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(from Il Viaggio, number 3, January 2002, slightly revised)

A bit of silence, we implore you. Let's allow our steps as eternal travelers that have landed by choice or through necessity on the streets of the city to speak.

Let's listen to them: they are steps of galley slaves. So much is lacking if we want them to become the steps of people who are freeing themselves, and what is lacking above all is the capacity to truly speak with each other, to dialogue. No, we are not referring to the empty and impotent chattering in which we all too often lose ourselves. It has nothing to do, then with the continuous bawl of the television. Dialogue is a concrete thing: it is staking oneself once and for all, it is speaking about the life that we live because we are disposed to change it. We have as much need of this as of the air that we breathe.

But democracy takes it away from us, this capacity to dialogue, rendering us noisily deaf and dumb.


From one side it affirms freedom of speech, from the other it maintains and deepens social division, that is to say, exploitation and authority. In unfortunate words: the governments and masters are deciding everyone's future; the exploited are free to say as much as they want, as long as, in reality, they can decide nothing. And when speech is separated from its concrete power to change the world, the words themselves are emptied, they lose force and meaning. Deluding ourselves that we are participating in decisions from which we are actually excluded, we lose the capacity to formulate discussions that are not empty and powerless. It is as if we kept a leg immobilized for years and years until it atrophied; afterwards, someone could tell us, "now, walk!" We would no longer walk, we would have lost the capacity and the whole idea of walking. How much space still exists within us for imagining words that change life, then? What is left of our capacity to say and understand them? We don't know with certainty.

The only certainty possible is that if dialogue must be concrete to exist, the place where it is practiced and the way in which it is practiced must be equally concrete.

If dialogue is staking oneself, then we can stake ourselves only with those who, like us, have very little to lose from a change, those who live the same social condition, exploitation. Any other place of dialogue is illusory. Claiming to dialogue with the masters, for example, makes no sense, because they have an entire world to lose.

If we want this staking of oneself to be a collective thing and at the same time profoundly individual, the only way we have for dialoguing is the direct and horizontal way, without delegation. It is not possible to dialogue, then, with the structures that are organized in a vertical manner in which, due to leaders, sub-leaders and spokespeople, some decide for others. Not even with those parties and unions that talk of being on the side of the exploited, let us be clear.

Only on these simple conditions, that have nothing to do with democracy, is it possible to dialogue. Only on these conditions will we find the words for doing so.

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