A manipulative expression politicians love to use is “Nimby“: if you love and protect the place you live in instead of accepting that it be used as a waste bin by somebody richer than you, you are a selfish enemy of Progress.
We see it differently.
As usual, a tiny example from our tiny world in the Oltrarno district of Florence, Italy.
For years, the residents of Via de’ Serragli – a narrow medieval street with broken paving stones and almost no sidewalk – have been fighting against being used as the superhighway leading out of the centre of Florence.
So the Town Government changed the routes of some bus lines, moving them to Borgo San Frediano, another narrow medieval street with broken paving stones and almost no sidewalk. And while they were at it, they also decided to open three nearby squares to pay parking by non residents, because otherwise people might start leaving their cars at home when they come to visit the Oltrarno.
Now the people of Via de’ Serragli, who have learned how to handle these things, are helping the people of Borgo San Frediano to rebel against this way of passing the buck.
Among other things, they discovered that the town officer for traffic, a year and half ago (he had just been elected) had publicly promised in writing to do a series of things which were the exact opposite of what he is imposing today.
We can draw a few small lessons from this, lessons which, I suspect, are valid at least from Santiago in Chile to Vladivostok.
One. When a politician gets elected, he will do the opposite of what people voted him in for. This means that having the right to vote every five years is not as important as the right to control politicians between one election and the next.
Two. If you think small and locally, you can do something, because you can draw up meaningful proposals and you can watch from your window day after day, and see what is going on.
Three. The first thing to do when you see that they are trying to pass your problem onto somebody else, is to help that somebody else defend himself.
If we all learn that we have a backyard; that we can love it; that it needs our protection; that we should not delegate anything to any political party of any colour… then they won’t be able to shift the traffic from Via de’ Serragli to Borgo San Frediano.
They will have to learn how to design a city with less traffic.
And now this is our backyard, just behind the Carmine church, where Masaccio and the greatest minds of the Renaissance carried out a revolution in art.
Yesterday, one of the mothers you can see in the picture said, “I come from Rome, and there is nothing like this there… I wanted to say thank you for everything you have helped us discover and live”.
Conviviality can become contagious.