by Marco Malaguti

The freshly printed book “Il mondo al contrario” by General Roberto Vannacci, has generated, as is well known, an endless stream of controversy on the left and in progressive circles, but, what is less well known, the text has evoked almost as much controversy, albeit less virulent and rancorous, in the conservative scene as well. It has caused a stir, in this context, the absence in the book of any reference to the transcendent, and in particular to the Catholic religion, which is inescapable for those who claim to be conservative in a Nation that is, in effect, permeated with and an offspring of Catholic culture.

A few premises

Even in these pages, but not only, criticism has appeared in the form of puzzlement at a writer who, in a straightforward style and skillfully comprehensive treatment, seems to have ignored such a fundamental theme. Far from regarding this "lack" as a detriment to the work, therefore, I am about to explain why, in my personal judgment, this feature is instead a strength of it, which may have played no small part in its success. A necessary premise of a personal nature, and for the avoidance of misunderstanding, is the writer's claim to be not only a "cultural" Catholic but also a practicing one, far removed from the definition, dear to progressive circles, of " grown-up Catholic." But let us come to the explanation.

Who is a soldier?

First of all, to understand Vannacci's work, it is always necessary to remember that Vannacci is, by training and profession, a soldier, and the soldier is first and foremost a technician. Servicemen, although they possess, like all human beings, political ideas, beliefs, passions and personal idiosyncrasies, are called upon in their everyday working lives to put them aside. Exactly like Mr. Wolf, who entered the common imagination with his " I solve problems" made famous by Quentin Tarantino's movie "Pulp Fiction," the serviceman solves problems: he is called upon to make an assessment of the situation, identify the symptoms of the problem, take stock of the forces in the field and, based on these, devise a solution that results in maximum benefit with minimum loss. Unlike the politician (with no difference between the rank-and-file politician and the technocrat), the military is not called upon to make ideological or confessional assessments. If he is a high-ranking military man, he is called upon to work out a plan and solve the problem; if, on the other hand, he belongs to the intermediate or troop ranks, he is called upon to carry out the orders he receives. After all, if, in the words of Clausewitz, "war is the continuation of politics by other means," it is clear that the military does not express the political line (although in some cases in history this may have been the case), but applies it. Vannacci then, as a serviceman, identifies a problem or, rather, a network of social problems concatenated with each other, and squares them on the strategic table exactly as any other soldier would do with the field forces of a battle or the damage caused by a natural disaster.

Progressivism as a problem

The substantial innovation in Vannacci's thought is that for the first time progressivism is not framed as a political ideology - about which, we have seen, servicemen are not allowed to comment - but as the emergency itself. Progressivism thus comes to be the problem to be solved, being derubricated from a political modus operandi to a real disease of society's immune system to be quickly remedied. If, therefore, progressivism qualifies as the problem, in the form of disruption of ordered society, it is clear that religion, in the view of a soldier, can have no role in solving a problem that qualifies as essentially practical. Vannacci's critique of progressivism is as pungent and effective as it moves away from the abstract world of theory, where ultimately all opinions are equal until they are translated into reality, and closer to that of practice. Vannacci's critique of progressivism is scientific: progressivism, with its habitat called "an upside-down world" (the title of Vannacci's book: "Il mondo al contrario"), must be fought not with philosophical or religious arguments (e.g., "it is wrong," "it does not conform to God's law," "it is bad," etc. ) but for the simple practical reason that it does not work, it is an impediment to the survival of the individual, it is a pathology that, through its nihilism, jams the child mechanisms of social evolution that prevent a society from surviving and causing, in the process, an enormity of practical problems (crime, low birth rate, decay, intolerance, etc.).

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A strategist's choice

Vannacci's strike is thus a blow delivered to the core of the problem. It would be too easy to defend oneself, for progressives but also for many conservatives enamored of their own eloquence, if Vannacci's critique were to soar into the virtuosities and mannerist arzigogues of philosophy and theology. On the contrary, it is the facts, which each of us experiences in our daily lives, that leave no room for maneuver by nailing progressivism to the dock. Mind you, Vannacci has not, at least for now, disclosed his personal position on religion. Although he has agreed to be published, in short order, by the Rimini-based Catholic publishing house Il Cerchio, we do not know whether he is a Catholic, a simple Christian, an agnostic, an atheist, or of any other religion to which he feels akin. Nor do we know whether his failure to make explicit, as moreover within his full rights, his religious faith, if any, is a "strategic" choice or not.

Moving to the strike point

However, is possible to speculate that this choice is absolutely successful, since it makes it impossible, for progressives but not only, to shift the attack on Vannacci from the content of his book to that of his belief, on which any speculation would be as possible as it would be undue and violent. Vannacci prevents, with this move, the counterattack of the progressives, who would have an easy time branding him as a passatist, credulous, superstitious, and almost certainly accusing him, cards in hand, of holding positions irreconcilable with those of Pope Bergoglio or some distinguished atheist of the past and present. The ironclad anti-clerical rhetoric of the Left would show no mercy: too well devised and tested not to be used, all the more so in a landscape like the present one where the Church appears battered and pinned to rear-guard battles. Well, therefore, the general did well to keep "the ball" in the opposing half of the field. The controversies of recent periods regarding Vannacci's book have proven this: against progressivism, pressing is the most suitable style of play.

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Research fellow at the Machiavelli Center. A philosophy scholar, he has been working for years on the topic of the revaluation of nihilism and the great German Romantic philosophy.