From the outset we pledged that Dante would address the issues of our time in an uncompromising way. We took pains to clarify that we were a cultural and current affairs magazine, never a lifestyle publication, even when we consider some of the finer things in life. After all, La Dolce Vita is culture too. And, of course, we like being on your coffee tables, but we’d shudder at the thought of being merely decorative. Dante is about ideas. Don’t let our aesthetic fool you. We recognise the world is beautiful, but we never shy away from the fact that the planet is also a tough neighbourhood. We promised to engage with the human condition, not merely to observe it and to speak out when it is clear that one must.
Our business is journalism. Our business is humanism. Our business is to take a stand. It is not for nothing that our namesake is one of the pillars of the Renaissance. We regard Dante’s mission as a critical one, because we take to heart the adage that journalism is the rough draft of history. We live in a momentous, page-turning period in history and so our obligation is clear. We uphold journalistic excellence. We strive to seek the truth. We recoil from extremism and intolerance. We happily fight against the closing of the mind and we condemn barbarism wherever it shows its visage. And if we repudiate zealots, we reject the constant equivocation of good and evil, the relativism that judges an act of savagery intolerable in one place but acceptable in another.
The deliberate killing of unarmed civilians by military or security forces, state or non-state actors, is a war crime and a crime against humanity. This includes so called “collateral damage,” one of the most revolting euphemisms ever devised, one that calculates acceptable levels of innocent life taken in pursuit of strategic or political goals. Whether the deaths are in Homs, Gaza, Tel Aviv, Baghdad, the Hindu Kush, the Nuba Mountains, the jungles of the Democratic Republic of Congo or the streets of Mogadishu, they are all to be mourned and the violence condemned. So we at Dante, while acknowledging the legitimate right to self-defence reaffirm our belief in peace and non-violent conflict resolution.
We are just as unyielding on the point that terrorism is terrorism, whether it is perpetrated by a nation state, a rogue individual or radicalised militant groups on the fringes of society. Thus we decry the barbarism of a deranged American soldier gunning down Afghan Muslim children as much as we decry the barbarism of a self-professed adherent of Al Qaida shooting down French-Jewish children and French soldiers of North African and Afro-Caribbean descent. We also argue that the shooting of an innocent African American teenager for merely being black as he walked home from buying some candy at a shop, was also an act of terror. In all three cases, what we witnessed were executions born of prejudice, the very expression of terror.
No single human culture, ethnic, ideological or religious grouping has a monopoly on brutality and hatred or capacity for bloodshed. It also holds true that no single people is supremely above another in piety, goodness, and innocence. Strip our cultural and linguistic differences away and human beings tend to behave as human beings do, occupying that grey territory where most of us live, as capable of compassion as of cruelty, of courage as of cowardice, of noble conduct or base.
But in our fear of otherness, we find it easier to oversimplify, to ridicule, to stereotype, to label and ghettoise, especially when scapegoats are needed. Incumbent French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in a transparent and pathetic attempt to steal some of the thunder from Marie Le Pen’s Neo-Fascist Front Nationale, has bluntly stated that France has too many immigrants. Rather rich that, coming from the descendant of Hungarian Jews and about as well thought-out or logical a declaration as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamadinejad’s insistence that no homosexuality exists in his country. Nor should we overlook the brazen misogyny, Puritanism, and racism spewing forth from the neo-conservative shock jocks polluting American airwaves in an election year, where the toxic babble has become so thick one needs hip waders to stride through the muck.
As spring is upon us, it seems appropriate to hope for a new beginning, for spring to serve as a metaphor not only for a Middle East in rebellion, striving for a new future, but the whole of humanity. But we know that true, profound change is never achieved overnight; rather it is a long, slow and often painful evolution. Nonetheless, we can only greet the new season with enthusiasm in the belief that the strongest and best human instincts reside in our very diversity, our potential for unity across sectarian, ethnic, cultural and sexual divides, an enduring devotion to fairness and justice, and a universal desire for peace. We’d argue that these things collectively amount to intelligence. And so we reiterate that Dante stands firmly against stupidity, and we thank you for your thoughtful support.
Dante and Beatrice
(Alias the editors)