“The Right to Happiness” | Roberto Saviano | TEDxPompeii

“The Right to Happiness” | Roberto Saviano | TEDxPompeii


Translator: Rosemary Hill
Reviewer: KARIN MAISTRELLO Hello! The topic I chose for today is a topic that I keep on chasing,
without ever being able to capture. Not just in my life,
but also in my researches, in my writing: happiness. But I chose this awe-inspiring subject first of all because what makes this place so precious is not just the miracle of these
magnificent ruins, but that life itself was embedded
in these ruins, life that suddenly stopped. So the whole world
-not just archaeologists – discovered not just
what was left of civilization, like ancient coins, found in an abandoned field, that had already run their course. No. Here, everything stopped suddenly, and so the true fascination
was finding life. Life: a theatre
that was full a minute before, a home, still inhabited. The power or Pompeii and Herculaneum
is this: it’s the exact opposite
of what is simple: the opposite of death, tragedy, disaster. But what succeeds after all is life. And so now I thought it was necessary to go back and explore. To talk about the impulse that’s bringing thousands and thousands of people to pursue happiness. Because what the media are risking here is to make serious mistakes. Reading the news can be risky. We read about the death toll, about the different political views, about the reflections on how to organize the borders, about who has the right to decide, about what we can do to stem the flows. But the only reflection that
is connected to the deepest reason that drives people to risk their lives, their children’s lives, is the pursuit of happiness. (Applause) And it’s so embarrassing to say it, that we don’t say it. Imagine what saying it would mean. I’m used to being a target to being criticized. So if you’re trained for that… Imagine how embarrassing it could be for someone who’s aware of it
who’s is involved in it, who takes part in a talk show,
or a meeting, a political meeting
in a town hall and says “These people are just
pursuing happiness…” He’d be considered sentimental, a do-gooder, naive
-in the best case-. But there’s no need to be embarassed in front of reality. Try listen to the interviews: “… I’d rather die than stay in my own country…” The possibility of imagining another life. Well, no one knows that better than
the Italians of the south. What it means to change your existence, to have to look for another path,
elsewhere. And so this world speaks to us, mainly to us. And reflecting on happiness means reflecting right now, on the most dangerous topic. I repeat: we don’t talk about it. What does happiness take? What does unhappiness take? Now let it be clear: I understand
that happiness is a private issue. If I were asked “Should the state worry about happiness?” No. “Does happiness involve the society, the people, our own individuality,
the ability to relate to others?” Yes, of course. But there’s a variation of happiness which is social, public. Melancholy, what we call depression, that often seizes us,
seizes me, doesn’t only have
a private meaning. But it’s often the judgment that the body or a part of our body gives to the society… that is unbearable. And so there’s a subversive possibility of happiness. In my life, I’ve not always been good
at getting along with happiness at finding it. Actually, I’ve always felt embarrassed each time I recognized a road that could have made me happy. I felt guilty, I’ve always felt guilty. As if I didn’t deserve it. Then suddenly your life changes, as happens to so many, and you start to have
another perspective a perspective that is helping me, even now, to resist to the foolishness of the Lega
(Italy’s Northern Political Party) to resist and to try to understand why these opinions flood on social media in such great numbers, why these ideas are uniting people under the same position. (Applause) I was asking: what is this thing? Which in reality – and the power of words can help here – in fact you
understand the value of something only in the moment you’ve lost it. I believe It’s the fate shared by humans, and literature is able to help. Sometimes literature allows
the miracle of valuing, giving weight to a thing – I define thing:
a person, a feeling, a meeting, a moment – before you’ve lost it, maybe even before you come across it. So when I lost my freedom nine years ago I began to understand its worth, its quality. It’s always like this. I was told by those people who had been through
worse things. Arrested intellectuals dissidents, people imprisoned in the Middle East, or in Africa, so compared to them I was fortunate. They used to say: “That’s the way it is!” No one who hasn’t spent at least
one day in jail understands jail. No one who hasn’t been ill can understands someone who is ill. You can be empathetic. In the same way,
if you haven’t lost your freedom you can’t understand what it means. I don’t care if I’m considered naive or romantic, I want to consider these flows of people -and not many of us are doing the same- as an incredible flow of desire that’s coming to us. Desire, will to succeed, to put yourself on the line. I see this before everything. Then there’s another logic,
a very simple one the logic that the fishermen of Lampedusa have taught us: we need to split this question into two. First, we could welcome them all,
we could go to Libya, we need to understand what to do,
Europe has to intervene… These debates are all necessary,
but are on another level, On another level from the maritime law. The maritime law is that: no one can be left at sea. And that law is the only one we must obey when we’re facing this problem. After that, every debate is legitimate but the maritime law is
the only one we should listen to in this situation. The south is undergoing a process
of desertification. These words are used by the
renowned Swiss research centers Desertification. Under different circumstances these words
would have been an immense backlash, but they seem normal now. The whole problem of the South
comes from the fact that we count for less in the
national political balance, because we know that the alternative, is either enduring or leaving, either trying to make it
at all costs or leaving. So we emigrate, at that point
it’s like if the class -the ruling class – but not only, everyone in the South knows that
-sooner or later- that’s the only way. It’s like solving the problem on
our own. What’s the result? It doesn’t allows us to see migrants as a great resource
for the South. Immeasurable. We already have cities that have become African. Castel Volturno is the biggest
African city in Europe. With all its problems: there is an enormous presence of
Nigerian mafia, but there is also a healthy community which was able to built its own identity. Africans of second and third generation are born in Castel Volturno,
new Castellani. I mean, we should take pride in this. An African mayor, even if there,
politically things are getting better, but I mean all this should be a main point
for debate. Not simply numbers, details
and what they’re making us believe to be
the important topic. If we’re cold, cynic, if we don’t say the word’ happiness’, then we are authoritative. On the contrary, if we describe the feeling that makes a woman -as we heard earlier – take her one-year-old child
and hold him across the Mediterranean. Well, if we talk about this,
we’re clearly inefficient. We’re not facing reality, We want easy consensus, because we’re calling for feelings. And that’s right what I want to do. The is courage we should all have. (Applause) It’s easy to attack a feeling, and make fun of it, it’s very easy. Cruelty, distance, they appear stronger, sometimes even more fascinating,
don’t they? If you try to be good, you’re a ‘do-gooder’ There’s a great book, called
‘Life and fate’, by Vasilij Grossman, a massive book, read it
if you have some time to dedicate to it. It’s a masterpiece, a wonderful writer, who deals with the tragedy
of the totalitarianism of communism and national-socialism. There’s a passage
that I’ve never forgotten, that I often repeat. There’s this character, the protagonist, who says: “I’ve never believed neither in justice,
nor in good. Because in the name of justice, in name of your own good,
the good of humanity, and for justice the worst crimes were committed.” Crimes that the main character, was witnessing and experiencing And he says “I’ve always believed in goodness” And that echoes
in that incredible page. That word is not predictable,
it’s not a subterfuge, it’s not psychologically fragile,
not sly… It’s powerful… and he explains further, “Goodness is a one to one relation because we can value it in the immediate, because I can feel
the instant transformation of reality, of my life, everyday
with that gesture.” It may seem incredible, but
in a moment like this we are just talking now, but later this video, your sensations,
your comments will get everywhere. Think that now more than ever words are being hold, oppressed,
blocked. And it’s unbelievable that
it’s happening now when words managed to
free themselves from the chains of typography, of editing, of censorship. Right now, in these days
words are back to being at the centre of persecution. A tweet in Mexico can kill someone. A Tweet, literally. Which means people, journalists, bloggers, who tweet. Tweets that work, that start to be popular, commented. They get killed for this. Or intellectuals who are whipped, as in Saudi Arabia, killed, as it happened in Paris. What power did they have? What power did the blogger Felina have? When the Zeta, one of the richest groups
of Mexico which fills Miami and
New York with cocaine, decapitate a blogger
who was on twitter with not more than
a thousands of followers. What was wrong with her? What could she do? To such a powerful group. Powerful enough to intercept her,
with a hacking operation, -because she used a nickname- go to her house, behead her, take a picture of her body and post it on her account. How is that even possibile? What could cartoonists do, those like Charlie Hebdo? Who was he compared to the power
of the Islamic propaganda? But that’s exactly the point. Malala I’m pleased to see that
there’s a trace of her journey to maturity. But we’re talking about a girl against the greatest heroine traffickers
of the world. The Taliban. You know that 90%
of the world’s heroine comes from Afghanistan. From Moscow, through Naples, to Paris, Montpellier. Everything comes from Afghanistan. Apart from a small percentage
that comes from Vietnam. So the Talibans, and the guerilla, their government and their laws
are riddled with heroine money Think about their moralism A fourteen-year-old girl becomes
their number one target. And then you think: it’s possible then. Yes it is. Because a word, a position, a choice,
sharing all lead to that insurgency. I use this word. To erase what doesn’t work. The insurgency, I like to think of that
as happiness, I quoted that blogger and Malala
on purpose because in their writings and
in their choices there was happiness. She wrote, for example, that in
some places in the city, Mexico City, border cities,
drug traffickers were transforming the places into sad places. They were buying kindergartens
for rich people’s children. They were transforming gyms into beauty salons. She was speaking about an unhappiness that was conquering
the land and she wrote to defend her happiness. Malala wanted to go to school
because it was good. She was defending her happiness. The hypothesis of a possible happiness. Just the hypothesis. And these men are scared to death, -we’re talking of two different structures here- the one religious, the other
interested in profits the other interested in profits, and in spreading its own belief. So, what I want to say is that suddenly we get to realize that happiness is a bomb. It’s contagious. Disciplined, capable to get into our minds, to talk,
better than anything else. Now, I want to conclude with two images. I found the first one at Murakami. It pictures happiness as an allegory, and unhappiness as history. It says In the end happiness is an allegory, whereas unhappiness is history. I don’t agree with that. I believe that the goal is this: to make happiness become history, a history that can be told. The flows we’re witnessing must be told like this, without the fear
of saying this word out loud, without the fear of narrating
personal stories, feelings, personal choices. Without the fear of compromising our own self-determination. There’s a story I like to tell
about a book by Warlam Schalamow, who I consider to be
my real teacher so I try to imitate him, learn
from what he did. He spent 20 years in Soviet gulags, because he wrote two literary articles against the regime. Think about the price he paid. He wrote a masterpiece called
“The Kolyma Tales”. I’m glad because when I was
on TV, I managed to make a lot of people
reading it. So some of you already know the story. But there’s a story I want to tell you and these wonderful stones, that are watching me, and embarrassing me. There’s an inspection in the barrack, they were cutting wood at – 30 degrees and the inspection is simple. “Hand in your prosthesis.” The old man removes
his glass eye, the other one a wooden leg
from the battlefield. Someone hands in the glasses. Someone a cane. And Shalamow, a young guy,
six feet tall, strong, not beaten by the cold. He stands still. Seeing him like that the soldier asks “What do you have to give?” “Nothing” To make a joke the soldier says
“You’re giving me your soul!” Shalamow doesn’t take the joke. “No, I won’t give you my soul”. The soldier, bothered by the answer, says “A week in the hole!” which was basically a death sentence it meant spending a week inside a well,
with next to nothing to eat without cover, just with a coat, “If you don’t give me your soul…” “No, I won’t.” “Two weeks in the well
if you don’t give me your soul.” He restates, “I won’t give you my soul.” “Three weeks if you don’t give me
your soul.” -he survived them- He describes in the book how
his companions were staring at him, as to say “You’re risking your life for nothing” And he wrote: In the very moment someone asked for my soul I realized that I had one. Me. I was a materialist, I didn’t even believe I had one I realized that it was the most precious
thing that I had.” That’s it. Thank you.

Daniel Yohans

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