OPINION

Hostage to stereotypes

The ongoing strikes against social security reform naturally upset our everyday lives. Their adverse effects have prompted a great deal of talk about rights, social responsibility and interest groups. The problems feeds grievances and the irritated citizens – already burdened with problems of their own – are, with little thought, turning against the striking workers that make their lives even more difficult, such as the PPC employees who cut power after dark. The aggravated citizen is also a confused citizen. He often fails to understand strikes because he has never gone on strike, because he does not belong to any union – either because of the type of work he does or due to skepticism toward union action. He often resorts to groundless cliches and stereotypes: Civil servants are lazy, bank employees are privileged, garbage collectors are blackmailers, doctors take bribes, taxi drivers are thieves. A large section of the population is prone to such blanket generalizations, putting labels on entire professional or social groups. Even journalists, although themselves often the victims of sweeping generalizations, are often carried away by prejudice. We have too made that mistake. However, when people have a fragmented or distorted perception of social dynamics and of reality at large, when they perceive the world through TV debates, barbs and accusations, then social cohesion is indeed undermined, everyone turns against everyone else. And then it’s not just the fault of the stereotypically evil, the harsh strikers or corrupt unionists, but mostly the fault of those who fail to grasp the real sources of their grievances. A fragmented society, a society at the mercy of obsessions and propaganda, cannot grasp conflict and strikes and, most importantly, its own self.