Published on 10 December 2005
Circulation of the Charter in Italy: Interview of a Health Professional
Following is an interview by Francesco Tabacco of Mrs. Irene Mariella, in Florence, Italy. Mrs. Mariella is 51 and works as an obstetrician for the Italian national health service in Florence. She lives in the center of Florence with her partner, who has a girl, 18. She supports a child in India, which she adopted "at distance."
The discussion revolved around the questions in the questionnaire that was designed by the members of European Charter coordination team. We began to think together about the themes raised by the introductory texts on international trade and on the corruption of the public sector, which were written by our team. After that, we asked her some questions on the concept of responsibility, following the introduction of the concept in the Charter text.
To the first question, on the concept of human responsibility, she answered that the expression suggests for her the sense of attention, awareness of her own behavior and that of others. The words that for her seem linked to the concept of human responsibility are: awareness, participation, dignity, commitment, equality.
We first considered the example presented by the first text (consumption of orange juice in Europe) and we debated further around the idea of responsibility, with regard to the question of natural resources that are wasted globally. On this point, Irene noted that, for her, it is quite striking to become aware of an unknown reality, especially with regard to Italy, which she believed to be a big orange-juice producer and consumer country. She believes, on this matter, that the theme of waste of natural resources raised by the questionnaire is exemplary of the ignorance in which we are held as consumers and, obviously, there are many other themes of this type that are never known by the consumer public. However, it would nevertheless be very difficult to prevent the consumption of products for which the production and consumption waste so many resources, because she considers that it is difficult to attack the economic system that is at the source of all that.
She asserts that the main responsibility for all this waste is not incumbent mainly upon the consumer, but especially upon the international system of production and consumption.
She considers herself responsible, as a consumer, especially to herself, because the surprise that she felt when becoming aware of this issue is the demonstration of her low attention level, despite the fact that she is convinced that the economic system seeks to keep hidden the complex reality of the waste of resources.
According to Irene, her own responsibility goes as far as the point at which she is able to know and to understand the mechanisms that are at the source of all these questions and includes the possibility of each of us to get involved to change things. However, above all, she asserts that the largest responsibility is certainly incumbent upon those who have the power, in the broad sense, those who have the basic tools to act upon things: the institutions and the media. Therefore this is first about a political type responsibility facing all the citizens of the world.
In her daily life, Irene tries above all to pay attention to the small everyday gestures, such as gestures to save water, electricity, to reduce waste, to try to have thoughtful consumption, even for the purchase of products that indeed, increasingly, are controlled by the market. She firmly believes that the adoption of a child "at distance" is a small contribution to the resolution (still very remote) of the problems of the third world.
In her professional life, she is involved in educational themes related to public health, particularly women’s health during pregnancy. She also participates in the battle for a more equitable solidarity distribution of sanitary aid to the third world through information efforts and participation in actions, as much as possible.
If she had had the possibility, she would have liked to participate actively in the effort for the reduction of global unbalances. However, she realizes perfectly that this is an statement of principle, which is opposed to the difficulties that she faces in her daily life, the difficulty of participating in movements to build a system that is more responsible and aware.
Concerning the question of the different examples of lack of responsibility around us, she considers, above all, that the main reason for this state of affairs is the low involvement of the most developed nations and economically the strongest. These nations have always abandoned vast territories of the world, often by encouraging corruption and bad administration. This attitude generates mistrust in the citizens and their low level of involvement, especially in the sense of more collective and harmonious activation on the basic theme of sustainable development.
In the area of the type of responsibilities that are not precisely related to people’s personal or professional life, such as the questions of wars, pollution, corruption, etc., she answers that, for her, in her everyday life her own responsibility is that which is relative to the effort to understand the ongoing processes better. These processes are the result international political choices, which are very difficult to influence, in a political system that delegates to the governments alone the power to act. Irene is convinced that possible actions are above all political; it is therefore necessary to choose the people well, who are going to represent us on the basis of platforms aiming mainly at a real change of the unbalanced situations. Otherwise, in daily life, everyone accomplishes small actions according to their conscience.
Beyond what she does herself, she believes that it is also possible to try to influence governments and public organizations to improve the quality of life, with a view to sustainable development. She doesn’t know if it is possible to get rid of the obstacles that prevent responsible action, but it would be desirable that these themes become a stable commitment for everybody and remain a simple moment of considerations.
About the Charter, she believes that a text of this type is certainly necessary, as a constructive act for a more conscious future. She is not sure that the Charter can be a powerful instrument, but it is sure that stimulating a debate on these themes at the international level will be able to contribute to everyone’s awareness and not, as today, remain a discussion limited to a limited group of people.
Concerning the text of the Charter itself, she has no remarks or criticisms. In this phase, where the Charter is just beginning to be circulated, Irene believes that it is not possible to do more. In the near future, she hopes that, thanks also to the Charter, a very strong movement will be able to arise. This movement will need to find the instruments with which it could really influence the decisions that will have to be taken for these questions globally.