A sign of a trend
A proposal contained in guidelines of the European Commission, released on November 29, to abolish a set of expressions to enable “correct communication” caused much discussion. Among them, the wish for a “Merry Christmas” was to be replaced by “Happy Holidays.” It is a sign of a more general tendency to erase from Europe anything that does not appear to be in line with what is considered to be the common feeling; think of the attempts to rewrite history or correct film scripts and novels because they are considered politically incorrect. But, unlike the demolition of monuments, or the censorship of circumstance, it is significant that the proposal, even if promptly withdrawn, comes from an institutional governing body. This was an initiative aimed at imprinting a precise behavioral direction.
The initial proposal raises many questions. Who, for example, can establish in theory what characteristics a culture with “correct communication” should have? And what characteristics should it have in an increasingly stratified and complex society? Erasing the differences and historical traditions that have contributed to forming the identity of a nation, of a continent, would lead to the dictatorship of the “single thought,” which is determined by the fashion of the moment.
Europe’s identity is the result of a slow and varied interweaving of different traditions: Greco-Roman, Jewish-Christian, Enlightenment, Romantic. As Paul Ricœur notes, they have been above all spaces of welcome, integration and stability. This recognized and accepted diversity is the authentic condition for dialogue, because when one culture is structurally open to others, their interweaving actually contributes to its formation. A similar process happens with the genesis of a language, which contains within itself the presence of other languages that have crossed its path: Italian has terms that come from Latin, Greek, Arabic, English and French. Moreover, every language is structurally open to other languages, which can be learned, starting from one’s mother tongue.