How fascination fascinates

Ethics and aesthetics
in times of war

Veronica Berenice
Michele Diego


Being ourselves, fascinated and fascinating others, so that the values that are higher than ourselves become shared by a deeper spirit.

British Captain Anthony Clarke, ready to bomb the city of Sansepolcro, experienced a quake of the spirit. He could not go ahead with the mission. From the last stratum of his soul rose a memory, a sentence that had been clinging to his heart for years, as lappets used to cling to the hem of his uniform breeches. He was – the captain – an (aest)ethical man and what overwhelmed him were the words of Huxley that he had read, long ago, in who knows which British library. The place in front of him was not just any old place. In the words of the great English writer, Sansepolcro was home to the most magnificent painting in the world: Piero della Francesca’s Resurrection. The cannons had to be stopped.

This is how an (aest)ethical person is incapable of meekly submitting to society’s dominant ethics. After all, if there is anything that philosophy unanimously considers a sin, it is failing to live an authentic life. A life that allows us to look back on our history without personal or public shame. Hence, the well-known fallacy in the psychoanalysis of the individual can be linked to the broader context that the Bel Paese is facing today. It is small, just as small as we all are, set in a world of giants armed to the teeth, armed with the same nuclear power that is mentioned here and there in the skilful strategies of tension that the powerful propose to us citizens of the world.
So, what to do when there is no weaponry, when you are tiny in the midst of giants? Is it truly possible that art can save the world?

Not necessarily, but it is the only hope worth holding on to. It is up to us to consider the story of Captain Clarke in its finest significance. The spontaneous observation that arises from this episode, in his life, is that there are forms of authority that become metaphysically untouchable, that provoke such a high sense of reverence in the human spirit that the cannons are forced to stop. As for the destiny of Italy, of Europe, of each and every one of us as individuals, it is probably necessary to try to be that country, that continent, or that single life in the world in which aesthetics moves the ethics of the observer. It is being fully what we are and what we historically represent: the cradle of culture, the source from which the most generous abundance of beauty known to history has been created.
It is by becoming ourselves to the fullest, and by forcing ourselves to adhere to higher and firmer principles, that we become the safe haven for any peace treaty. Finally, it is coming to terms with the idea of not copying others’ examples, which make us look like caricatures, but allowing ourselves to be inspired by others only in what can make us stronger in temperament – if putting it that way makes it clearer. Without complacency, without posing, without vanity.
Reaching the awareness that our only card to play, in a world of threatening supergiants, is a sort of inspirational obeisance, a sort of respect towards something greater. Taking the bet that no one will dare commit a sin because we would be a white dove flying over a scorched field. Being ourselves, fascinated and fascinating others, so that the values that are higher than ourselves become shared by a deeper spirit.
This can be a bulwark of hope for all of us, perhaps an old-fashioned kind of weaponry in the face of the barbarities we are all enduring today; nevertheless, it should be our goal, our guiding star through the night. Let us prove that, in the very same book of the Inferno, << you were not made to live like brutes/but to follow virtue and knowledge >> was not written by Dante in vain.

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