Zygmunt Bauman at the meeting of Sant’Egidio: “Dialogue at the centre of education: a cultural revolution”

Zygmunt Bauman, addressing the Opening Assembly of the meeting “Thirst for Peace”, being held in Assisi, described the history of mankind as a process in which the word “we” spreads. A story that lets glimpse “a light at the end of the tunnel, even if the tunnel seems long and full of pitfalls and dangers”. Bauman recalled that for paleontologists and anthropologists, the first “we” could include not more than 150 people. “They were hunter-gatherers. They had no busses nor supermarkets… Their number was limited to just those people who could be fed and move together. The rest was “other” than “we”. Over time, this number has grown and people started to organise themselves into tribes, communities and then even empires and nation states’, Bauman recalled.

It has come down now – according to the sociologist – to an unprecedented step: “All stages and leaps that have been made, had something in common. There were stages that were marked by inclusion and exclusion. There was a “we” that stretched over time but also a stronger identification of the Other, who was excluded from the “we”. And this has led to large bloodshed”.

Now – according to Bauman – there is the unavoidable necessity of the expansion of “we” as the next stage of humanity. This next stage is the suppression of the pronoun “them”. Bauman recalled that our ancestors had an enemy, identified by a “them”. “But today, in the global society – he continued – where do we find an enemy?”. “We have not been asked by anyone – said Bauman – but we are in the cosmopolitan dimension in which everything has an impact on the planet, on the future and even on the grandchildren of our grandchildren. We are all dependent on each other”. According to Bauman, the flip side is that “we have not even begun to develop a cosmopolitan awareness. And we handle this moment with the same tools of our ancestors… it is a trap and great challenge to deal with. ”

The great intellectual affirmed that for a path towards integrating peoples instead of separating, there are three useful advices offered by Pope Francis.

First, there is the necessity of dialogue. Bauman speaks of an urgent need to promote “a culture of dialogue to weave back our society. Learning to respect the stranger, the migrant, all worth listening to. We can only stop war – he said – if we give our children a culture capable of creating strategies for life and for inclusion. ”

Secondly Pope Francis speaks of “the equitable distribution of the fruits of the earth and of the work thats is not merely charity, but a moral obligation.” “We need real and well-paying jobs for young people and to move away from the ‘liquid’ economy towards a world with acces to real work, Bauman said.”

Third, according to the sociologist, “Pope Francis says that this dialogue must be at the center of education in our schools, to obtain tools that can solve conflicts in a different way than we are used to.” “The acquisition of the culture of dialogue and the manner of proceeding is not an easy way or a shortcut. Education is a process that takes a very long time. It requires patience, consistency, long-term planning. It is a cultural revolution in a world where ‘people age and die before they can even grow up’.