What follows are the reflections of individuals. We make no greater claim for them but we offer them in the spirit of exchange and dialogue.
Some thoughts from Roberto Verdecchia on this week’s principle.
The Principle of Solidarity.
The Principle of what? Solidarity? To me the word ‘solidarity’ conjures up images of labour unions; Lech Walesa and Poland’s “Solidarność” movement in the 1980s, for example. Or else I imagine archival film from the 1930s, people marching in the streets, “Workers of the World, Unite!”—that kind of thing.
In other words, when I think of the term, “Solidarity,” I think of the past. Silo made reference to this in Letters to my Friends, pointing out how the term had withered away over time: “By now, traditional ‘solidarity,’ heir to what was once known as ‘fraternity’ has lost all meaning.”
If solidarity/fraternity is rather dépassé , what of liberty and equality—the two other terms of the French Revolution’s battlecry?
Nowadays, it seems that people make all kinds of, usually well-justified, demands for equality. Demands for freedom (liberty) are also current (although perhaps not always so well-justified). But no, we never hear anything about solidarity, the one term that is unequivocally social in scope. There is occasional talk about helping the poor or the homeless, or about giving money or vaccines to help developing nations, and this could certainly be understood as an expression of solidarity, but the word itself is gone from the glossary of public discourse. Just imagine – what public figure could say it today with a straight face? “Wha’d you say, ‘Solidarity’?? What are ya—a communist or something?”
And yet the idea of “the Golden Rule”, of “treating others as you want to be treated” is not strange to people. Of course, the proposal may not be practiced very seriously, it might be paid lip service much more than put into practice, but the proposal is well known.
In reflecting on the general sense of this Principle, I noticed that when I think of it as the Principle of Solidarity, I start to think of it much more amply, more socially, than I normally do. That is, I tend to consider this Principle as something personal, something that I can try to aim for in my relations with others—and of course it is that. (And of course, as soon as you talk about interacting with others, you’re talking about what is social.) But somehow, understanding this as a principle of ‘solidarity’ helps me to see that acting like this can be more than just a way of “liberating myself” (as if that weren’t enough already!). Acting according to this principle could be a way, perhaps, of bridging the vast gaps that have opened up between people today, of “reweaving the social fabric.”
Sometimes I don’t know how I might ever be able to communicate with people who are vastly different than I am, who have very different, let’s say, political opinions than I do. I really don’t know how I could begin to bridge that gap with them. But if I imagine that, first and foremost, I could start by treating them as I would like to be treated, suddenly it seems that solidarity – even with these people! – could be possible. And of course it’s not magic, and it wouldn’t be easy and it leaves much to be determined (as applying any of the Principles does), but framed as a principle of solidarity, this proposal points out how we might advance in that direction, in the direction of bringing people together, despite our differences — differences which today everyone seems so keen on emphasizing and insisting upon.
Well, this is all kind of obvious, I suppose, since Silo has always pointed out that the personal and the social (or the internal and external) are not separate spheres. But meditating a bit on the name of this Principle has brought this wider social dimension to the fore, perhaps because the interpersonal and social crisis around us seems sharper than ever.