Independence and Interdependence: A class dialogue on Green Pass

Maria Giulia Marini is an Epidemiologist and Counselor, Scientific Director at Fondazione Istud,  Milan

I teach communication to Life Sciences students in a Master dedicated to bring them to the Job career. They have left the University, some ones with a plane degree some others with a Master and some even with a PhD. These 57 students have only one great wish, to leave the Scientific Academic World (and in Italy, I can highlight, this world is not easy because of paucity of resources around science, apart from a few universities lab). 

On one hand, they are witty, curious and eager to learn new competences, as for instance Emotional Intelligence, Empathy and the importance of language; on the other hand, they are still elaborating the Grief of Leaving their Scientific academic world. This is why, when I teach communication, I anchor my lesson to neuroscientific functioning and brain patterns, explaining the effects of brutal words, kind words, images, sounds on our mind and bodies. I could never go and talk to 57 scientists with an ecumenic preach as “if you’re kind and calm when speaking, your communication will be effective”. 

Therefore, the creation of this blending between narrative counselling and sciences is a milieu which helps the lesson to develop. The development of critical thinking in students is one of my mission, shared with my colleagues,  when entering in the class: stimulating students on dilemmas, or wise decision making, is a practice barely afforded in scientific Italian labs, and the students enjoy that someone is asking them to think, to speak, to express themselves and not only to be an empty pot in which putting notions, or young apprentices – sometimes exploited – with the reward of the thesis and the name on the publication, just to do mechanically what the preestablished lab protocol requires. 

These lines are not coming from myself but from their declaration: well, how to channel all this potential, and we could say, disappointment in having loved so much the research and after a certain period realized that, for many of them, it was not the daily bread which could produce their happiness? 

The European Green pass topic was and still is the summer Italian refrain: mandatory on not mandatory.  What does this certificate cover? Vaccinated people against Covid-19, people who healed from Covid-19 and people whose swabs or other test performed with 48 hours are negative. 

Divided into eight groups, the students had to prepare informed and effective communication presentation on Pro of Green Pass (4 groups) and Cons of Green Pass (4 groups). Being all scientists, from their utterance, I understood, at the beginning, that they wanted too much to stay in the comfort zone of the Pro Green Pass: but the Random Fate decided. And what turned clear it is that they found also many reasons, not for ideology, but for science, against the concept of mandatory Green Pass, so in the sphere of Interdependence responsibility. 

Some of their findings. This Green pass in Italy is mandatory in all the health care settings, at schools, in universities, in bars, restaurants, planes, ships, museums, long distance trains.  Pity that it is not requested in the places where the risk of contagion is higher, in commuters’ trains, public buses, and underground. And this is the first inconsistency. For the people who, for whatever reasons, they did not want to go to be inoculated the vaccine, they must pay 20 Euro every swab at least every 48 hours to go to work, since in many companies the Green Pass is requested. In other European countries swabs are free, or pay up to 5 Euro, not here, with the making of so much economic margin on each test. 

The Green Pass request is an alibi for not saying that the vaccination should be mandatory: but no one dares to say it, since, as we know, we are in the hugest trial of every age, the pandemic vaccination trials. Despite EMA and AIFA approved the vaccines, we know that time for measuring efficacy and safety was very much pushed down and compressed. It was the only way to have the vaccines and the fastest way as possible. But some students were wondering whether it was better to go for a mandatory vaccination (and I am somehow with them) than for a mandatory Green Pass. 

Some intellectuals in Italy are against the mandatory of this Green Pass, since it could harm the democratic principle of Independence: on the left party, there is a tendency to pursue the thesis that those who criticise the green pass are no-vaxers who question science. And yet, on the very left, there is no shortage of intellectuals who have no problem expressing their criticism of the Green pass. The Italian Institute of Philosophical Studies in Naples published a sensational intervention by Massimo Cacciari, co-signed by another important philosopher, Giorgio Agamben. The gist of it can be summed up as follows: the green pass is despotic, just as the ongoing discrimination of those who do not want to be vaccinated is authoritarian. This document was signed also by Alessandro Barbero, professor of History and main influencer.

The debate is still on. On the opposite side, other intellectuals as Michele Ainis, constitutionalist, says: “the green pass represents a balance between different values in the interest of democracy. It can be introduced in the workplace as long as it is general and reasonable, so it is right not to distinguish between public and private, however, there are limits: dismissing those who do not comply would be a disproportionate sanction, and I would remind you that the Italian Republic is founded on work”.  And our liberty is by definition limited: we all have to pay an insurance for the car, without asking whether it’s a violation to private freedom. So, interdependence is here also in our constitution and law (and this was from a Pro Green pass group).

A No green Pass group was recalling the sadness of the death of young Camilla, 18-year-old, after the first inoculation of the vaccination at a school open day vaccination event. The reality was that she was already seriously ill, suffering from an autoimmune disease, and this was not enough verified during this day, which looked more as a ceremony than a series of medical acts. 

And another Cons Green pass group was also saying that since the youngest population was vaccinated at latest, in July and August, they have missed many chances of socializations, spent (being many of them not workers but students) a lot of money in swabs.

The process with which students discovered that there were so many inconsistencies in both the situation was fantastic: limits were there, letting ideologies go away, allowing probabilistic science to get in as well as civil rights. The youngest population was already vaccinated in Italy and the Green Pass was just a little push to persuade them: we have a serious problem with 3.5 million inhabitants over 40, who are disappearing from any vaccinations. Few of them possibly because of ideology, but most of them because vast communication campaigns were useless: as prof. Dunbar teaches, we should go one by one, at a capillary level, recreating this Interdependence feeling within a community, for the sake of us.

And the 57 students created by dialoguing and confuting and thinking and feeling, a real Community of Practice.

Maria Giulia Marini

Epidemiologist and counselor in transactional analysis, thirty years of professional life in health care. I have a classic humanistic background, including the knowledge of Ancient Greek and Latin, which opened me to study languages and arts, becoming an Art Coach. I followed afterward scientific academic studies, in clinical pharmacology with an academic specialization in Epidemiology (University of Milan and Pavia). Past international experiences at the Harvard Medical School and in a pharma company at Mainz in Germany. Currently Director of Innovation in the Health Care Area of Fondazione ISTUD a center for educational and social and health care research. I'm serving as president of EUNAMES- European Narrative Medicine Society, on the board of Italian Society of Narrative Medicine, a tenured professor of Narrative Medicine at La Sapienza, Roma, and teaching narrative medicine in other universities and institutions at a national and international level. In 2016 I was a referee for the World Health Organization- Europen for “Narrative Method of Research in Public Health.” Writer of the books; “Narrative medicine: Bridging the gap between Evidence-Based care and Medical Humanities,” and "Languages of care in Narrative Medicine" edited with Springer, and since 2021 main editor for Springer of the new series "New Paradigms in Health Care."

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