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The signs of hope: peace

Giuseppe Dalla Torre

Contemporary society seems characterized by an irreducible schizophrenia: on the one side there is a constant battle to protect rights; but on the other there is less emphasis on the rights of the defense of social life. The expansion of the question of rights is under everyone's scrutiny. In effect, the attitude of expectation of a legislator to intervene for the recognition and guarantee of every individual interest is always more common, in order to satisfy every want, even the less reasonable ones. For some time a chapter of the judicial experience has been opened, which we can call the «rights of desires». we think, for example, to certain themes on the bioethical frontier, like artificial procreation or assisted suicide.

Even the emancipation of rights is a phenomena in expansion, easily seen by anyone. Ever more often, and in every field, there is a complaint for more freedom of action with respect to a legislator who is deemed an invader, excessively paternal or authoritarian. A certain type of culture and certain sensibilities have progressively put into crisis certain legal and instituted aspects which the judicial experience had, through the course of centuries, defined and consolidated. In this way we have seen fallen, for example, entire chapters of the rights of the family, or penal rights.
It deals with two irreconcilable attitudes towards the absolute right, which seem to be born from cultural options which are completely different and opposing. The one and the other are, then, children of the same culture which dominates modernity, which thinks about rights in function exclusively with the individual. In fact, it clamors for more rights, to the end of sustaining one's own pretentious; on the contrary, there is less clamor about rights, there, where the rights limit or impede one's desires. It must quickly be said that this culture is profoundly anti-judiciary and, therefore its prevailing in this contemporary society is the cause of a strong fall of legality.

A right, in fact, solicits a relationship; it always presupposes a relationship between two or more subjects, each of which carries personal interests which can be conflictual amongst them; it is a right to express a rule which regulates this relationship, foreseeing the conflicts or breaking them down according to a criteria of justice. In this perspective, even individual rights are referred to a relationship, in which the judicial law accords protection to the interests of one part, who are believed to merit that tutelage because it conforms to justice. Thus, the interests of the other side are necessarily sacrificed: to the active position of the rights there always corresponds a passive position of duty. There do not exist any rights without duty.
To the expansion of the sphere of rights there always corresponds the expansion of duties, so that it is purely illusionary to think that there can be more rights and less law, that is, more subjective judicial expectations guaranteed by law and less obligations imposed by the same laws.

Legality is a term which expressed the conformity of action of the individual and of the institutions according to rules, therefore a second right. It is necessary for the construction of the cohabitation of free men, to favor and guarantee the growth of a civil and political community founded not on prevaricating egoism’s, nor on the reason of the stronger shall succeed (physically, economically, numerically, militarily, etc.), but on the recognition of the equal dignity of all those in society and of the expectations of each person. It is important to note how legality is denied each time individuals, groups or institutions even public institutions -, act in a way which deforms the respect of imposed rules, that is each time they substitute reason for force to the reasons of rights. But legality is also violated each time the rules imposed with the law in the observance of everyone are not functional to the common good, but are an expression of particular interests and, as such, are not able to assure a real and effective justice.

Here is the very complicated and delicate niche, between legality and justice: history, even recently, teaches how the formal respect of norms which are not right have gravely offended legality. When it does not reach tragic ends, like those which humanity has known in our time in the lagers or in the gulag, the fall of legality always brings with it the abuse of power. That is followed by the weakness of the belonging of the community, the waving of solidarity, the growth of conflicts more or less extended, the distancing from the social body, the languishing of peace which is the fruit of that right. Degenerating phenomena which are completely analogous can also be seen, there, where we move from the inter-individual society, which are States, to that of the inter-state society, beginning with the international community.

In his Message for the World Day of Peace in 1998, the right is carried by the idea that from the justice of each person is born the peace for everyone, and John Paul II justly underlines two phenomena amongst the most recurring ones, in the national realities, which constitute an attack on the good of legality and therefore, on peace. The first is that of extreme poverty. In fact, it is the evident fruit of an unjust legislation or, at least, incapable of imposing rules which are truly «impartial», that is able to be removed from particular interests, of being emancipated from the influence of «strong» interests, to be extracted even from the easy risk - typical of democracy - of anchoring the principle of justice to the practical criteria of the majority. Legality imposes that the positive right assures equality, not just formally, but substantially between citizens, and therefore commits the public powers to remove the obstacles which impede the full development of the person. This requires the balance of interests in play, the recognition of the expectations of everyone, the safeguarding of the most weak in the relationship.

Legality imposes even that the common riches, public goods, are administered according to the common good and are not used to satisfy private interests or even, criminal interests. The existence of extreme poverty is therefore the index of a weakened legality, as well as a factor of attacks against legality. The second phenomena stigmatized by the Pope is that of the vice of corruption, which threatens the political and social development of many nations. It deals with an evil which equally afflicts rich and poor nations, developed and developing countries, totalitarian States or authoritarian and democratic ones.
The corruption in public offices and in public services in the measure in which it subjects extortion to that which belongs to the citizen, rejects any rule of justice affirming the logic of the stronger one overcomes. It is also characterized by a multiplied affect, because it inexorably induces a culture of illegality in the measure in which in order for the individual to concretely exercise his rights and benefit from formal liberty guaranteed to him according to law, is subject to the acts of corruption.

It must also be noted how corruption has a double effect on poverty: on the one side it is exercised on those who, lacking power, must resort to it in order to have their own rights valued; on the other side, it progressively marginalized these same people, at least economically incapable of making their own reasons valued. In front of these two phenomena, John Paul II underlines the urgency of a culture of legality. He puts this in evidence but saying not only is it necessary for individuals and institutions to conform and act according the law, and that these laws answer the principles of justice; but he highlights how it is necessary above all to develop a sensitivity and a practicality of legality.

In effect, a formal adhesion to the behavior of individuals to the laws imposed by the legislator can sometimes not be enough to assure that legality which is necessary for cohabitation. Experience teaches us that the strength of rights is not answered only, nor especially, by the fear of sanction. In every time and in every place, criminality was not dissuaded by penal norms, by police forces, by judges or prison. But in every time, the greater majority of the people behaved according to the law, despite the existence of judges or punishments.
The strength of rights, therefore, is above all answered by the intimate adhesion of each person to the rules imposed by the law; in answering - if we can say that- the external norms, legal, to the internal norms, of conscience, of sensibility of the individual who acts, keeping in mind not (just) his own interests, but (primarily) the interests of the receiver of the action in society. And here, which remains to be seen, legality is united to solidarity.