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23 mars 2012 5 23 /03 /mars /2012 13:17

City of Victory

In March to Athens on 22 March 2012 at 18:25


March to Athens
Day 135-LXI, from Ρηζά to Κανάλι, 12 km.
Day 136-LXII, from Κανάλι to Πρέβεζα, 17 km.

Acampada Preveza

Preveza, March 22

Dear people,

Act one of our march through Greece has been completed. After a week we have arrived in Preveza, the first place that can qualify as a town, for Greek standards.

The geographical position of Preveza is extraordinary. It’s built on the tip of a peninsula at the entrance of a large internal sea. To boost expectations I have been spreading myths about the place in these last few days. By now people believe that this is one of those towns which are known as ‘the Venice of the South’.

You should be warned, I’m notorious for spreading bull shit. I once tried to make people believe with a straight face that Venice was also known as the ‘Dordrecht of the Adriatic’. Unfortunately, the myth didn’t stick.

Looking out over the battlefield of Actium

But seriously, we have experienced our first troubles with police these days.

Police here are like the cossacks during Napoleon’s retreat from Russia. They only attack isolated units. Yesterday, on the road to the modern seaside resort of Kanali, two of our comrades got stopped and had to undergo molesting interrogations and searches. One of them was forced to undress right next to the national road.

Arrival on the square in Kanali

In the evening a group of us gathered in one of the hip pubs of Kanali to discuss the case and form the Strategy working group. It seems that according to European directives we have a list rights in dealing with police, of which we should be well aware. Things like the right to a translator, the right to film the procedure, the right not to be forced to undergo humiliating searches, especially in open space etc.

I tried to find all these things black on white on the internet, but I felt like the character of Kafka who seeks access to the law. In other words, I didn’t find anything.

One of the things we decided was to march as a group today. We chose two reunification points on the route to make sure we would enter Preveza all together.

Before we went I rallied the troops.

“Comrades, the offense suffered by comrade Chino cries for bitter revenge!”

All words, of course. The revenge had already been consumed by Chino’s pet rat who had bitten the officer who had searched him.

Our first reunification stop was planned near the ruins of the ancient Roman town of Nicopolis.

On the road to Preveza

 

Reunification stop

 

It was appropriate enough. Nicopolis means ‘town of victory’. It was founded by Octavian to celebrate his victory over Marc Anthony in the sea battle of Actium, where the last remnants of the Roman Republic came to sink.

Octavian was the adopted son of Caesar. When Caesar was  murdered in 44 BC, Octavian allied with Marc Anthony to hunt down the conspirators. They succeeded, but afterwards the two became deadly enemies. Marc Anthony was seduced by Cleopatra, queen of Egypt and former mistress of Caesar, and the senate feared that she would use him to gain power over Rome.

Octavian and Anthony clashed here, right off the coast of modern day Preveza. Anthony’s fleet got defeated. He and Cleopatra finally committed suicide and Octavian would go on to become the first emperor of Rome, under the name of ‘Augustus’.

Ruins of Nicopoli

We march on over the paths of history. We enter Preveza, and we are mentally prepared for a confrontation with police.

It turns out there is nothing to be alarmed about. On the square along the seaside we find the same two cossacks that had molested our comrades the day before. When they see us arrive in group the bastards were most amiable. They don’t ask for ID or anything, they praise our effort with a smile, and they soon drive off.

All the better. We celebrate our arrival in town by a collective plunge into the harbour.

Arrival in the square in Preveza

 

Plunge into the harbour

In the last few days our march has had to cope with reduced rations, but she keeps going stronger. One of the former marchers has returned, and another one has joined us, both of them are from Spain.

There are still no Greeks coming along with us. Comrade Marianne hasn’t returned, as some of us had hoped. And maybe it’s better this way, because having to depend on her for our communications would likely cause new frictions in the group. Still we’re doing fine, for the moment. We communicate anyway, especially with the youth. And I’m confident that other Greeks will join our march, sooner or later.

 

 

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22 mars 2012 4 22 /03 /mars /2012 19:15

 

The Wealthy Plains

In March to Athens on 20 March 2012 at 22:27


March to Athens

Day 133-LIX, Μεσοπόταμο.

Day 134-LX, from Μεσοπόταμο to Ρηζά, 18 km.

 

Internal assembly in Mesopotamo

Riza, March 20

 

Dear people,

 

We took a resting day in Mesopotamo, and during the internal assembly comrade Nicolas communicated the current state of Greece in numbers.

I’m not able to reproduce all of them, and even if I could, I wouldn’t do it, because numbers don’t tell the story. It more or less came down to people earning an average of about 500 euros a month after tax, with rents being at around 300 euros a month, and prices a little higher than in France. Pensions are being cut by double digit percentages, health care spending is being cut, and all wages are blocked for the coming years. Electricity has more than doubled in recent years, and 400.000 families – over ten percent of the total population – are cut off because they can’t pay the bills any more.

In the end it didn’t mean a lot to me. Hearing a list of figures always makes me think of communist regimes boasting about ever increasing productions, while the reality is one of shortages and misery.

Here, in Mesopotamo, it was more or less the other way around. While comrade Nicolas summed up the disastrous numbers, I realise that we are in an extraordinarely rich village. People are doing great here. No need to worry.

The flood plains of Mesopotamo give wealthy crop yields, and many of the people in this village are remigrants who made their fortune in Germany. There are lots and lots of fashionable bars all over the place, at least one every ten inhabitants.

 In the late afternoon the local youth gathers in the square, young boys on motorbikes and young girls who desperately want to look like the bimbos they see on tv.

Announcing the popular assembly

What really surprised me in this village is the almost complete lack of curiosity among the locals. While a band of Spanish, French, Italian and other vagabond revolutionaries put up their tents in the main square, they hardly lift their eyes from the game of cards they are playing in the bar. No-one took the trouble to come to our assembly. Apparently our march is nothing special to them.

The only people who show some superficial interest in our march are the youngsters. For as long as their attention span lasts, they want to know who we are, where we’re going and why. Then they drive away, they ride around the village on their bikes, in two or three without helmet, just to show off and make some noise.

The sun breaking through the lowland fog in the morning

I was glad to leave the place this morning, under the cover of the fog. We walk on, in between the mighty hills and the sea, to the next village, Riza, where there is nothing at all. Eighteen houses with their mailboxes all next to the little Orthodox church where we camp.

And still, even if there are only a couple of dozen inhabitants, they show much more interest in us than the people of the plains. A lady offers to cook pasta for us. She makes less than the average wage, and so we refuse, even though we are running low on food. Instead, she offers us bags full of oranges from her garden.

Oranges grow in abbundance here. They have become an important part of our diet. We pick them along the road, together with wild vegetables which we use to make soup.

 “It’s time for us to become soldiers,” comrade Milton says. We will need to improvise when we cross large pieces of almost uninhabited territory. If anything, it makes you appreciate the value of food. This way even yesterday’s cold sticky pasta with a spoon of sugar becomes a delicacy.

 

Riza

 

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19 mars 2012 1 19 /03 /mars /2012 13:28

 

The Gates of Hell

In March to Athens on 18 March 2012 at 19:45


March to Athens
Day 132-LVIII, from Μαργαρίτη to Μεσοπόταμο, 20 km.

On the ruins near the Gate

Mesopotamo, March 18

Dear people,

Today we walked for twenty kilometres under the burning sun, but people were more than happy to do so. This country is amazingly beautiful. The people who wanted to go to Patras are happy we didn’t. Because if all of Greece is going to be like this, than 500 kilometres is not enough.

As a march we are doing great. And it’s the first time I can say that without any reserves. There are no threats of rebellion or civil war, no people plotting, no big questions likely to cause conflict. And what’s more, our numbers keep growing. Since Bari we have been joined by an American and three Frenchmen. If only we also had a couple of Greeks among us, things would be just perfect.

We walk and we enjoy the panorama. This is the Greece of the ancient heroes, the Greece of shepherds and sailors.

As modern people, we have become accustomed to the economic exploitation of beauty. Along the shores of a mountain lake you know that you will find villas, hotels, bars, restaurants, parking lots, billboards, screaming children, etc. You have to use your imagination to get a picture of how this place would have looked like, once upon a time.


Not here. We pass a lake, and this is it. There’s nothing around it. Only a pasture, and a herd of sheep.

Then the road takes us back towards the sea, we see the virgin coasts from above, a lonely beach, a small trail through the thick green forests, and not a single piece of concrete. If you really want to use your imagination here, you can see the wooden triremes of yore, you can see the ancient heroes in their sparkling armours sailing towards mythical lands.


We descend on a wetland plain. In the old days, this used to be part of the sea, now it’s the delta of two small rivers. There’s a little village in between, appropriately called Mesopotamo.This morning when we left Margariti, an old man who spoke Italian warned us about this place.

“It’s the Gate of Hell. The place were Ulysses descended into the Underworld to speak with the fortuneteller Teresias, and with the heroes of the Trojan war.”

View of Mesopotamo

Poor Ulysses. He finally managed to get away from the temptation of Circe, he was so close to home, but it wasn’t meant to be. When he went down into the Underworld he encountered his mother, who had died of sadness after her son had left. He met Agamemnon, who told him about the betrayal of his wife and how she slaughtered him in the bath tub of his palace in Mycene. He met Achilles, whose armour he inherited after the great hero was killed by Paris while Troy was already burning. He met Ajax as well, but the big man refused to talk to him, because he had wanted Achilles’ armour for himself.

The March to Athens arrives in Mesapotamo in the late afternoon. I rally people for a little expedition to the Gates of Hell, but not straight away. “We will venture down there at sunset.”

Playing football

In the meantime, we play a little game of football against local children on the square. The sun signs the time. When it begins the set on the plain, the game ends, three to three, and we all march off. We jump the fence, we enter the old ruins, and we descend the stairs into the dark.

In between puddles of water rising up from the Styx we advance gropingly into the bowels of the earth. We touch the Gate, and without any surprise, but with tangible relief, we find that it is closed…

In front of the Gate

 

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18 mars 2012 7 18 /03 /mars /2012 11:00

Economics of Fear

In March to Athens on 17 March 2012 at 19:13


March to Athens
Day 131-LVII, from Πλαταριά to Μαργαρίτη, 19 km.

Acampada Plataria

Margariti, March 17

Dear people,

We have turned inland, we are following the national road to Preveza. On both sides the valley is closed by wild green mountains. Near the coast you will find some small scale agriculture, but a little further down there is nothing. High up the slopes you can see a herd of goats and a shepherd.

Heading inland


This region is called Epirus, or Chameria. It was conquered by Greece during the Balcan wars which preceded WWI, in the early years of the 20th century.

At the time, the once mighty Ottoman empire was living the final stage of its long decline. For centuries it had dominated the Balcans, it had reached as far as the gates of Vienna, but when the Ottoman tide retreated, it left a myriad of nations in its wake. Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Albania.

Greece had conquered its independence from the Turks a century earlier, but she was much smaller than she is now. When war broke out in 1912, the Greeks wanted their part of the spoils.

The mountainous region of Epirus had been under the control of muslim warlords, and was largely inhabited by Albanians. When the christian Greeks took over, it caused conflict.

All through human history people have practiced ethnic cleansing. And even though it was widely denounced during the most recent Balcan conflicts, it wasn’t looked upon as a problem a century ago. Quite the contrary, it was considered a solution.

In the 1920s the Greek state expelled many muslim citizens and settled the emptied territories with its own citizens expelled from Turkey. It was all agreed on in the peace treaty.

Part of the Albanian population of Epirus was sent to Turkey. Not because they were Turks, but because they were muslims. The Albanians that remained were promised that they could keep their customs and language. The promise was never kept.

When Italy, and later Germany invaded Greece in World War 2, a great part of the Albanians collaborated and participated in atrocities. As a result of it, almost all of them were expelled at the end of the war.

“This is not Europe, this is the Balcans.” I will remember that phrase.

View of Margariti

In front of the former town hall

One of the things I heard about on the day of our arrival, was the strategy of fear. The Greek regime use the mass media to blackmail its subjects into accepting its measures, because otherwise… pandemonium.

Fear includes not only the fear for complete economic disaster, but also fear for the neighbours. ‘If the country collapses, then the Turks will come, and the Macedonians, and the Albanians. They will rip Greece apart. So there is no choice.’ The country is sold out to other nations and banks, and people are forced to accept to avoid worse.

Along the road today we encountered construction workers who were busy expanding a road on which there is hardly any traffic. They speak little English. But they let us know that they make 22 euros a day. It wouldn’t be so bad if prices were low, but they aren’t. They are about the same level as in Italy, which is about the same as in Spain, which isn’t much less than in France or even Holland.

Greeks are making starvation wages. And one of the funny things I heard is that some people want to keep cutting those wages. The idea is simple: if salaries in Greece are brought down to ‘Balcan levels’, then the multinationals will be stimulated to invest in the country, and the economy will grow again.

Symbolism...

It has been two days. We haven’t seen nothing yet. “Over here, one way or another, we will pull through. Because we have the land, we have the sea. You will find the real misery in the big cities.”

The land and the sea. I have a feeling I will fall in love with this country. Yesterday evening a fishing boat arrived near our camp. Immediately four of us walked down there like a bunch of cats to do some récup. The fishermen were sympathetic to our cause. They left us a small box of their catch which we fried this morning at breakfast, to give us strength before heading inland.

Cleaning the fish, this morning.

 

 

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15 mars 2012 4 15 /03 /mars /2012 19:07

Sunrise over Greece

In March to Athens on 15 March 2012 at 15:43


March to Athens
Day 129-LV, Ηγουμενίτσα.


Igoumenitsa, March 15

 

Dear people,

 

We left nothing in the square in Bari but a single piece of cardboard. “Thanks to the Baresi, thanks to the Apulians, thanks to the Italians. From North to South, from East to West, the struggle continues, whatever the cost.”

Then we marched off to the harbour in parade, singing.

It took a while before we could get on board, because all the contents of our shopping carts had to be checked. It was the hour of sunset.

Marching to the port in Bari

“The boat! The boat!” comrade Mary cried, full of joy. And she started running. We climb the ramps in between the trucks, we park the carts on the deck and tie them up with ropes. Then we install ourselves in the lounge room with the drivers. They came from all over Eastern Europe, there was a Dutch trucker as well and three Iranians who drive up and down the Silk Road.

At the hour of steaming off we gather on the windy deck for a last salute to Italy. After that we sleep. Some of us in the lounge room. Others pitched their tents right on the deck.

 

This morning some of us were up early enough to see the solar wagon of Apollo rise over the hills of Greece. A magic moment. We’re navigating in between the green islands. On the starboard side you can see Corfu.

Occupy the deck

 

 

 


It’s a familiar panorama, I don’t know why, because I’ve never been here before. Maybe it’s the imprint of western culture. Greece is a part of our collective memory. As far as Europe is concerned, this is where the great story began.

 

We disembark. There is no customs, no police, no nobody. We stand on the tarmac outside the port terminal. So know what do we do? The answer is simple, like always, we take the square.

Igoumenitsa at first sight is a tourist transit town in the low season. From here people take the boat to the western islands, or to various Italian ports. Apart from that it doesn’t look interesting, even though it’s surprisingly clean. Along the streets you see French owned banks, German insurance companies and supermarket chains, Italian brand names and lots of bars. The Chinese have arrived here as well.

Disembarking

 

Disembarked

 

On the way to take the square.

Once we take the square we awaken the curiosity of the locals. Unfortunately, we have no-one in our group who speaks Greek, but in this particular place it isn’t so hard to communicate. A bit of Italian, a bit of English, a bit of Spanish, and you understand each other. Some people speak German, because they have lived there for years or because they have family who emigrated there.

Finally, police arrive on motor bikes.

When we got off the boat we had been warned by a local squatter to be careful. “This is not Europe. This is the Balcans. Here police don’t talk, they beat you up.”

Comrade Bobó and the Old Man

The officers on the edge of the square observe us, but they don’t approach. So we put up our tents to see what they will do. One of them walks over. He is a young guy in his early twenties. He doesn’t say we can’t camp, he doesn’t ask for documents. He asks us how long we plan to stay, and once he has understood who we are, he says: “I’m one of you.”

After the police comes the mayor. He is also one of us. He donates us an English-Greek dictionary. After the mayor comes the church, the eastern one. They are with us as well. They bring us lunch. And every once in a while, small groups of locals approach us. They express their admiration. They bring us fruit and juices, and they look forward to tonight’s assembly.

Finally we are visited by the owner of a hotel close by. He has promised to bring us a typical Greek diner tonight, and he has invited everyone to celebrate.

So, the port of arrival in Greece has embraced the March to Athens. We are touching a cord here. St. Nicholas be praised, it really seems like we are the 99%.

Acampada Igoumenitsa

 

 

 

 

 

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15 mars 2012 4 15 /03 /mars /2012 17:33

With a Little Help from the Dogs

In March to Athens on 13 March 2012 at 13:03


March to Athens

 

Day 126-LII, Bari

Day 127-LIII, Bari

 

Bari, March 13

 

Dear people,

We have reached the sea, but we still haven’t decided which Greek port we want to sail to. It was the first point on yesterday’s internal assembly. Patras or Igoumenitsa.

One thing that we did decide upon was that we don’t want to split up the march. After that we took a vote to get a general idea of people’s preferences.

It was deadlocked ten to ten. And the interesting thing was that our group was rigourously divided along national lines. All the French but one voted for Igoumenitsa. And except for three abstentions, all the Spanish but one voted for Patras. The Italians were divided, and one of them honoured local custom by switching sides.

As you all know, I myself am very much in favour of Igoumenitsa.

Here in Bari we have also been joined by an American blogger from Occupy San Diego. He abstained, but in the end he made a very simple observation.

“I think the solution is already in the name. March to Athens. If there weren’t a sea to cross, we would have kept on marching. The boat trip should serve to cross the sea, not to shortcut the march.”

To unblock the situation, the moderator asked people if anyone had radical objections against one of the two ports. Three of us were ready to block Patras, but in order to avoid conflict no-one did.

If the assembly would have decided to go to Patras, I wouldn’t have blocked it either. I would probably have left the march instead.

The assembly decided to send a large transversal delegation to the navigation companies.

 At the port terminal, neither of the two companies made any trouble with regard to our shopping carts, but if we went to Patras, the dogs would need to have some kind of passport.

The dogs are with us since we crossed the Apeninnes. They are shepherd dogs decided, and they probably considered us to be a herd that needed to be guided. For some, this implied a form of ‘verticality’, and they denounced it. But one of the few principles of our movement is that we are inclusive, so everyone can come along.

The Greek company serving Igoumenitsa would close an eye on it. And apart from that, Patras is twice as expensive.

So that more or less sealed it. The dogs broke the deadlock, but at the moment the assembly still has to confirm the final decision.

Latest news, this right in. It’s just passed one o’clock. The assembly has confirmed. We are going to Igoumenitsa. We will depart tomorrow evening at seven. We will arrive thursday morning March 15 in Greece at seven o’clock in the morning.

Scenes from Acampada Bari

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14 mars 2012 3 14 /03 /mars /2012 12:03

 

Coast to Coast

In March to Athens on 11 March 2012 at 23:07


March to Athens

Day 125-LI, from Palo del Colle to Bari.

 

‘And so it came to pass, on the eleventh day of March in the year of our Lord 2012 that the brave marchers to Athens finally reached the most venerable city of Bari…’

 

Bari, March 11

 

Dear people,

 

The wind comes from sea. It batters the plains and brings along the sweet odour of salt and spices. The first faint hints of the East are in the air.

It’s not just the air, or the odours. Also the colours are changing. Since we descended down the mountains into Apulia everything started to get brighter. The green of the hills, the white marble stones of the old town centres. I’m sure I could say the same about the blue sky, if we had been lucky enough to see it.

Irsina, Gravina, Altamura, Toritto, Palo. Each of them is a maze of bright alleyways and snow white houses with iron balconies. When you arrive there during the hour of the siesta, like we do, you will not find a living soul there, except for an occasional cat.

Acampada Palo del Colle

 

 

Thanks to the people of Palo del Colle

Then you come closer to the sea, and the wind gets stronger. You hop from one suburb to the other, and then you finally find yourself in front of Bari, one of the places which bears the name of ‘gateway to the East’.

 

I’m walking together with comrade Milton from Naples, and just before Bari we get lost. We don’t want to take the national road, but every other road we take seems to lead us away from the metropolis, or ends up being blocked.

We walk for hours and hours through the desert of an industrial park, through olive groves, past abandoned villas and old outskirts in ruins. All the while we can see the city in the distance on all sides, like a fata morgana, but we don’t seem to reach it. It’s as though Bari were protected by some kind of magnetic shield, and only the faithful can enter.

As a last resort I direct a prayer to Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of the city, asking him to let us through. And lo! a small road opens up in front us. Our hearts are beating full of expectation while we start following the path that takes us straight into Bari at sunset.

Comrade Milton and the sunset

 

"The whole world is our fatherland"

When we reach the old centre we find the others have already been camped for hours in one of the most beautiful squares. It’s close to the boulevard. At night, when all the other sounds die down, we can hear the sound of the waves in the distance.

We have made it. We crossed Italy coast to coast. Some of us have even descended the entire peninsula. Together we sit down around the fire. We toast, and while the luscious odour of hashish rises up from the circle, we reminisce about the various episodes of the march.

Then a police car stops by. The driver addresses us with a smile and with curiosity. He asks where we are from, where we’re going and why. We explain it briefly, we give him a flyer. He reads it, he nods, and he says: “Very well. Keep up the good work.” Then he drives off.

 

"Only when the power of love will be bigger than the love of power, the world will know peace."

 

Acampada Bari in the early morning light

 

 

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13 mars 2012 2 13 /03 /mars /2012 18:01

http://igofrombxltolx.tumblr.com/post/19242864318/la-marche-vers-athenes-arrive-en-grece

 

 

#MarchtoAthens  est sur le point de traverser l’Adriatique. Ce jeudi 15 mars, les marcheurs sont arrivés à Igoumenitsa, à 7 h. Nous traverserons le pays tout entier à pied, afin de parvenir à l’Agora internationale d’Athènes qui commencera le 5 mai !

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10 mars 2012 6 10 /03 /mars /2012 20:10

Smurf Land

In March to Athens on 10 March 2012 at 17:58


March to Athens

Day 123-XLIX, from Altamura to Toritto, 23 km.

Day 124-L, from Toritto to Palo del Colle, 8 km.

 

trullo

Palo del Colle, March 10

Dear people,

The walk from Altamura into the plains was the worst. Twenty kilometres straight along a busy national road in the rain. There is nothing we can do but push on at an elevated pace to get it over with.

Finally the last few kilometres we have the road all for ourselves. It’s not yet in use, so we’re able to inaugurate it with our shopping carts. The rain has stopped, and in the olives fields along the road our efforts are rewarded by the view of the trulli.

A trullo is a typical Apulian peasant house. It looks a bit like the homes of the Smurfs. I adore them. When I was only a couple of years old, I wanted to travel to find the village of the Smurfs. Unfortunately, back then I didn’t find it, but I knew that some day I would. And indeed, I did.

At about fifty kilometres further south from here there is a village which is almost exclusively made up of trulli. It’s called Alberobello. You should see it. It’s even better than Disneyland.

It’s already dark when everyone has reached Toritto, the first suburb in the gravity zone of Bari. Tonight we would prefer a place with a roof, but there is none to be found, so we take the square. The sole officer on duty makes a worried phone call and then leaves us in peace.

News from Athens is coming in. Our people on the spot have grudgingly accepted May 5 as the day on which ‘Agora Athens’ will begin. They would have preferred to start a week earlier, but in the absence of convincing reasons there was no way that our assembly would agree to change the date of arrival. With that, the hot issue of the date is finally closed.

Other more interesting news concerns the rumours of a German march which will start in Patras on May 2 and which will arrive in Athens on May 15. Then there is even talk of a bicycle march which will start in Holland to cross all of Europe and arrive in Greece through the Balcans. It sounds great, and I hope it won’t turn out to be just rumours.

Comrade Bobò

Comrade José Miguel cleaning the square

Later on in the evening, people from the association Libera, which manages the real estate confiscated from the mafia, open the entrance of their building on the square, so that we can find shelter in case of rain.

Now, for me electricity is a daily necessity, and I’m lucky enough to find a place in the entrance where I can plug in my laptop. Today I won’t write any updates. From all the various fronts of the revolution, messages are coming in. From Jesus Christ, who is participating in one of the marches going to Paris for the French elections, from Spain, from Greece, from Holland. I want to answer them all.

But every now and then, people notice me and they gather around. They want to know everything about the march. How many people we are, where we are from, when the march has started, when we will arrive, what we hope to accomplish, etc.

I must have answered all these question at least a thousand times, and every time I put away my computer and I answer them again, with the same enthusiasm. Because I’m well aware that if ever I would say ‘Not now, I have other things to do’, I would have ceased to be a revolutionary.

So I talk to people all evening. I see the admiration in their eyes whenever I speak about our march. And when all the others have already gone to sleep, the locals bring their things to me. Late at night, when I finally finish my letters, there’s a pile of pizzas next to me, bags full of pastries for breakfast, softdrinks, cigarettes etc. I get up, and while I carry everything to the camp, a car stops in front of me, a window rolls down. It’s one of the people I met earlier this evening. “Hey Oscar, will you come grab a beer?”

“Thanks man, but not tonight. It’s really time for me to get some sleep.”

Arriving in Palo del Colle

Bringing the vessel safely to port

Spring

 

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10 mars 2012 6 10 /03 /mars /2012 20:06

Rhetoric

In March to Athens on 8 March 2012 at 23:19


March to Athens
Day 122-XLVIII, Altamura.

 

Acampada Altamura after the rain

Altamura, March 8

Dear people,

Where the police didn’t succeed, the weather did. At least in part. Last night the rains came down, and when it started again this afternoon we were a lot less bold than when we took the square the day before. Those of us whose tents hadn’t resisted started to seek shelter under a roof.

It was a real shame. Not only because the rain brings down the morale, but also because it impeded us once again to hold a popular assembly. The last serious popular assemblies we held were in Potenza and in Vietri.

Today we hide under the arches of the old cathedral for an assembly among ourselves. The tensions between us and our people in Athens haven’t yet faded away, and apart from that we have to decide to go to Igoumenitsa or Patras.

Even though I always try to keep my distance, I obviously have my opinions, and I have shifted my position a bit since I joined the march in Rome. By now, I have made a tacit alliance with the Old Man. We have come to appreciate each other, and we share the same long term goals. So whenever the assembly is about to decide on something important we meet up for a petit conseil de guerre, ‘a small war council’.

Instead of exasperating the assembly by simply blocking proposals, we try to prepare the terrain by measuring the spirits and trying to convince people before the assembly starts.

At the moment the important thing is to make sure we go to Igoumenitsa instead of Patras. Most of the French are in favour of Igoumenitsa. They did more than 1500 kilometres of march already, so 500 more won’t be a problem. Many of the Spanish are in favour of Patras. They want to walk less with the excuse that ‘we can do more propaganda in the villages we pass.’

Now, those of you who have been following my adventures, know very well that I don’t take myself – or life as a whole – completely serious. I like to play. And today I played the role of orator to defend the cause of Igoumenitsa. The original was in Italian…

“Dear comrades,

First of all, I would like to remind you that if we didn’t have the fortune of possessing a well filled treasury, then Patras wouldn’t have been an option at all, and we wouldn’t be here discussing about it.

If we decide to go to Patras, we will empty our treasury. And with all the unknown factors of Greece ahead there might come a day that we will bitterly regret it.

Having said this, there are a lot of more or less valid reasons to go to Patras.

We will be able to do more propaganda. We will be under less pressure. We will be able to choose between many possible routes, etc. But most of all we will have more time. Indeed, we will have so much time that we could easily take an entire month of holiday before continuing our march and still be in Athens before the fifth of May.

But I sense that the real reason why people would want to go to Patras is because it would mean we wouldn’t have to walk so much.

To me, Patras smells very much like the ‘easy way out’. I would interpret it as a sign of weakness, almost of defeat. And not just me.

My proposed route from Igoumenitsa

Surely I would understand us taking this option into consideration if we really didn’t have enough time. But I can assure you, with all the data at hand, that we can easily cross all of Greece and reach Athens before May 5, respecting the consensus that we reached at Sermoneta. [15 to 20 km a day. Two days of rest per week]

For me, this would be reason enough to go to Igoumenitsa. But maybe not for you.

That is why I want you all to realise very well what we are doing, and what we have already achieved.

Tomorrow this march will be four months old. Some of us have done it all, right from the start in Nice. And many of us have walked the greater part of it.

Not me. I have only been with you since Rome. But all the same, it has been a pleasure and an honour to walk with you people.

In these past four months the march has crossed the mountains three times, in winter.

I can tell you that not even Hannibal, nor Caesar, have ever done something similar.

Our march has encountered the snow, it has resisted against the freezing cold, against persisent rains, hail storms and more.

So here we are. We have reached the other end of Italy, and with our efforts we have conquered the hearts of the people we encountered on the way.

And now that spring is finally upon us, I cannot conceive the possibility that these hardened veterans would choose to sacrifice our treasury to bypass most of Greece and take the easy way out, going to Patras.

I honestly think that everyone who is to be considered a real marcher of the March to Athens has the moral obligation, towards him- or herself, towards the people who support us, and towards history, to finish this march in grand style by crossing all of Greece, starting in Igoumenitsa.”

Even though it was a tongue-in-cheek speech, the French loved it. They nicknamed me Cicero. I hope it will be enough. For now we haven’t decided yet. Whenever we have, you will be the first to know.

 

Drying a sleeping bag on the victory monument

 

 

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