Since March 9th, Italians have been prisoners according to the government plan to keep everyone at home. The plan establishes for emergency reasons a form of domestic detention of the entire population with incalculable discomfort and psychological and physical health damage. Is this really necessary? No, it is not, because the contagion is cut short by the reduction of social contacts in confined areas and not by domestic detention. The right strategy would be something along the lines of keeping a distance. Instead, the media campaign and decrees (and cascading regional and municipal ordinances) have decided to opt for domestic imprisonment that is neither necessary nor sufficient to contain the virus. It is not sufficient because it is in any case a sieve quarantine because many, in fact everyone, must and can attend confined and crowded places such as supermarkets. It is not necessary because in many cases access to the outside environment has no effect on the spread of the virus (parks, beaches, isolated places, any outside place where it is possible to maintain a distance).
As every virologist knows, the safest place for not contracting the virus is in outside environments (beaches, hills, meadows, green urban areas) whereas the least safe places are confined areas (houses, workplaces, supermarkets). Even our homes are not exactly safe: given that they are confined and often frequented by more people coming and going than other shared or public places.
Instead of clearly explaining how the virus is transmitted, the institutional media campaign has taken on moralistic-ethical tones. We are urged to stay at home “out of respect for those who suffer and do combat on the front lines,” “for the deceased,” “to win altogether.” The danger of the virus has become an “enemy to fight.” People who stay at home on their sofas and baking their bread are “heroes.” Are they? In reality, you don’t win a virus with edifying moral sacrifices, but with scientifically sensible conduct, such as washing your hands and keeping your distance.
Staying at home has become an heavy handed gesture, while going out has become a brand of infamy, because those who go jogging manifest how they do not belong to the watchful, probing community, who spy on the world from the windows to denounce transgressors. As Recalcati wrote, “Hatred is born out of envy for the freedom of others.” Appeals to scientific reason are deemed worthless, such as bearing in mind that access to the open air is a fundamental health protection for many categories of people and that it has no direct risk for getting the virus.
This ethical drift, this moral rather than scientific propaganda, is constantly at work. To fight the virus, the police hunt down runners (who have had no role in the virus), check whether a child goes out “on a whim” or to accompany a parent to go shopping, persecute families who try to spend a few days in second homes.
Behaviors are condemned not for their concrete effects, but for people’s intentions.
With the excuse of the alleged undisciplined nature of Italians, the most senseless coercive measures are being justified. It would be the dream of a totalitarian regime, as the philosopher Miguel Benasayag recently pointed out: out of fear and lack of confidence in themselves, citizens want to obey a leader who will save them. In reality, there is no evidence that Italians would be incapable of properly managing social distancing without being kept in prison at home. The usual negative example, that of the February weekend with the Italians on the ski slopes, has been manipulated. In the days leading up to that weekend, the politicians had said that Italy was the safest country in the world, had urged our return to the Milan shuttles (remember #milanonsiferma?), and had not spoken clearly about the danger. Why should Italians do otherwise? We do not blame the people when the wrong directions come from above.
On the contrary, the Italians have been largely consistent in following the rules of the government decree and appear to be aware of the risks. So why not give them the responsibility that is given to individuals with reason and freedom?
If there were trust and responsibility, we would have the freedom to go out into the open air.
There is simply no justification for denying Italians the possibility of accessing the outside environment while intelligently applying precautions against the spread of the virus, where the presence of the virus is limited in open areas with sun, oxygen and other atmospheric agents. They don’t forbid our going to the beach or on a hike in the hills, because there is the virus in these places (there’s not), but because if we went to these places we would behave badly, for evidently in the eyes of the institutions and also in the eyes of many of our peers, we are just not trustworthy.