee peace, community of property, democracy and disarmament, as well as towards the protection of all the constitutions written after the anti-fascist partisan resistance.

Your project has made its way on to TV, I believe…
Yes, the project “Per non dimenticare” worked with RAI (Italy’s national broadcasting company) – with the generalist RAI and with RAI Educational – to create a TV program called “Testimonies from lagers”: many famous names took part, from the areas of culture, politics and show business (from Moni Ovadia to Alex Zanotelli, from Gino Strada to Tina Anselmi, from Roberto Vecchioni to Massimo Cacciari). We also cooperate with several institutes, research organizations and cultural associations that deal with peace, non-violence, human rights, anti-militarism, disarmament, environment, ecological conversion, conscientious objection to military and nuclear expenses. They are also committed to objective culture: they spread alternative information on the hottest topics in the news. Among them, there are the Study Center Sereno Regis, Rivista Anarchica, PeaceLink, Pressenza, Unimondo, Docenti Senza Frontiere, Il Dialogo.org and many other cultural institutions.

All those who write and haven’t just begun their career have a story behind them, which has led them to develop their thoughts. I would like to go over some of the topics you have tackled since you began writing, with your book “Sacro” (Sacred).
From a sociological point of view, the sacred emerges mostly as opposed to profane. Instinctively we, as individuals, but also as a social community, create this opposition: it is inherent in our culture. But actually this distinction deals mostly with how we look at the world – with two different existential conditions.

Could you briefly tell us about that?
First of all, my book “Sacro” was published in 2009 as number 32 of the series “Parole delle Fedi” (Words of Faiths), printed by the EMI (Italian Missionary Publisher). This book series deals with the key terms of theological terminology, such as Islam, death, life, religion. So I developed one of these themes, the idea of sacred, even in a provocative sense. In fact, the whole series “Parole delle Fedi” intends to be provocative, because there is not a single absolute religion or a single imposed faith: we, as social beings, live in intercultural and interreligious situations, with dialogues among communities, people, parts and individuals. The book wants to show that the processes of sacralization and secularization cannot be defined in a certain historical moment or in a certain time; what exists is the need for religiousness, for something transcendent and spiritual. These are phenomena that are inherent in human beings.
From an anthropological point of view, we can say that sacralization is an osmotic and syncretic process within the human society. No historical period is more sacred than others, where men were more closely linked with the idea of the divine. Even the idea of a period of secularization after a period of modernity doesn’t stand up: these processes develop in an osmotic and syncretic way within society, as stated the leader of No Muos Salvatore Giordano, who, in one of his books I am writing the preface for, demonstrates this very thesis, starting from the studies of Max Weber.

Would you like to tell us about the book by Salvatore Giordano?
It is a convincing demonstration, an important thesis concerning the phenomena of sacralization and secularization. Giordano makes relevant the idea that religions and the need for religion are inherent in the human dimension; they are human and cultural data that should be analysed as social phenomena and cultural processes that don’t have any connection to a specific type of society or historical period. They are instead influenced by different micro-social, macro-social and universal factors, following osmotic processes of interaction with several implicit and explicit causes. In fact, in the social reality, sacralization and secularization coexist. The experience of the sacred and the urgent need for the profane exist in the same time and space, both at individual and collective level, along with many other contradictions and idiosyncrasies. According to the author, secularization (meaning the emancipation of public life from religion) is a universal and anthropologically relevant phenomenon, present in human society.
Secularization doesn’t necessarily represent the historical result of modernity and it is not necessarily the fruit of modernization and capitalistic rationalization. Secularization, like its opposite, sacralization, interact and interfere with other social processes, which are in their turn associated with human faculties and dispositions that tend to be universal, such as the processes connected to communication and socialization. As for many other social processes, it is not possible to clearly define when the phenomena of secularization-sacralization-secularization start, because they are interactive processes, where the action by the social parties involved in the interaction is unstoppable and continuous. There is a close link of secularization with the religious experience, as if a certain degree of need for the profane were inherent even in religions themselves, before the rise of economic rationalism, capitalistic disillusionment and rational Enlightenment thought. So modernity has produced not only the phenomenon of secularization, but also and mainly a certain type of religious phenomena, such as fundamentalism or extremism.

So the secularization isn’t just a historical phenomenon?
No, because it didn’t take place in a specific time period; it’s a continuous process in the daily lives of people, groups, institutions, cultures and societies. This is the reason why I say that “Sacro” was written mostly with a provocative intent: because life, dignity and human rights are sacred expectations. An ethical insurrection and revolution of the minds and consciences are needed in order to protect human lives, the rule of law, dignity and democracy. All nations should enforce the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, the Constitution of the Italian Republic, the constitution written after the partisan anti-fascist resistance. Instead, there continues to be a strongly racist and murderous policy, which causes the death of innocent people in the Mediterranean Sea. People who cannot find assistance or solidarity in our country, at least not legally and safely. They cannot find a concrete possibility of interacting with our society. We have wartime rearmament policies, which pass over and contradict our Constitution. Military expenses worldwide are rising: they cause death, poverty and danger for humanity. And so life, dignity and human rights are always denied, humiliated and trampled.
“Sacro” is actually a desecrating book: the only true sacred values are life, human rights and dignity.

In the same year, you published the book Memorie e Olocausto (Memoires and Holocaust), which has the subtitle “the creative value of memories for a pedagogy of the Resistance in the difference of gender”. In this book, starting from some reflections of Moni Ovadia, you state that the most invincible but painful force of the Resistance is the artistic creativity. Then you start talking about Pedagogy of the Resistance. I would like you to expand on this topic.
Moni Ovadia is a dear friend that cooperates with many other friends of mine. We then create a sort of a cultural, intercultural and creative network, together with Daniele Biacchessi, Vittorio Agnoletto and many other friends, who are activists committed to our common themes.
In “Educazione e Pace” (Education and Peace) I wrote the presentation for a DVD that was created and narrated by Moni Ovadia and Elisa Savi, entitled “The duty of remembering, comments on Shoah” and distributed in schools. This DVD was kindly given to us in 2009 by Moni Ovadia during his presentation of “Memoria Olocausto” (Memory Holocaust) in Senago (in the suburbs of Milan). With this presentation we supported the cause of factory workers who were fired and had to witness the closing down of the firm: Moni Ovadia donated his whole pay for the evening to them. In “Educazione e Pace” and in “Memorie e Olocausto” I describe the presentation of the DVD, which collects the indirect testimonies of famous people from the world of culture and the show business, from Jovanotti to Ligabue, from Luciana Littizzetto to Shel Shapiro, from Nicoletta Braschi to Antonio Albanese. They recall and read several direct testimonies of Shoah, namely that of Primo Levi.

So what is the purpose of this DVD?
It aims to rebuild in a narrative, documentaristic and educational perspective the cultural and social climate in which extermination, persecution, racism and intolerance are empowered, ie basically Fascism and Nazism, through stereotypes and collective attitudes which unfortunately are hard to die, still alive in our society, permeating our institutional apparatus. Actually, the crisis does nothing but feed the discontent. From the dissatisfaction are generated neo-fascist extreme right movements, think of Casa Pound or Skin House, which are well regarded and subsidized by the establishment, such as the speculative markets, and the tyranny of high finance markets, maneuvered on their turn by the multinationals according to the logic of “divide and rule”: the more society crumbles and is split, the more it is easy to have the maximum control over it, the control of the masses. This is why we witness the re-emergence of the mythologies and mythologems of race and heroes who incite racism or xenophobia, hatred, intolerance towards the other, the different, the marginalized. That’s why the days dedicated to Memory must not lapse into mere and empty celebratory rituals, but must actively react to these forms of Holocaust denial, revisionism, of reversalism. Because feeding the memory of the Resistance, Deportation, Liberation, AntiFascism is a reminder of the past to react to these still inherent risks in our society.

The Nazi totalitarianism requires the annihilation of various categories of persons, guilty only and exclusively to exist as such; to be bearers of a diversity compared to the ideological categories imposed by the power system of the Third Reich, which wanted to basically crush any kind of diversity, of deviance, of marginalization, but also fragility, minority, since the victims were also and mostly civilians, including women, old people and children. Because of this, the educating community and the education and training system should encourage the younger generation to question and investigate the issues of minorities, for example the open question about the Roma and Sinti who underwent Porrajmos [term in Romani language that indicates the extermination of Roma and Sinti people by the Nazis during WWII, and whose victims were about five thousand people, ed].
New generations must be sensitized to a welcoming attitude in schools, in institutions, about issues regarding the ‘other’, migrants, the danger of any form of ideological extremism. This is why, with Fabrizio Cracolici and the partisan Emilio Bacio Capuzzo, protagonist of the book A Tale of partisan life. The Fascist period and the story of the partisan Emilio Bacio Capuzzo (Un racconto di vita partigiana. Il ventennio fascista e la vicenda del partigiano Emilio Bacio Capuzzo), we share our testimony, directly and indirectly, in schools and wherever it is required; to pass on and communicate the value of the historic memory across generations. A memory that is based on an ethical and civic education grounded on the principle of responsibility, hope and indignation against attacks against human rights and respect for others, which is too often understood as ‘other than oneself’: the different, the marginalized, the weakest.

Do you still refer to the project “Not to forget”?
Yes. Let us remember what were the Resistance, the Deportation, the Liberation and Anti-Fascism to create an achievable utopia, starting from our witnesses. A social utopia that opens up hope for a society of peace, justice, democracy, social equity, redemption of the working world, but also environmental and ecological ones, leading to an ecological conversion. In fact we work with the eco-pacifist association PeaceLink- Telematics for peace, based in Taranto, recognized and registered at European level within the associations of the European Community, which is a historical site of pacifism and non-violence, involving various partners as Pressenza- International Press Agency, The Dialogo.org, Unimondo, Nigrizia by father Alex Zanotelli and many other associations.
PeaceLink is a group that stood as a civil party in the maxi-trial “Undersold Environment”, VS Ilva of Taranto and industrial pollution, to protect environment and the Constitution, which provides for the respect and protection of our ecological structure, of our ecosystem, the environment in which we live; an ecology that we must preserve, we have the right and the duty to preserve and cherish. This is what is teaching the great partisan father and deported to Buchenwald, Stéphane Hessel, UN Constituent father, president of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, whose writings inspired the movement of the indignant and Occupy Wall Street. Hessel is also the author of Out with a total nuclear disarmament, published for Ediesse. This posthumous book by Hessel, released in Italy on an exclusive basis, collects the introductions of Mario Agostinelli, Antonio Pizzinato, Alfonso Navarra and Emanuele Patti. Inside the book our project is mentioned as “Not to forget.” This is how is built a memory bridge between past and present with the historical memory of AntiFascism and the Resistance and the resistance against neoliberalism, speculation, tyranny of high finance markets. A new world anti-Fascism.

You often talk about resistance pedagogy, training and education. In this context, in your books, you propose an accompanying path to the formation and development of knowledge of civil rights and the inalienable rights of the person. In short, a path of development of democracy, citizenship, and participation. What you introduce in schools as a global educational development path, however, collides often with external environments at school and with the family, who are carriers of different values, sometimes opposing and conflicting. What specific education do you think is possible to create within this dichotomy?
These are very open questions that we always ask ourselves. Minister Luigi Berlinguer had attempted to introduce the study of contemporary history, and the teaching of history and the Holocaust, in the last segment of each type of school. He had also tried to introduce methodologies to read and understand the present time. Lately, however, with the ministers Moratti and Gelmini, the educational institution has been depleted precisely about this educational and informative mission, to stay in the mere present days.
To educate to anti-Fascism, anti-racism and non-violence, according to the admonition of Stéphane Hessel, we should start exactly from the school as an institution. We find no other solution, because the school, even before family, reflects the implicit pluralism and diversity in society. Pluralism and diversity are to be manifested in the educational process: in the educational path you discover the specificity if character, the critical, the diversity, the needs of the individual that borrows and assimilates different instances and different forms of content from the family of origin. The school, among other things, in a past that we must not forget and archive, suffered discrimination and intolerance as well: think of the 1938Nazi racial laws. And the school, although with different size and intensity, yet still discriminates and takes action against the weakest. The public funding of private schools is a form of discrimination. The reduction of support teachers for children with disabilities, the denial of the refectory to the poor, are forms of discrimination.
The questions are always open because we hope for a school open ever more to differences, to others, and not only for students but also for teachers. The adult world is challenged as well, into the scholastic environment. We are being increasingly challenged in our affections, structures, our beliefs, our dogmas and characterial patterns, in contact with the world of childhood.

So a more open school?
A school that is open to the implicit needs of each one, to the characters of which everyone is a carrier, the implicit difficulties that each child offers. You need to build a school without discrimination, where the other is considered a repository of authentic wealth to re-socialize and re-share, a treasure to be shared in the daily coexistence, in accordance with a responsibility and commitment of indignation against all forms of discrimination, against intolerance, non-compliance and violation of human rights. A new participatory social wealth going to increase a civilized pattern on a human scale, for a community, for a social and civil order open to differences, even to conflicts, as claimed by our friend Daniele Novara, director of the Psycho-pedagogic center for peace and conflict management in Piacenza.

Even conflict?
The conflict is implicit in education. We speak of nonviolence, but by this concept we do not mean an idea of passivity, resignation, weakness, laxity, inconsistency, indifference; we mean non-violence, in the strict sense, such as cooperation, interdependence, interconnectedness on what are human rights, and cooperation of all peoples according to the slogan proletarians of the world unite. So cooperation, solidarity and interdependence, as claimed by a great educator, Maria Montessori, who was persecuted by Fascism. While all over Italy, in Europe and in the world blazed the violence of the WWII, Maria Montessori was carrying in her conferences messages of hope and peace for all humanity, starting from childhood. Initially she was fondled by Fascism, because Mussolini wanted to exploit her schools, but Maria Montessori’s thought contrasted sharply with the fascist ideology and regime indoctrination; just think of the educational principles on which were based the fascist dictates of indoctrinating the Balilla Youth, based on individualism, competitiveness at all costs, on contempt, aggression towards the other. These are fascists disvalues that, according to Hessel, are currently conveyed by the mass media: as the oblivion culture, increasingly exasperated consumerism, an aestheticistic individualism, competition of all against all; essentially the only thought, capitalist and neoliberal.
Returning to the concept of non-violence, Maria Montessori promoted it, and her famous motto Education as a weapon of peace is a major oxymoron to claim that everything is played starting from education, from the school, to create social contexts and solidarity, to go over dictatorships, totalitarianism, chauvinism, nationalism, just to build peace in everyday environments. According to Montessori, the child is a carrier of peace already in his daily environment, at a micro-social level, to get to an extent of construction of a universal and comprehensive peace.

Translation by Silvia Accorrà and Camilla Girardi

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Heiko H. Caimi
Heiko H. Caimi, born in 1968, is a writer, screenwriter, poet and teacher of fiction writing. He has collaborated as an author with publishers Mondadori, Tranchida, Abrigliasciolta and others. He has taught at the Egea bookshop of Bocconi University in Milan and several other schools, libraries and associations in Italy and Switzerland. Since 2013 he has been editorial director of the literature magazine Inkroci. He is one of the founders and organizers of the traveling literary festival Libri in Movimento. He collaborates with the news magazine "InPrimis" keeping the column "Pages in a minute" and with the blog of the writer Barbara Garlaschelli "Sdiario". He published the novel "I predestinati" (The Predestined, Prospero, 2019) and edited the anthology of short stories "Oltre il confine. Storie di migrazione" (Over the border. Migration stories, Prospero, 2019).