In March to Athens on 23 February 2012 at 18:57
March to Athens
Day 108-XXXIV, from Bivio Palomonte to Buccino, 12 km.
Buccino, February 23
We doubled our altitude today. And most of it was left for the last few kilometres up to Buccino. People were exhausted when they arrived, but satisfied. The walk was marvellous. The olive groves are gradually making way for the bare forests of winter. In twelve kilometres we encountered only a single car, twice. Carabinieri. They informally interrogate us. As a last word they say ‘occhio’, which means look out. So I wonder if there are still briganti active in this territory…
I’ll get to that another time. But first, the historical context.
After the execution of Murat, the Bourbon family returned to the throne. All over Europe it was ‘restoration’ time. The reigning families wanted to pretend that the revolution had never happened. They thought that after Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo they could simply return to business as usual.
They couldn’t of course. History flows on, and you can’t row against the current.
Revolutionary fervour returned to Europe more than once in the 19th century, and in Italy the masonic lodges prepared for the country to be united.
I won’t go into it. There was a big component of obscure diplomatic plots, there were wars, there was the help or tacit support of Prussia/Germany and Great Britain, and there was more.
Giuseppe Garibaldi was the great hero of the unification. He was a born condottiero, an icon of his days, like Che Guevara a century later.
Garibaldi had fought for the independence of Uruguay from the empire of Brasil, he had fought all over Italy, and finally in France against the Germans in 1870.
His most famous enterprise was the ‘Expedition of the Thousand’, which sailed from near Genova to Sicily, and which would become the start of the conquest of the South by the North.
This time, the peasants had a real hope that something would change. They supported Garibaldi and the unification because they thought the estates of the nobles would be redistributed, so that they could finally own the land they worked.
It never happened. In fact, things got worse after the unification.
The kingdom of Naples might have been a medieval society, but it was a lot richer than many nationalist Italian historians will give it credit for. The south was literally conquered by the north, and treated as a colony. The new king of Italy, who held his court in Turin, implemented his own laws, but left the local nobles in place. And to stimulate the emerging industry, he levied taxes on agricultural products.
Agriculture was the main source of income for the south. When it was taxed, the exports fell, and misery was a result. The peasants had been betrayed. Many of them emigrated to America. And many others picked up their arms and took to the hills to fight a guerilla war against the new kingdom.
These rebels were known as briganti. And this region was the land where they lived, and died.
We are sitting of on the steps of the local archeological museum of Volscei, the ancient name of Buccino. Like every evening when we arrive, we start to build camp. The barrels are placed, people go looking for wood, the fire is lit, the pans are filled, and food is cooked. People gather around.
Others among us have been visiting the museum. And they witnessed another familiar story.
We race through the centuries from one showcase to another, and it all makes sense. First there were tools and recipients. Then came art for decoration. Then came jewels, for art’s own sake, a first sign of social distinction. With social distinction came weapons and armours and warfare, and yet more riches…
Then came the Greeks. They did penetrate as far as here after all. Local art started to fade and disappear. Then came the Romans, and once again, culture changed. Etc. etc.
Modern consumerism is just another culture that we have adapted to. It will pass with the current of history. And maybe one day, people will marvel at an archaeological exposition of Coca Cola cans and all the other trash that you find along the roads today.
In March to Athens on 22 February 2012 at 20:11
Day 107-XXXIII, from Contursi Terme to Bivio Palomonte, 8 km.
Palomonte, February 22
The road is winding, the sky is dark. It has been storming all night. Ever since Naples the locals told us that this weather is abnormal. They say it’s the coldest winter in thirty years over here. In these circumstances, people are intimidated by the mountains. They fear the snow.
Today, once again the agreed schedule was changed. The slowest among us command the rhythm. Instead fifteen kilometres – and four hundred meters of ascent – we only did eight kilometres to the nearest inhabited village.
It’s a good walk. After all the days we spent crossing the metropolitan area of Naples and Salerno, we are finally out in the open. On all sides there’s the sloping river valley appearing out of the haze. We are slowly leaving the bright lowlands of the coast behind us.
This is where the hinterland of Naples begins. But it’s not a complete wilderness, I have to admit. People have past here over the years.
Hannibal roamed the south of the peninsula for ten years after he had defeated every Roman army that was sent against him. For whatever reason he never dealt the final blow to the eternal city. He waited. And while he was here, the luxury and the laziness degenerated his army. The jealous lords of Carthage never sent him reinforcements. But in the meantime, Rome itself was reorganising, and when the time came, she pointed straight at the heart of her rival.
Hannibal was recalled to Africa. And for the very first time, he was defeated.
But the story that I want to tell you is that of a peasant’s son who one day became the king of Naples.
Joachim Murat joined the French army under the ancien régime. He knew he would always be a soldier, because you had to be a noble to enter the officers’ corps. But then came the revolution, and suddenly you could make a career also as a common soldier.
From the very start, Murat has been by Napoleon’s side. He was the one who brought the cannons with which Napoleon fired on the citizens of Paris to quell a royalist uprising and save the French Republic.
In battle, Murat was brave beyond the point of wrecklessness. In almost every major campaign he commanded Napoleon’s cavalry. His charges have been decisive more than once. And in great part, they were theater.
Murat was extremely vain. He liked to dress up in the most extravagant outfits, to intimidate his opponents and to encourage his troops when he led them into battle, shouting.
In 1808 Napoleon was emperor of France, and lord and master of Europe. He had made all his brothers kings, except for the reluctant one. It was the year that he promoted his older brother Joseph from king of Naples to king of Spain. And he granted the Neapolitan throne to his faithful cavalry commander Murat.
As king, Murat came along with Napoleon almost until the very end. He was with the emperor in the advance to Moscow, and he was there when the remainders of the Grand Armée retreated over the Berezina.
Aside from the extreme cold, the cossacks represented a lethal danger for the French. They were the jackals of the Russian plains and they preyed on isolated soldiers. But they had a sacred respect for Murat. They loved him because of his bravery.
Whenever the cossacks sighted the colourful outfit of Murat, they would ride up to him as close as possible, they would stand up, salute, and shout at the top of their voices: “Hail to the king of Naples!”
Then they would gallop away, and the next of them would come up to do the same. Whoever dared to come closest to Murat, would have proved himself to be the bravest of cossacks.
Like most of the other marshalls, Murat betrayed Napoleon after the Russian disaster. He made a deal with the Austrians. But he knew well that they wouldn’t leave the son of a peasant on the throne of Naples.
To defend his reign and expand it, Murat tried to head a first attempt to unify the Italian peninsula. He issued a nationalist proclamation and rallied his troops to battle against the Habsburgs. But however brave he was, he was no great general. He was defeated and sent into exile.
During the Hundred Days, when Napoleon fled from Elba and reconquered France without firing a shot, Murat thought he could do something similar in Naples. But evidently, he never really got to know his subjects. When he landed in Calabria, he was immediately captured. For the locals, one king or another didn’t make any difference.
King Murat of Naples was executed on the beach at Pizzo Calabro. He was vain until the very last. He refused to be blind folded, and he commanded the firing squat himself. “Aim straight at the heart! Spare the face! Fire!”
In March to Athens on 21 February 2012 at 15:37
March to Athens
Day 105-XXXI, from Eboli to Contursi Terme, 21 km.
Day 106-XXXII, Contursi Terme.
Contursi, February 21
We have started our ascent into the wilderness. There exist no known maps of this territory, only old stories. According to the accounts of ancient travellers like Pliny the Elder and Herodotus, it’s at least a week marching up to the pass, the watershed that divides the west from the east. The peasants confirm. But all the brave people from the outside world who have entered this territory before us did so in summertime. We are climbing the mountains in the dead of winter.
Carlo Levi, in his Cristo si è fermato in Eboli, paints a vivid image of the natives. For them times had never changed. Since the dawn of man, they had gotten up with the first light to work their small and rocky pieces of land down in the valley. And afterwards they returned up the hill to their caves or their houses every evening. They were small and dark-skinned and they usually survived up to their forties.
If they survived, they suffered disasters of all types. Plagues, earthquakes, draught, famine, the overlord and the state. Their religion had a sauce of christianity over it, but in its core it was still made up of pagan rites and beliefs and superstitions linked to the forces of nature. Witchcraft was a common practice.
In the 1930s the peasants and the degenerated local nobility had made their first acquaintance with the outside world. An automobile was seen, and over the mayor’s radio set you could listen to victorious proclamations about the war in Abessinnia. The immortal fatherland and Rome almighty were illuminating the world through the power of fascism, but the peasants didn’t care. For them, the only thing that ever came from Rome, aside from the proclamations, was the tax collector. He came to confiscate their livestock, their tools and their houses when austerity measures were imposed to finance the war or the debt.
Next to the mysterious Black Madonna of Viggiano, the people revered only one other idol. Franklin Delano Roosevelt. For the peasants, the civilised world wasn’t here in Italy, it was on the other side, either in heaven or in America. Many peasants emigrated, they made their fortune, and they lived like civilized people. Some of them returned here with a bag full of dollars, believing that things would change under fascism.
They never did. So the remigrants spent the rest of their days reminiscing about America. And they died of boredom.
Three to four generations have passed when the March to Athens, after a one day stop in Eboli, pushes on into the unknown.
The first of the savages we meet is a small and dark-skinned peasant. He simply smiles us on. The next is a shepherd guiding a herd of sheep. He bears a certain resemblance to the homo sapiens. And from my first impression I think it won’t be too far-fetched to hypothesise that we have a common ancestor somewhere.
I try to speak to the old man. First in signs and then in primordial sounds, but he doesn’t understand me. As a last resort I simply speak Italian.
He understands, to my surprise, and his language is actually pretty similar to Italian. I wonder if he has ever been as far as the coast, or if the people from the civilised world have been up here in recent years.
Not likely. When I take a picture of the panorama the old shepherd marvels at my camera. I show him how it works, and once he has seen the result he insists on being photographed.
Finally he shows us the way. And so here we are in Contursi, camped on a windy hill top over a river valley, closed in by two walls of mountains.
The actual situation that I find here is pretty different from that of seventy years ago. While neither Greece, nor Rome, nor Christ have penetrated here, globalisation has..
“There is no work here”, says an old lady. The local agriculture has been destroyed by the import of lowcost products from elsewhere. What remains is the monoculture of olives, some small scale agriculture and the thermal baths. There’s no artisanry or industry.
Still, Contursi is not a dying village. It looks inhabited, clean, pretty rich. And not only, I’ve noticed more than one house with solar panels on the roof, or a small wind turbine. On the other side of the valley there is an entire wind park on a hill top.
Instead of a prehistoric society, in Contursi I find the first possible signs of a sustainable future.
In March to Athens on 19 February 2012 at 18:40
Eboli, February 19
The characters you meet on a march make it all worthwile. At Battipaglia we were welcomed, among many others, by a local hermit. Barefooted, with a long beard, he stopped to talk to every one of us about a different world closer to nature.
He invited us all to lunch, today, in his cave up the hill. He would make risotto con funghi, even though he wouldn’t join us himself. He only eats fruit and vegetables.
At night the hermit showed me and comrade Mary the road to his home, so we could guide the rest there today. It was amazing. Just out of town, on the slope of a hill, there stood the skeleton of a building that was never finished. Only floors, no walls. You find lots of these ruins in the south. They are one of the marks left by the underworld.
The hermit adopted this particular building, he cleaned all the surroundings from the trash and built his cave inside. He did so in part by constructing a wall like the ancients did, without cement, and in another part by using wooden planks. All materials are recycled, and the result is a cozy little space with a large table, a television set, and room for six people to sleep. Outside, under the roof, he created a living space with sofas, a wood fire and a stereo.
When we arrive, we meet two friends of the hermit. They are all fellow countrymen from the Czech Republic, visiting. “It’s a nice home isn’t it?”
It’s great. Completely postmodern, as comrade Max described it. Next to the television set there are shelves full of old VHS and music cassettes, CDs and books. Everything recycled from the trash. But not just any movie or album. The hermit only took the best he could find.
We are offered tea and fruit, and the hermit tells us how he found this place, how he made his home here, how he got into trouble with the owner and the police and how he had to dismantle everything, three times.
Now, since a couple of years he is finally appreciated for all the work he has done around here, he gets to stay officially, and his electricity is on the house.
It’s late when we return to town. We already got a glimpse of what was coming, the others were in for a big surprise.
So today around noon we arrived at the abbandoned building with our shopping carts. We are only about a dozen, and we marvel at the panorama. The town of Battipaglia is right beneath us and in the distance you can see the Tyrrhenian coast from Calabria to Amalfi and Capri.
The hermit got up early in the morning, he went down twice into town to get water, he cut wood for the fire, and he spent all morning making lunch. It was more than excellent, it was a pleasure to be a guest in this modern cave and hear the hermit speak about his dreams.
He wants to return to Sardinia to live a natural life in a real cave. He has already chosen the spot and lived there for a while. It’s near the sea, and he planted fruit trees all around, just like he did here. He has his own vegetable garden, and the rest he gets from the market. They know him there, and they always leave him a few kilos of fruit.
The hermit doesn’t need much more. Whenever he wants to return to the world, he travels, with his sleeping bag under his arm. He knows people and places all over Italy, but only when he will have settled down with other enlightened people in the nature of Sardinia, will he have found his Ithaka.
After lunch we do a short march of only a few kilometres to Eboli. The name of this place was immortalised by Italian writer Carlo Levi, who was sent into exile in the inland of Basilicata by the fascist regime.
Cristo si è fermato a Eboli, is the title of his renowned account about the conditions he found there in the early 1940s. ‘Christ has stopped in Eboli’, meaning that he didn’t go any further than here. The inlands to which we are directed were never touched by the Greeks or the Romans or the christians. Eboli is the last outpost of civilization.
In March to Athens on 18 February 2012 at 19:08
Battipaglia, February 18
I was wrong. The other day was special after all. Both in a positive and a negative sense.
I’ll start with the positive news, it won’t take long.
The popular assembly we held in Salerno was a great success. I’ve never seen anything like it here in Italy. Even though it was slow as always, especially because of the translations, the locals stayed, participated, and their numbers kept growing. In the end, they surrounded us on all sides. But the best part of it was that they decided to reconvene next sunday in a week, to continue their exchange of ideas about a better world. So, we founded the Popular Assembly of Salerno, and that is definitely something to be proud of.
By contrast, the day after was disastrous. Yet again we should have departed, and we didn’t. Instead we held a mega internal assembly from ten o’clock in the morning until eight o’clock at night. With interruption for lunch.
You will know by now that I don’t have the patience for these kind of things, so I only witnessed part of it, and had the rest told to me by those who resisted.
The morning part was dedicated to creating an ‘ideal’ daily timetable, which we will not respect, not even once.
The afternoon part should have been about the infamous date of arrival. But we don’t even get to talk about that anymore. In the end, the themes of ‘demotivation’ and ‘violence’ surfaced, and we discussed for two hours about which of these themes we would address first.
I proposed that we divide ourselves into two groups, then we would fight each other, and whoever would win would get to talk about their preferred theme first.
In the end we didn’t talk about anything. We rode the waves of absurdity. And contrary to what I thought before, we are at risk of complete disintegration.
We are now only about fifteen persons. And we will lose more. The faction that wants to push on, make a schedule, give the march a political meaning and prepare the Agora Athens, has given up and gone ahead.
The easy goers remain, and comrade Max as well. As for me, I don’t know. I would hate to leave as well, but if the march doesn’t make sense anymore, then I must consider looking for other sources of revolution.
Still, apart from it all, I enjoy myself. I walk over the boulevard, I chat with some of the elderly people who witnessed our arrest the other day.
In one of the villages that we passed, the mayor was in prison for corruption. Here in Salerno people really seem to like their first citizen. The town looks clean, there are no mountains of trash in the streets, there are pedestrian zones, no visible traces of camorra, and the old centre is being carefully restored. The mayor is left wing and paternalist. He got re-elected more than once, lately with eighty percent of the votes. It results in Salerno not being a typical city from the south of Italy. It looks pretty nice, and it feels pretty boring.
Up until here I have been sharing my tent with comrade Getafe. He transported it in his shopping cart. But now that he left I walk with full gear. It makes a difference. Twenty kilometres are a lot if you carry your home, your bed, your wardrobe and your office on your shoulders. I arrive first, and I wait.
Will the march make it up to here? I wonder. Has it broken down completely? I start writing the current article, and when I’m almost done, listen…
It’s the tambourines. It’s the revolutionary songs, and then it’s the local drum band joining in. They were celebrating carnival, and now they accompany the remaining marchers who reach Battipaglia after nightfall.
When I join them everyone is dancing. We organise a popular assembly ad hoc, and people gather all around us. We did make it up to here, and that’s reason enough to be joyful.
Tomorrow is another day.
In March to Athens on 16 February 2012 at 20:17
Some people joined us in Naples. By now only one of them is left. And we still keep losing pieces. The camper and the five comrades travelling on board had been briefly back in Naples. They stayed behind, together with four other marchers.
Now, the news coming in from Greece has had an electrifying effect on others. Comrade Getafe, who walked all but one of the legs of the march on Brussels, has departed this evening. With him comrade Laurentina, who has lately been trying to reconcile the different factions in our march.
Tomorrow we go inland, towards the snowy peaks. It will once again be a different march, and it will be hard.
I have been tempted to go to Athens as well, but for the moment I will stay. Of course I want to be there when the Greek people finally reclaim their sovereignty from the stranglehold of international finance, but I don’t think we’re there yet. I hope the Greeks will wait for spring.
On the way to Salerno, comrade Max told me about the history of the march from Nice to Rome. He is one of the veterans from the start, together with Marianne, and many of the rebels.
I’ll briefly pinpoint the highlights of his account.
The march started under good auspices. In Cannes at the beginning of november, international and financial authorities decided on Greek and Italian matters. In Nice, the indignados staged a protest, and shortly after they set course to those very countries. Within weeks after departure, regime change was peacefully performed in Greece and Italy, and technocrat bankers were nominated as heads of government.
Up to Genoa, the march camped out on the beach and did little political activity. They were about fifteen to twenty persons, almost all of them French. In Genoa they held their first big assembly on the stage of Piazza dei Ferrari. After that, the march split.
Some people went on a litoral march, to carry on camping on the beach, and the rest crossed the Apennines into red Emilia, the traditional land of the partisans.
From Parma through Reggio and Modena to Bologna, they were received in social centres by left wing activists. But mostly this time is remembered as the days of Mimo.
Mimo was a schizophrenic. During the day he was an amiable and gentle person, but during the night he could turn into a screaming madman with a special love for knives. Especially when he drank, and especially in closed places.
He caused a stir by menacing people. He got thrown out more than once. In the end, the march declined to camp inside a social centre for fear of Mimo making trouble. Mimo took it personal, and he left.
In Bologna, the marchers were fined for camping on public soil. They burned the fines in front of camera’s and police.
During the second crossing of the Apennines, from Bologna to Florence the march temporarily decided to split again. Many went to the ‘Valley of the Elves’ above Pistoia, where tribes of agro-anarchical hippies are living in comunes.
In Florence the march arrived when three Senegalese were killed out of racist motives. Marchers participated in a demonstration, and camped on the squares where the murders had taken place.
In Siena, they camped outside of one of the oldest still active banks in the world, Monte dei Paschi di Siena. While the police was notifying people that they couldn’t camp there and that the two tents should be removed, other tents sprouted up, and more, and more. In the end, the police officers found themselves in the midst of a complete camp, and they left.
Christmas was celebrated in Cortona, in a desacrated church with lots of old musical instruments and wine. From the sound of it, it must have been a fabulous party.
In Perugia the camp was built in the middle of Corso Vannucci, one of the most beautiful streets of Italy. It was there that Timon the flamboyant Finn inspired the marchers to stop showing documents to the police.
Spoleto was a dark page in the history of the march. By now, it had been joined by a substantial Spanish contingent. From some of them I had already heard accounts of ‘the facts of Spoleto’.
It was the day before New Year, there had been party in the square. There had been a drunk person molesting the campers. At a certain point, the tribe reacted. Fired on by alcohol, the warriors went to the defense. They knocked out the molester, and they did so with excessive use of force.
The day after was one of collective shame. As pacifists, people had failed. Yet again they turned out to be humans after all.
A week later, the march arrived in Rome and got a great welcome on Piazza del Popolo.
From the eight persons who started the litoral march, only two reached Rome. They had lived such incredibly scarry adventures that none of them ever dared to talk about it. Most of the time, they just sat silent in the square.
So when I ask comrade Max his opinion on the current troubles of the march, he lifts up his shoulders and smiles. He has already seen a lot. Today is nothing special.
In March to Athens on 15 February 2012 at 22:56
Salerno, February 15
Three days marching are not enough to leave the metropolitan area of Naples. Yesterday we turned away from the Gulf and cut through the valley that divides the coastal range from the inland mountains. This way we bypass the peninsula of Sorrento, the lemon coast, and the famous marittime republic of Amalfi.
No tourist routes then. We go from town to town, and all along the way we get stopped by the curious. “Who are you? Where are you from? Where are you going? Come have a coffee!” Many times we leave them flabbergasted. “All the way on foot?!”
“That’s right, all the way on foot.”
They lift their hats and propel us forward.
The internal conflict in the group is lighting up almost daily by now, especially with things happening in Athens. As I mentioned, there are the people who want to pick a date and push on, like comrade Marianne and comrade Max, and there are the people who want to go day by day, without a hurry. This last group is mostly French, and many of them have been walking since the very start, a hundred days ago. They are the soul of the march.
In Pagani we organised a successful popular assembly. Many young locals attended, and stayed until the end even though it was freezing cold.
Just after local tv had arrived it suddenly all exploded in front of the cameras. We had been avoiding the main problem carefully in the internal assembly, but now, with the help of alcohol, it came out.
The Flute Player got violent and accused the tv of distorting information, and us all because we preferred to sleep inside instead of camping out. Then comrade Bob accused Max and Marianne of manipulating the march, deciding on the itinerary, on the dates and everything, with tacit support of the Spanish. Finally, the rebels didn’t come with us to the elderly recreation centre to sleep, but they camped out on the square in the cold.
I understand and respect them. But I can also understand the excitement of comrade Marianne. She is a full blood revolutionary, fresh from high school. She has been marching and protesting all over Europe since last spring, and now she’s on her way home while Athens is burning. She wants to pull the cart by herself, and if it’s too heavy, cut herself loose and fly away to Greece.
This also angers some of the French. “You want to fix a date for us, when you won’t be marching yourself?”
Me, I don’t know what to think about it anymore. I try to keep my distance and observe. Things will be worse, things will be better, but I don’t think the march is in real danger. It goes on, ‘whatever the cost’.
Today, after cutting the peninsula, we descended on Salerno. Upon arrival we sat down on the boulevard in front of town hall. Police arrived. They said we couldn’t sit here, and then they asked for papers.
We didn’t like their intimidatory tone. So we ignored them. We were already planning to leave, but when they ordered us to do so we staid. More police arrived. They insisted on identification. We said no.
Here in the south, respect is very important. They thought they could exercise their authority on us, and they found out that they were wrong. Slowly their attitude started to change. They offered a compromise. Three IDs for the whole group. We said no, again. It was a question of principle.
Up until now, police have always desisted out of impatience with our lengthy assemblies. But here in Salerno they pushed through. So in the end, the van arrived. For the first time in Italy the marchers were about to be arrested.
The divisions within the group immediately vanished in the face of police repression. Resistance was transversal. And I’m content we did resist. We sat down and locked arms and legs while one of us started reading out loud the declaration of human rights, among which ‘the liberty to express your own opinion through any means necessary,’ and ‘the right to not being arrested and persecuted without a just cause’ etc.
Finally they dragged us off and took us away. The bastards almost ripped my legs up. ‘Careful with those! They have to take me to Athens still!’ Fortunately, tomorrow we will have a day off to recover.
The Salerno police was nothing like the robocops of Paris. We had a good chat in the police station, about the concepts of ‘legality’ and ‘legitimacy’. About a better world and peaceful resistance, about human nature. Still, many of the police officers didn’t understand why we resisted for three lousy IDs, which would have taken five minutes to check. It’s simple, we are not numbers, nor papers. If refusing to show identification is a crime, then the law is wrong, and we will not obey. What are principles worth if you trade them in for five minutes of compliance?
The final compromise in the police station was that some of us showed ID and vouched for the rest, to avoid us being photographed and fingerprinted. After that we were free to go. I’m sure we left a mark on them. And at the very least, we taught them to respect us.
In March to Athens on 13 February 2012 at 23:14
March to Athens
Day 97-XXIII, Naples.
Day 98-XXIV, from Naples to Santa Maria la Bruna, 18 km.
Torre del Greco, February 13
Naples – Neapolis – means ‘new town’, even though it’s one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities of Europe. The old town, Partenopea was named after the mythical siren Partenope.
The song of the siren was famously irresistible. It enchanted sailormen, leading them astray until their vessels would crash on the rocks and sink.
Odysseus, on his wanderings, was one of the few who resisted the song of the siren. He put wax in his ears and had himself tied to the mast. He and his men sailed safely by.
When Partenope realised that her fatal song had had no effect, she jumped of her cliff and drowned. On the beach where her body washed up, the old city of Naples was founded.
The eras have past, and even though the siren is long gone, the call of Naples is tempting. Many people from the march lent their ear to it, and so when the scheduled hour to depart arrived, they didn’t move.
In this sense, the march is a bit like a donkey. When it doesn’t feel like going, it doesn’t go. This splits the group, because there are many people who want to keep moving according to schedule and fix a date of arrival for Athens.
So yesterday, instead of going, an internal assembly was called for in the centre of the galleria Umberto, because it was raining. It turned into a kind of group therapy session where everybody tried to do some autocriticism, while carefully avoiding to talk directly about the main problem. The internal conflict between the people who want to march on schedule, and the people who just want to go with the flow was all but resolved by it. Soon it will return.
Today we finally left Naples, and we did so with the blessing of the sun. While I stroll through the alleys of the old centre, I suddenly experience a déjà vu. I recognise one of the streets, not from having been there before, but from an Italian movie. I don’t remember the name, but I do remember the plot. Sophia Loren interpreted the lead role, a Neapolitan woman who sells bootleg cigarettes on the streets. Her husband is unemployed. She is the one who supports the family. They have eight children, not because they are obiding catholics, but because the law forbids a landlord to evict a pregnant or lactating woman. Getting pregnant has been a way to avoid paying the rent for ten years. Now the youngest child is growing up, and Sophia has to get pregnant again. Her husband has had it with children, so she starts to look elsewhere for someone who can do her the favour…
I walk my own rhythm, through the lively suburbs, along the oldest railroad connection of the Italian peninsula, Napoli-Portici. And further, through the town of Ercolano which was buried by mount Vesuvius just like Pompeii in 79 AD. Today Ercolano is just another town around the bay. Of the ancient city, a luxury beach resort in Roman times, only a few blocks have been excavated in the centre. It’s one of the most fascinating remainders of antiquity, but today I won’t stop there to reflect. This march is about the present. And yet every once in a while I look up at mount Vesuvius covered by the snow, and I remember the account of the eruption that was written by Pliny the Younger. His uncle, the great ‘phenomenologist’ Pliny the Elder went to the rescue, and he staid ridiculously calm while the world around him was falling apart. When all the others were leaving their crumbling houses, they did so ‘out of fear’, according to little Pliny. But old Pliny wasn’t afraid. He only fled “after a thorough analysis of the situation”. He died stoically, suffocated by the deadly vapours of the volcano.
The last eruption of mount Vesuvius was in 1944. At the time, the suburbs of Naples were still little villages, and the damage was relatively small. Nowadays the metropolis has spread all around the mountain and far up the slopes. Whenever it will erupt again – in five years, ten years, fifty years, or maybe tomorrow – the catastrophe could be considerably bigger than ever before.
I arrive in Santa Maria la Bruna, an outskirt of Torre del Greco, and I don’t find the group. So I walk and walk and walk until far after nightfall. Finally I go to the local police station. I walk straight into the surveillance room, to which all the public cameras are connected. The officers on guard were surprised. They hadn’t seen me coming. I ask if they have noticed a caravan of thirty people with shopping carts full of stuff passing through Torre del Greco.
They hadn’t noticed a thing.
On the one hand I’m relieved, because obviously big brother isn’t really paying attention over here. But on the other hand, I still don’t know where to go.
Finally, late in the evening, after asking around wherever I could, I find the camp on a parking lot. There’s excitement in the group as a result of the recent events in Athens. Some people would like to go straight there if the uprising continues. It’s an interesting idea, but for now I go to my tent, I take off my shoes, at last, and I sleep.
DEPUIS DEBUT AOÛT 2014
OVERBLOG NOUS IMPOSE ET PLACE DES PUBS
SUR NOTRE BLOG
CELA VA A L'ENCONTRE DE NOTRE ETHIQUE ET DE NOS CHOIX
NE CLIQUEZ PAS SUR CES PUBS !
Depuis le 26 Mai 2011,
Nous nous réunissons
tous les soirs
devant la maison carrée
A partir du 16 Juillet 2014
et pendant l'été
chaque mercredi à 18h
et samedi à 13h
sur le terrain de Caveirac
et venez partager ce lieu avec nous !