In defence
of memory

Veronica Berenice

trying to rectify/keep at bay that dangerous and ‘Cain’ need for supremacy that sometimes lurks even in the warmest family reservoirs.

“E’ uno foresto” [1] is still said in the Venetian countryside, indicating someone whose origins are unknown; origins or roots call them whatever you like, are something to be relied on for the most part of human history by virtue of a need for security. Based on this need, we have formed tribes, communities, fiefdoms, monarchies and states; the absence of negotiation made possible through blood, that is, the genetic heritage, which inextricably binds us to our biological parents, has been the engine for human beings to organise themselves into social systems.

However much the survival instinct, which underlies the ‘family’ institution, keeps our will to power over our neighbour in check, the former has not always been right over the latter as the famous story of Cain and Abel brings to mind. To understand how the family has influenced human affairs better, we can dwell on a moment in history, around the year 1000, when families of Jewish religion were invited, from Mesopotamia and Palestine, to live in Europe.

The reasons behind this invitation on behalf of the populations settled in Europe were, on one hand, the fact that the Jews could operate in the business of lending money (a practice denied to Christians because it was considered sinful); on the other hand, the absence of rules and protections for the trade. The solution devised for this, legal vacuum as we would call it today, was to rely on the strong communitarian connection of the Jewish world. A contrivance that guaranteed the security and efficiency of any trade, and which went something along the following lines: An artisan who wanted to trade his products could rely on a Jewish acquaintance who would set up a sales network within his family system. This would enable him to count on a controlled supply chain that was less subject to the danger of scoundrels vanishing into the horizon without paying.

This example, however, allows us to debate the other side of the coin regarding the survival instinct: what has already been mentioned above is the will to power over one’s neighbour. In fact, shortly afterwards, precisely in Granada during the year 1066, frightened by the presence of powerful Jewish families, the Christian population’s will to power took over and upset the balance with the Jewish people. Not tolerating such an economically insidious rival – yet of such similar religious origins – the first pogroms began, which later expanded throughout Europe.

Human beings, therefore, experience this constant attempt to mediate between their lowest instincts and the drive for greater well-being (assuming one really knows what this greater well-being is). Wherever one decides to turn one’s gaze, the family issue moves society, and from one fashion to another, from necessity to virtue, we reach present day, where families find their most profound crisis and raise doubts about them. 

Economic development, sexual freedom, and a more inclusive view on gender issues, have produced a world that no longer needs a family system as we have known it ’til now, and so, we find ourselves re-examining this system in order to find a way of family-making that is appropriate to modern times. In the most developed countries, today offers the highest form of social welfare that the human being has ever encountered, and as it is normal for this to happen, by securing basic needs, the human being steps up and seeks to participate in his or her destiny to the fullest. 

Hence, it is freedom to be fully oneself that the developed world speaks of, that is, evolving from a role – determined by the sole biological purpose of the survival of the species – and trying to rectify/keep at bay that dangerous and ‘Cain’ need for supremacy that sometimes lurks even in the warmest family reservoirs.

In Italy today, we are discussing the possibility for unborn children to choose which of their parents surname to take, thus freeing ourselves from the archaic dictatorship that regards a male child as the sole bearer of the family surname.

A male who is marked by being the victim of every expectation and responsibility, on whom the social and economic hopes of the family fall, no matter what the inclination. While this is the fate of males, females’ is certainly not benefited by presupposed levity; instead, it is clear that females have been infantilised, and marginalised from all responsibility, access to family wealth, and ostracised from their social one.

Any respectable historian knows how blind we are to history as seen from a female perspective, and how we have deprived ourselves from the human potential by 50% of the world’s population. Although today we cannot, nor should we, work on the past, we can and must work on the present by allowing families to be whatever kind of family they want to be, and to preserve the stories of their past and of their roots. For if the family as an institution and as a place of protection is weakening, it is because some are being pushed forward while others are left behind, and this is no longer tolerated. We must bring back women’s surnames as well as men’s, so that huge pieces of history are never lost again just because someone believed it was not worth remembering. 

[1] He is an outsider

Ti è piaciuto l’articolo? Lascia qui la tua opinione su La Livella.

Did you enjoy the article? Leave here your feedback on La Livella.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email