“I am large, I contain multitudes”
Have you ever wondered how our current age will be seen by future generations?
When “the first 20 years of the XXI century” will be a chapter in the history book of your grandchildren, what will be written on it? The first month of this 2017 doesn’t seem to add positive facts on that chapter: hatred, racism, division and inequality seem to be the keywords that compose it, and they are as heavy as a bowling ball.
These will be the topics featured on the article “L’era della rabbia” (The age of anger), published by “Internazionale”. The title was inspired by the same book by Indian writer Pankaj Mishra. A title that is taken and slammed like a hammer on the center of the cover, breaking down in small pieces the portrait of the new US president: Donald Trump. The election of the republican billionaire, recent xenophobic deviations in Europe and the election of Duterte in the Philippines are among the examples that the article shows us to ask ourselves: “When did the world of free trade and cultural exchange among nations become the world of walls, borders and parochialism?”. Maybe, the author speculates, things have always been like this: racism and xenophobia are part of the human nature and were merely suppressed, covered by the spark of hope inflated by the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War.
So, the question arises spontaneously: will this be our mark? Will the true title of our chapter in history be “The age of anger”? Will it be so, an endless return of closure and walls that will doom us all?
As a young person, such a thought is unacceptable. Understandable indeed, as it won’t be the first time a complex social system implodes in fear (as the Roman Empire did), nonetheless it’s unbearable. Because of this, our search for solutions has brought us to an incredible journey that has the potential to disrupt our beliefs. Just try to define yourself. Who are you? How do you look like? Are you Italian, English, Pakistani? Are you a Muslim, a Christian…? Piece of cake, right? Not so easy.
Just spit it out
Recently, a video published by Momondo made a fuss as it demonstrated that knowing who we are isn’t really that simple. The video shows the winners of “The DNA journey”, a contest promoted by Momondo. Participants were asked to define themselves: where did they come from, how did they see their nation in relation with the others, which populations they didn’t like, and so on. After that, all they had to do was to spit in a test tube, bring it to a lab and wait for the results. As a matter of fact, it’s possible to trace one’s DNA just with a tiny drop of saliva. Through the analysis of our genes it’s possible to trace back our ancestral origins in form of percentages and migratory routes. So, an English man that hates Germans finds out to have 5% of German origins and a woman casually discovers a distant cousin in a group of strangers. Sounds like science-fiction but it’s true.
Momondo has just reopened the contest in Italy, giving 30 people over 18 the chance to win a free test. But not the contest nor legal age are mandatory to take this journey. Researching, we found out many associations that offer this service for prices ranging from 100$ to 150$. Among the others there is the Genographic Project, founded by National Geographic: it not only delivers you your personal data, but it also collects the data to trace back the migratory routes of mankind over the last 100.000 years. Other interesting projects are Family Tree DNA, which tries to map the blood relations that connects us to the whole world, 23andME, which uses the data for medical research, and many more.
Taking the test is very easy (all you have to do is either spit or pass a tampon inside your mouth) and gives you the chance to find out something new. By sending the sample to any of these associations you can use the raw data for different analysis. You can learn more about your ancestors, find distant relatives or be aware of your genetic predisposition to pathologies and therapies.
Discovering ourselves is the first step to demolish stereotypes. It can open our eyes on the fact that an individual is not a nationality (for example it’s not certain that two Italians have more thing in common than an Italian and a Syrian). So, I have decided to take the test.
I found out that 25% of my genes show mutations connected to Syria and Turkey, and that made me feel more involved in what is going on in those areas: without those places, without their ancient inhabitants, I wouldn’t be here. So, how can I turn my back on the sons of my own fathers: sons whose only fault is to haven’t migrated when my ancestors did? “I am large, I contain multitudes”: Walt Whitman once wrote this words in his collection of poetry “Leaves of grass”, and with this quote I would like to open and close this call to action. To the young men and women of the world (but also the elders, the children and the adults) not be afraid to find out and accept every single piece of yourself. As my grandmother used to tell me “The world is beautiful because it’s various”. We all are a medley. And we aren’t just individuals: we all are little worlds.