I live in Italy.
I have been raised in Italy.
Unlike my grandmothers I have only known Democracy and Peace.
What I believed to be a normal life was (still is) a privileged life.
Since the start of the Ukraine War Westerners have been pretty busy with their own War of Words.
(I’m not talking about those whose family lives in Ukraine or have Ukraine roots: here I’m referring to those who have not personal involvement with the war but behaved as they did).
It didn’t matter if they were common people or journalists, ambassadors and politicians: they all had their own view on what was happening between Putin and Zelensky, on who was right and who was wrong, and they were all pretty vocal about it: they would mimic the real soldiers, with words as their weapons.
Grotesque characters would debate for hours about Ukraine on tv and some silly statements were made (‘Hitler never wanted to cause a war’, ‘My grandpa had a happy childhood under Mussolini’…), fact-checking was deemed as unnecessary.
I quickly noticed that the more they talked, the less they seemed to care about the accuracy of the facts they were reporting.
The War of Words was also led on Social networks, Twitter, now X, above all.
Digital warriors quickly founded parties, found their allies and enemies.
Ukraine or Russian (sometimes even both) flags were plastered on their accounts.
Death threats and personal attacks were a daily occurrence.
This was nothing new: the same had happened about the Covid-19 vaccine, with people joining the vax or no vax party (proudly displaying their belief on their bio or username).
After debating on the vaccine and Ukraine a different, although not new, topic came around for the digital warriors: Israel and Gaza.
The pattern was the same: on tv journalists were fighting and some grotesque characters rose to fame.
At the same time on Twitter people would put another flag near their username (sometimes they would replace the now old Ukraine’s or Russia’s flag).
This set of behaviors has a name: virtue signalling.
According to The Oxford English Dictionary virtue signalling is ‘the public expression of opinions or sentiments intend to demonstrate one’s good character or social conscience or the moral correctness of one’s position on a particular issue’.
Even if we believe we are doing the right thing, even if we believe that we are advocating for Democracy/the oppressed/, the truth is we are making the whole thing about ourselves, putting ourselves on the spotlight.
We are not the point.
The hostages, the children dying in Gaza, every innocent who is dying only because he/she was born in Gaza or Israel are.
I am not saying that we shouldn’t raise our voice or provide any help: I am saying that we should be very careful with the words we are going to say.
Victims of the war don’t need our pre-packaged answers.
We should take time in order to think.
As Karl Kraus once said, ‘Having something to say means stepping forward and being silent!’
Silence, if taken as an opportunity to reflect on how we use our voice can be a powerful force.
People in Israel and Gaza need our voice as much as our silence.