The family and its political and social action: Artisan of fraternity and solidarity

The "political work" that is the duty of each of us within the city.

Artisans of fraternity and solidarity

It struck me how Pope Francis, when speaking to the citizens of Rome last year urged everyone to do the “political work” that is up to each of us in the city. He called it “being an artisan of fraternity and solidarity”

I believe it is one of the most beautiful expressions that convey what political commitment is, which must engage both citizens and administrators.

Can or must a family become an “artisan of fraternity and solidarity”?

Looking for the meaning of the term “Craftsperson” I found this explanation that seems to help us understand what it is: “A craftsperson is someone who carries out an activity, even an artistic one (and politics must also produce beauty in the city …). They are people who produce, or even repair goods, with their manual work, without working on an assembly line, generally in their own shop”.

This is the dimension of a daily, engaging commitment, which always has the recipient of that object in mind, from the beginning to the end of the work!

But where is the origin of politics conceived in this way, but so often far from reality?

In the 1960s, a student asked his anthropology professor what the first sign of human civilization was. The anthropologist did not speak of flints, hooks, earthenware pots or millstones, but of a broken and then healed femur.

He explained that in the pack, if you break your leg, you die. No one in the pack survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal.

A man with a broken thigh bone that has healed is proof that someone has hunted food for him. Someone spent time with him, took him to a safe place and helped him eat until he recovered.

The professor concluded: “Helping someone else in difficulties is the precise point where civilization, human society, begins.”

Human society is different from a pack that hunts “with” others, because it also hunts “for” others.

It is the “for” that makes the difference. Care makes the difference! And the family is the emblem, the symbol of mutual help, freely given. It is a place where people live not only “with” but “for” others.

The true nature of politics, the art of giving oneself and managing the rules needed for coexistence, becomes what it should be only if it respects reciprocity as part of human nature.

Sure enough, the temptation in human society to go back to the rules of the pack is often just around the corner, but if this happens, then regression from human society to the society of the pack is guaranteed for politics too.

Aren’t wars, revenge and slavery, whether more or less legalized, the expression of a pack?

Our task is to give a refreshing dose of truth to the meaning of politics: we must grow in our capacity to be “for” others and continually return to it.

But how? I will look now at where I believe we should start.

What is the first step?

The first step is training and this year is very suitable for that.

Only adequate training can produce a breeding ground for democracy.

Training and enabling citizens who can contribute actively to their democracy; officials who know how to mediate between institutions and society; diplomats capable of working for their own country as well as for the countries of others, for a common destiny of all peoples; lawmakers and administrators who have the courage to choose true priorities.

All of them can contribute to policies that act increasingly as a barrier to the temptation to go back to the rules of the pack, where care for others is not a priority.

Family is the first and most suitable place in which to train politicians of tomorrow who are sufficiently “human”. It is clear at this point that by politicians we means as citizens, officials, administrators and lawmakers, all with different roles, but with the same responsibility towards common living.

What are the cornerstones of this training, this formation?

  • Belonging to a community,
  • the gratuitousness of relationships,
  • diversity (man / woman, generational diversity, differences in character …) seen as an enrichment,
  • attention to the next generations …

We need this kind of formation, which is permanent, but that begins in the family and never stops.

Then spiritual formation is also needed.

One day I heard from the Argentines that there is no politics “without mysticism”.

Giorgio La Pira, one of Florence’s greatest mayors of the last century, stated that “without a Jerusalem” in mind, a city cannot be governed. He meant that if politicians don’t have broad horizons, clear values, and key priorities, their governing is reduced to addressing only the issues of everyday life, that is, to filling in the holes without any vision for the future.

The right questions must be asked! The real question to ask yourself today, at this time of a change of era, and in order to face this democratic crisis, is not “what should be done?”

The real problem to be addressed is knowing “how” to govern, “how” to identify priorities.

We have experienced, in these times of Covid, that “what to do” agendas can be revolutionized in an instant; in a few days we can find ourselves in a completely new situation, with completely different priorities.

This is an exercise that occurs in family life daily. If you want to withstand stress you need to be ready for any eventuality, having a long term project in front of you.

Another fundamental aspect of formation is community formation.

It is necessary to build an educating community, made up of diversities that meet and dialogue in search of a different intelligence. Political scientists call this “incremental intelligence”; it grows. It is only produced in a context of reciprocity and where conflict is faced and overcome.

Then a hands on training is required which is generated:

  • By visiting that territory, responsibly, together;
  • By knowing the history and the key figures;
  • By learning to deal with wounds and trying to find the resources to respond in an inclusive and “healing” way.

This will certainly be a necessary first step, which must begin within the family.