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The Enemy Is Different From Us







And the enemy stands before us

more powerful than ever.

Looks like his strength has grown.

He took on an invincible appearance.


In any context, but particularly in the political, whether it is a construction or not, the enemy always exists. Its presence is somehow functional, not only to define our identity but also to secure an obstacle against which we can measure our value system and display our own value when facing it. When the enemy does not exist, it is necessary to construct it. And this, perhaps, is what interests us here: the process of producing and demonising the enemy.


The certain and unchanged fact, throughout history, is that the enemy is different from us and behaves according to customs and traditions different from our own. How can we not think of the words of Carl Schmitt; the enemy is a political necessity, of the politician, or perhaps, even better, the necessity of the politician derives from the existence of a chaotic and unordered situation; conflict thus becomes the essential core of the criterion of the politician and for it to manifest itself the presence of two opposing faces is indispensable, this is the case of the friend/enemy dyad. In Schmitt's own words:


The enemy is not the competitor or the opponent in general. Enemy is not even the private adversary who hates us on the basis of feelings of antipathy. Enemy is only a group of men who fight at least virtually, i.e. on the basis of a real possibility, and oppose another human grouping of the same kind. Enemy is only the public enemy, since everything that refers to such a grouping, and in particular to an entire people, becomes public in itself. The enemy is the hostis, not the inimicus in the broad sense; the Πόλεμioς not the εχθρός.

Schmitt's quotation opens to many considerations, first of all his idea of enemy coincides with that of people - the dimension of the conflict in the specific involves separate entities differentiated by clearly drawn boundaries -, then particular attention deserves, in my opinion, the last sentence: "The enemy is the hostis, not the inimicus in a broad sense; the Πόλεμioς not the εχθρός". That is to say, the enemy is the stranger, if we look at the original meaning of the term, and not the opponent or whoever is hostile to us. The scenario painted by Schmitt is a tremendously gloomy vision in which the hospes is destined to rapidly and inexorably become the hostis. Benveniste, in some clarifying pages, has related, highlighting the same root, the terms: hostis, the enemy; hospes, the one who offers hospitality or the guest, an ambiguity that deserves investigation; hostia, the victim sacrificed to the gods commonly to appease their anger.


The certain and unchanged fact, throughout history, is that the enemy is different from us and behaves according to customs and traditions different from our own. It goes without saying that the different person par excellence is the foreigner. Social and political reality is portrayed as a permanent conflict, a war against an enemy from which one must defend oneself tenaciously, on pain of ruining society. Those who depict this scene call for the people as ethnos, i.e. the people considered as a specific group and an expression of identity due to the historical, biological and cultural affinities that bind its components and make them a single entity. The declination of the people as ethnos is called upon to defend the nation and to act as a barrier against possible forms of contamination, of the other, of the foreigner, of immigration; against the threat that all this represents for the integrity of a country and its traditions.


The theme of immigration is intrinsically linked to the theme of the foreigner and the personification of the enemy. The foreigner who thus becomes the incarnation of the enemy, a constant challenge. Let us now consider the Italian case and its latest developments. The laws that today regulate flows, landings, rejections, fates and requests for protection and asylum of migrants are the consequence of a political discourse, mainly of a populist kind, which in the last decade has had, among other results, to criminalize migration and process solidarity; understanding the latter as a meta-ethical concept that implies a relationship between subjects considered according to parameters of symmetry: legally equal for the law, ethically equal for political philosophy.


The laws and practices expressed by migration policies "from the criminalisation of the very condition of irregular immigrants to the hundreds of persecutory ordinances and circulars, up to the detention centres for repatriation- make-up a pile of institutional illegality that undermines the foundations of our democracy. Their aim is to effectively outlaw immigration, condemn it to illegality and thus deprive illegal immigrants of all rights and expose them to all forms of oppression and exploitation."


Not too many months ago, news broke of the sentencing to thirteen years and two months of imprisonment of Mimmo Lucano, former mayor of Riace, accused of committing irregularities while welcoming migrants. Mayor of the town from 2004 to 2018, when he was suspended, Lucano had become known for his pro-migrant positions. Although the Riace model has been praised many times, including by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and Pope Francis, the decision, after years of hearings, seems to want to intimidate solidarity projects like this one. Lucano teaches that another way is possible, that of unconditional acceptance, of an inclusive model, of an alternative society in which everyone, regardless of their origins, language or culture, participates in the life of a community and is integrated into it. Diversity thus becomes a resource and not, as we saw earlier, an enemy to be fought and a threat to be fled from.


I would like to conclude this short article with the words of the philosopher Donatella di Cesare, thus opening up for reflection.


There are sentences that, besides being unjust, and therefore more than questionable, openly defy justice and the sense of what is fair, right, due. The verdict of the judges of Locri is not issued in the name of the Italian people, who are today for the most part shocked and deeply indignant. Rather, it appears to be the despicable condemnation of a repressive and xenophobic nation state, which has been waging an undeclared war against migrants under the banner of sovereignty and closed borders for some time now. The ways of this conflict are diverse: seizing NGO ships, indiscriminate refoulement, torture in camps in Libya, letting people die at sea. But also to hit those who do not accept to be complicit citizens and help those who arrive here. It is in this context that the 13 years and two months sentence against Mimmo Lucano should be read, an eminently political sentence. It is an explicit message against anyone in the future who dares to repeat his example. Those who welcome are criminals: this is the message.


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