Vittorio Prodi Says Extremes of Material Consumption Cause Human Dignity to Be Overlooked
Italian politician Vittorio Prodi wants to see more emphasis on the common good and dignity of the human person rather than the latest GDP figures.
Speaking to ZENIT on the sidelines of a Rome conference on poverty and the common good, the member of European Parliament and former president of the province of Bologna believes placing the human person at the center of policy will guarantee authentic development.
During his career, Mr Prodi has been involved in several committees aimed at supporting the environment, public health and food safety, relationships with different nations, as well as other societal sectors. He was part of the European Parliament’s Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats political group and is author of numerous publications and of five international patents.
Vittorio Prodi, who is the brother of former Italian Prime Minister, Romano Prodi, was speaking at a June 26-29 conference entitled “Poverty and Common Good: Putting the ‘Preferential Option for the Poor’ at the Service of the Poor”. The event was organized by the international think tank Dignitatis Humanae Institute (DHI) which aims to uphold human dignity based on the anthropological truth that man is created in the image and likeness of God. Conference speakers included senior Vatican officials, politicians, media and business leaders, in the Casina Paolo IV of the Vatican gardens.
ZENIT: What, in your opinion, are the most important aspects of this conference centered on poverty and the common good? Why are such topics of interest to you?
Prodi: The idea of the conference is to highlight the concepts of the dignity of the human person and common good. Personally, I am very much interested in these concepts because the dignity of the person is being overlooked, as we are facing a situation in which the absolute emphasis is on production and material consumption.
ZENIT: Could you elaborate on this emphasis on material goods, and what effect it could have on society?
Prodi: This is not sustainable because the GDP [Gross Domestic Product] that measures these materials—material production and consumption—is supposed to keep increasing, but that is not possible because material resources are limited in capacity. So, our planet is left to accept our waste extremes.
That determines, to my understanding, in terms of sustainability, that we have to change our civilization to make room for immaterial goods, for that which is immaterial, that which is “always.” We are to focus on that which, we can say, is “reconducted” to the dignity of the person, in terms of interpersonal relationships and to the common good. We should do so in terms of the ability to understand the environmental aspects that make up a substantial part of the common good … The common good of the society at large.
I believe that the culture of the social teaching of the Church is, and already had been for a long time, centered around these two pillars: the common good and the dignity of the human person.
ZENIT: Given the view you just explained on how civilization is to react, what do you hope to convey and effectuate personally?
Prodi: The reason for me being here is to attempt to transfer this sensitivity to institutions and political organizations throughout the world, with the hope that they develop an appreciation for these immaterial goods, that are to my understanding, completely necessary, and, which require less material and less energy to be produced and reproduced. This is why I think that only through this type of change that we shall make our civilization sustainable.
I have been here listening to the other discourses, since early yesterday morning, which mainly addressed these topics. This reason, too, also allowed me to talk here about this perception which I had developed from my work in the European Parliament
It’s always connected to these two pillars. What also struck me was reflecting on the connection between profit and the reduction of poverty, explained in another discourse.
ZENIT: How should human dignity be addressed, within today’s difficult societal context?
Prodi: The man and human dignity must be at the center of any and all developments. This is essential because it will guarantee development. Civilization can both enhance the ability of the person to understand and take part in developments, as well as the idea of the common good.