‘The pandemic exposed social inequalities’

Ida Giugnatico: “I think we should teach ethics to children at a young age.”

via Ida Giugnatico

Why do we find it so difficult to tackle complex problems – such as pandemics, the climate crisis and social inequality? According to the Italian-Canadian philosopher Ida Giugnatico, this is partly due to the growing specialization of science.

“Experts master very specific methods and knowledge, but lack the holistic vision and interdisciplinary skills that are essential to tackle ‘transversal’ issues,” says Giugnatico. These are problems that cut across different disciplines and that ‘affect different spheres of our existence’.

Ida Giugnatico obtained a first PhD in Political Philosophy from the University of Calabria (Italy, 2017) and a second PhD in Applied Human Sciences from the University of Montreal (Canada, 2020). She investigates, among other things, the relationship between science, knowledge and vulnerable population groups.

The past year has been intense for the entire planet because of the corona pandemic. Which development surprised you the most?

“I was surprised by the impact of the corona measures on our daily lives. Activities that we used to take for granted, such as having coffee with friends, were no longer so. More generally, I would say that this pandemic has exposed structural inequalities. The measures hit some population groups harder than others. Think of people who were already vulnerable because of their health, homeless people, addicts, and people who were victims of domestic violence. The social and health systems in North America, already weakened by many years of neoliberal policies, have proved inadequate. The death rates from corona reflect these social inequalities.”

Many Dutch people are concerned about the future of their children, because our way of life is unsustainable; we exhaust ourselves and the earth. But it is difficult to change our habits. Do you have any advice for us?

“It is normal to worry about the future of new generations. We live in the era of the Anthropocene, in which human activities have a global impact on our ecosystem. Aside from the apocalyptic scenarios, which you can believe in or not – but which should certainly not serve as an excuse to remain passive onlookers – the only advice I can give is: take responsibility in your daily life and try to change small habits.”

“Nevertheless, factors that unfortunately do not depend directly on our behavior also need to be addressed: we will have to make structural changes in our politics and economy. Experts from different disciplines, with different kinds of knowledge, will have to join forces to rethink our way of life, and the undeniable impact of the capitalist system on our planet.”

If you could design a new lesson for primary school (4-12 years), what would it be? In other words, what do our children need to know to be prepared for the future?

“I think we should teach ethics to children at a young age. The major environmental problems such as air and water pollution, deforestation, ozone depletion and loss of biodiversity all have to do with ethics. Our current problems are the result of an ultilitarian and exploitative relationship with nature. I would therefore say that disciplines such as ethics – which we think are reserved for academic experts – should be reclaimed by society.”

“We will need to change not only how we deal with the planet, but also our relationships with others. More reports of bullying are being made in schools. That makes you think. We live in an individualistic society in which we too often forget the importance of mutual support, empathy and compassion. This gives selfishness and individual gain free rein. Integrating ethics into the primary school curriculum is an important step towards a better society.”

Humans are relational beings. We take care of each other, our pets and our environment. But we take better care of some people, animals and things than others. If you were in charge, what should we take more care of in the next 50 years?

“The pandemic and the lockdown have made us realize once again that people are not islands. We cannot live without social ties. We see that some population groups are hit harder than others by measures imposed by our government. In the future, we need to listen more closely to these groups and their needs.”

“Vulnerability and social suffering are themes that make us understand that in the next fifty years we will all have to think about our attitude towards the Other in general: this Other can be my neighbor, a family member, my partner, a person another culture belongs to me, the other as animal, the other as nature.”

“We only see the value and richness of this Otherness when we pay attention to it. Attention is an essential building block for a happier society, in which people are less isolated and have stronger social ties. The French philosopher Simone Weil reminds us: ‘Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity’.”

Philosophy around the world

On Thursday, November 18, 2021, on the occasion of World Philosophy Day 2021, UNESCO is organizing a worldwide online event Philosophy Around the World – Worldwide Philosophical Relay-Race. Ida Giugnatico is one of the speakers. She has been invited to represent the continents of Europe and North America, and will speak about the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to tackle environmental problems.

Source: Kennislink by www.nemokennislink.nl.

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