the indifferent ones

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By Antonio Gramsci*

I hate the indifferent. I believe, like Federico Hebbel, that “to live means to be a partisan”. There cannot be only “men”, strangers to the city. Those who truly live cannot not be citizens and not take sides. Indifference is abulia, it is parasitism, it is cowardice, it is not life. That's why I hate the indifferent.

Indifference is the dead weight of history. It is the lead ball of an innovator, it is the inert matter in which the most splendid enthusiasms are often drowned, it is the swamp that surrounds the old city and defends it better than the strongest walls, better than the breasts of its warriors. , because it swallows the robbers in its slimy pits, and decimates them and slaughters them and sometimes makes them give up the heroic deed.

Indifference acts powerfully in history. Act passively, but act. It is fatality; it's what you can't count on; it is what spoils programs, which reverses the best laid plans; it is brute matter that rebels against intelligence and strangles it. What happens, the evil that befalls everyone, the possible good that a heroic act (of universal value) can generate is not so much due to the initiative of the few who act, but to the indifference, to the absenteeism of many.

What happens does not happen because some want it to happen, but because the mass of men abdicates to their will, lets them do it, lets them group together the knots that only the sword can cut later, lets them enact laws that later only revolt can revoke, let men come to power whom only a mutiny could overthrow afterwards.

The fatality that seems to dominate history is nothing more than the illusory appearance of this indifference, this absenteeism. Some facts ripen in the shade; a few hands unsupervised by any control weave the web of collective life, and the masses don't know it, because they don't care about it.

The destinies of an age are manipulated by the narrow visions, immediate scopes, personal ambitions and passions of small active groups, and the mass of men don't know it, because they don't care about it. But the facts matured somewhere, the web woven in the shadows comes to an end, and then it seems that fate is striking down everything and everyone, it seems that history is nothing more than an enormous natural phenomenon, an eruption, a earthquake, of which everyone is a victim, who wanted it and who didn't, who knew and who didn't, who was active and who was indifferent.

And the latter gets angry, wanting to escape the consequences, wanting to make it clear that he didn't want this, that he's not responsible. Some whine piteously, others blaspheme obscenely, but nobody or few ask themselves: if I had also done my duty, if I had tried to assert my will, my point of view, would what happened have happened? But nobody or few blame themselves for their indifference, for their skepticism, for not having extended their arm and their activities to groups of citizens who, precisely to avoid such evil, fought, in search of the good they proposed.

About events already concluded, most of these people prefer to talk about ideal failures, definitely ruined programs and other similar pleasantries. Thus, they begin to abstain from any responsibility. It's not that they don't see things clearly, that they aren't able to sometimes come up with good solutions to the most urgent problems or those problems that, because they require more preparation and time, are just as urgent. But these solutions remain largely barren, this contribution to collective life is not animated by any moral light. It is the product of intellectual curiosity and not of a poignant sense of historical responsibility that wants everyone active in life, that does not admit agnosticism and indifference of any kind.

I also hate the indifferent ones for boring me with their whimpering of eternal innocents. I ask each one of them to account for how they fulfilled the mission that life imposed on them and imposes on them on a daily basis, about what they did and especially about what they didn't do. And I feel that I can be inexorable, that I must not waste my pity, that I must not share my tears with them.

I am a supporter, I am alive, I already feel the pulsation in the virile consciences of the cause that I chose, the future city that this cause is building. And in it the social chain does not weigh on the few, in it everything that happens is not by chance, by fate, but by the intelligent action of citizens. There is no one in her who is at the window just watching while few sacrifice themselves, bleed in sacrifice; and whoever is at the window, in an ambush, will want to enjoy the little good that the work of a few people has tried to achieve and will take out his disappointment by insulting the sacrificed, the bleeding, because he was unable to fulfill his objective.

I live, I'm a partisan. That's why I hate those who don't take sides, I hate those who are indifferent.

*Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) was a founder, theorist and leader of the Italian Communist Party.

Translation: Claudia Tavares Alves
Originally posted on the blog Mark Pages

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