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13 février 2012 1 13 /02 /février /2012 14:30

Masaniello

In March to Athens on 11 February 2012 at 22:39


March to Athens

Day 96-XXII, Naples

 

Naples, February 11

 

Dear people,

Over here, if people invite you to something, they don’t do so out of politeness. They do so because they mean it. That’s the reason why I am always happy to accept.

Yesterday, after a mini assembly on ACTA, we were invited by an old communist for tea and a shower. Me and comrade Getafe, veteran of the March on Brussels, came along. Before we went, our host took us on a small tour of Naples. Over the grand Piazza del Plebiscito, past the royal palace and the famous theater of San Carlo, through the fin-de-siècle galleria Umberto back to Piazza del Gesù. In the meantime, as any proud Neapolitan would do, he tells us a bit about the story of Naples.

'No to ACTA'. Piazza del Plebiscito.

I have been wanting to dig into Naples’ revolutionary past. So when we are in the car, I ask him about the story of Masaniello. It was just the kind of thing for a communist to tell.

Masaniello was a fishmonger. He lived in the seventeenth century, when the kingdom of Naples was subject to the empire of Spain. At the time, Spain was continuously at war, mostly with the rebellious Dutch, and to finance those wars they levied taxes. Not on the nobles obviously, but on the common people.

One day, after yet another tax on fruit had been imposed, the people of Naples rose up, and humble Masaniello and his wife led the rebellion. The viceroy had to flee inside the castle. Masaniello became the de facto ruler of ‘Royal Republic of Naples’.

It didn’t take long. The viceroy, shrewd as he was, invited Masaniello to court and started to grant him riches and honours, and lots of promises. Taxes would be revoked, and Masaniello would be recognised as leader of the Neapolitan people, and treated as such.

Now, some say that this change in fortune was too much for him to handle, others say that he was poisoned. Fact is that Masaniello started to behave very strangely after that. He went nuts. And all the while the viceroy plotted with some of Masaniello’s followers to have him killed.

We are driving over the grand boulevard near the port quarter to the right. “Over there in one of the churches Masaniello spoke to the crowd from the pulpit one day. He said he would renounce to all the honours and riches that were bestowed on him. He said he would return humble and poor like he had been before. So he stripped, right there in church, to his bare ass.”

For most people it was the final proof that Masaniello had gone mad. Not long afterwards he was murdered, and his body thrown into a gutter. The assassins were rewarded by the viceroy and Spanish rule was restored.

As a first thing after the restoration, the price of bread was raised and taxes reinstated. At that point the people realised that they had been fooled. So they took Masaniello out of the sewer, they gave him a solemn funeral, and they remembered the last thing that he had said on the pulpit.

‘You cannot make revolution once. You have to keep making revolution every single day. The day you stop making revolution, you will be crushed.’

Shrine dedicated to Diego Maradona

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12 février 2012 7 12 /02 /février /2012 14:22

The Old and the Young

In March to Athens on 10 February 2012 at 22:47 March to Athens


Day 95-XXI, Naples.

 

Survivors of the internal assembly

Naples, February 10

 

Dear people,

 

The rains are coming down over Naples, and people stay inside. So despite the great stage, days are wet and sad. The assembly on the ecomafia that we planned was cancelled because of the weather. We are definitely not as pious as the average hitman of the camorra, and today we payed the price for it.

Instead of a public assembly we held one of our ridiculous internal assemblies. Four hours it took us to reach a consensus on the first point of the agenda, the route up to Potenza. There were six points left after that, but only a handful of people had resisted up to that point.

Our major internal problem at the moment is that the group is being held hostage by the Old Man.

The reason for the Old Man to come along with the march was because he had nothing better to do this winter. He doesn’t really participate. Only when we speak about the route, he never fails to block any leg that is longer than twenty kilometres.

It’s exasperating. In certain places there simply doesn’t exist an inhabited centre within twenty kilometres, but for the Old Man it doesn’t matter. As far he is concerned we camp in the woods and hold an assembly with the animals like Snow White.

Personally, I’m convinced that the consensus model is not the way to go, precisely because it allows for one single person to block an entire assembly. The Old Man is going to cause more trouble, without a doubt, and I wonder how long we are going to put up with it. Maybe we should learn from the prehistoric nomad tribes. They simply abbandoned the elderly to their fate when they weren’t able to come along anymore.

 

In a certain sense, this is the same problem of Italy as a whole. Like I said in an earlier post, the elderly are keeping society hostage, because they don’t confer any responsability to the young. For youngsters it’s almost impossible to start a carreer in Italy. With one exception. The mafia.

The mafia is an umbrella term for various criminal syndicats in Southern Italy – Cosa Nostra in Sicily, the ‘Ndrangheta in Calabria, the Sacra Corona Unita in Apulia and the Camorra in Naples. Together they form the most successful corporation of Italy. The mafia is bigger than Fiat.

The mafia doesn’t abide by the rules of Italian  bureaucracy, which makes it a lot more agile. And the mafia appreciates youthful talent. If you dedicate your life to the Organisation, you can go a long way.

At ten or eleven years you start off as a palo. It means you keep an eye out in the neighbourhood. You report on unusual things, you spy on certain people. At fifteen or sixteen, you get your own motorino, and you can act as a courier or a drugs runner. At eighteen you can enter the inner circle of the clan. In your early twenties you can become a hitman, and if you’re really good you can rule your own neighbourhood as a boss at twenty-five, sometimes even younger.

At that point you have all you want. Money, fast cars, women, coke, and the power over life and death. In the meantime, your former classmates who followed the rules have just received their university degree, and are still living at home, unemployed, or working in a supermarket for 600 euros per month.

A real change in Italy can only happen if the younger generation rebels. But it’s not that easy. In the North-African countries the majority of people is under twenty-five. Over there the youth has critical mass. Over here, they are relatively few. And what’s worse, they are becoming less. The fertility rate in Italy is one of the lowest in the world. On average, parents only bare 1.4 children, which means that Italians are at risk of extinction. In the end, even though people continue to view them as a danger, it’s only the immigrants who can save this country.

 

 

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11 février 2012 6 11 /02 /février /2012 18:13

The Battle Against ACTA

In #globalrevolution, March to Athens on 9 February 2012 at 23:36


March to Athens
Day 94-XX, Naples.

Uncle Scrooge, by Carl Barks. Copyright Walt Disney

 

Naples, February 9

As a march we have adhered to one of today’s most important battles against corporate and government oppression. The battle against ACTA.

ACTA is a global agreement to fight counterfeit products, generic medicine and internet piracy. It has been developed by first world countries (EU, America, Australia and Japan) and pharmaceutical and motion picture corporations over the course of five years, in complete secrecy.

It aims to criminalise the sharing of copyrighted information and the reproduction of any type of patented artwork, technology, medicine, DNA-string or whatever. To do so, a new worldwide organisation will be created to coordinate the repression.

Internet providers will be forced to control all the content that passes through their servers. Internet users will be effectively put under corporate surveillance. They risk monetary fines and even prison time for sharing copyrighted works.

Generic cheap medicine could be outlawed for the benefit of the patent holding pharmaceutical corporations, which would gain a monopoly and could ask whatever price they want for their products. The cost of health care would keep rising, with devastating effects on the third world, and with corporate profits reaching the sky.

I’m not an expert on all this, but I always thought that the concept of copyright was meant to protect the creator of a given artwork or technology, by conceding that person the monopoly over his or her creation for a limited period. This would stimulate innovation, because any inventor could be sure that no-one else would benefit financially from his creation in the short term. Then, once the limited period ends, the invention would become public domain, and could be used and reproduced by anyone for the benefit of further innovation.

“To promote the progress of science and useful arts”, was the official reason why a copyright clause was included in the United States Constitution. But since then, things have changed. Nowadays public universities are reluctant to sponsor research into certain medicines or gene sequences, because they might encounter in copyright infringements and lawsuits by large pharmaceutical corporations, just to give an example.

Instead of protecting crackpot inventors or brilliant musicians, copyright legislation has turned into a way for big corporations to squeeze as much profit out of successful products as possible. For this reason the ‘limited period’ of copyright protection has been lengthened over and over again to include the entire lifetime of the author, and far beyond.

Typically, copyright was lengthened in the United States when Mickey Mouse was about to become public domain, even though its creator, Walt Disney, could not personally benefit from it, because he was frozen dead for over thirty years.

One of the great problems with copyright, and with our judicial system as a whole, is the concept of corporate personhood. Not just real people can be held responsible in a court of law or entitled to copyright, but also enterprises are legally treated as a person, while the people governing that enterprise don’t bare any personal responsibility at all.

This can lead to very strange interpretations of copyright. A famous example of this is the city of Duckburg, and the characters of Uncle Scrooge, Gyro Gearloose, the Beagle Boys, Gladstone Gander and many more.

This city and all of these characters were invented by the great storyteller Carl Barks. But because he did so while working on a license by Walt Disney, the copyright belonged to the Walt Disney Company. Barks spent twenty-five years writing and drawing the most brilliant comics that ever bore the name Walt Disney, his stories sold billions of copies worldwide, and he never saw a cent of royalties. He was paid per page, less than his colleagues, and he lived in a trailer.

After his retirement he started painting scenes taken from his own stories, many of them with the characters he had invented himself. They sold very well. His fans were happy to pay ever higher prices to have a ‘real Barks’ on the wall. At that point, the Disney corporation stepped in, and forbade their most prolific artist from painting his own characters, because of ‘copyright infringement’

The concept of copyright needs to be completely revolutionised to adapt it to modern times and make sure it really stimulates innovation. But this is not what ACTA is about. ACTA is not just another attempt to resusitate the dying record industry, it is a declaration of war on the internet user and on all the people who benefit from generic medicine. Not for the greater good of artists or inventors, but for the financial gain of the shareholders of major corporations.

In the end, all art and technology belongs to humanity. And internet is a fabulous means to share culture on the widest possible scale. I’m confident that ACTA will crash and burn, because nowadays people are no longer going to finance companies like Sony Music by paying twenty euros for a cd or a dvd. But they will still go to the cinema, or to a concert, or to a musical. If the bigwigs want to keep on making money, they should stimulate people to do so, instead of hunting down the ‘pirates’ who download their favourite music and films through the web.

 

 

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11 février 2012 6 11 /02 /février /2012 18:09

The Great Stage

In March to Athens on 8 February 2012 at 23:10


March to Athens

Day 93-XIX, Naples.

 

 

Naples, February 8

 

Dear people,

I take a morning walk through the backstreets of Naples. I look through famous texts by ancient authors on the book stands in the university quarter. I sniff the smell of sweet sfogliatine in the narrow alleys where the lines of laundry reach the sky. I take a coffee like they only make it here. And I’m completely happy.

This city is larger than life. This city is theater.

There’s the bay, there’s the volcano, there are the islands, and usually there’s the sun. Put it all together and you have the perfect stage for any story. Tragical, comical, or epical.

The people from Naples fill the stage. They have a character of their own. They are inventive, enterprising and highly superstitious. They know how to enjoy themselves, they know how to avoid the rules and play their own game. They have a big heart. And they showed it to us.

Ever since we arrived here, people came offering food, showers, places to sleep, moral support and a shift on the night watch. It went on all day, the supply was much bigger than the demand.

Together with a comrade of mine, I was accompanied through town to the eastern outskirts on the slopes of the Vesuvius to take tea, shower and dinner. When we left the square, a young bloke had just arrived with a huge dish and a big smile. “Ragazzi, this is a present from my mother… Pasta al forno!”

Angela, our host, has worked as a human rights specialist at the University ‘Federico II’ of Naples. She is proud to tell that it is the oldest institution for higher education in Europe which isn’t linked to the church. The founder and namesake, medieval emperor Frederick of Svevia, nicknamed stupor mundi, was an enlightened patron of the arts in the early thirteenth century. Among other dominions, he was king of Sicily, and he held court at Palermo where he invited artists and scientist from all over the christian and muslim world to exchange their knowledge and talents in an atmosphere of human brotherhood. Some Sicilians claim that Italian, as a successor of scholarly Latin, was elevated to the honour of a written language in Sicily at the court of Frederick II, and not by national poet Dante Alighieri, as the Florentines claim.

We drive along the busy Corso Umberto, the limit of the ancient Greek town, where once the sea arrived. To the left of us there is the old centre with its more or less regular city grid. “Naples is made up of various layers,” Angela explains. “The roads were laid out by the Greeks, around three central axes. On the Greek foundations the Romans built the next layer, and over the Roman remainders arose the buildings from the middle ages. On top of those, the Spanish kings of Naples continued to build new storeys over the course of the centuries.” In many places throughout the old city you can still notice the layers of time, like the traces of geological eras in the rocks.

Ever since she was born under the name of Parthenopia, Naples has been a special place, and the Neapolitans a special kind of people. You cannot give a proper fitting description of the Neapolitan character, but you can recognise it immediately. Both in real life, and in its stereotype characterisations. When the great storyteller Giovanni Boccaccio presents us a Neapolitan in one of his novellas from his 12th century Decamerone, it’s the same character you will encounter in the theatrical pieces by 20th century playwrite Eduardo de Filippo, or in the films with iconic actors like Totò or Massimo Troisi.

The theatre of Naples and her Gulf resists against the currents of the centuries, and her actors continue to recite their own stories. One way or another the struggle for survival is always a recurring motive. Because life is hard in Naples.

In the North, society is pretty well organised, and generally things work out well. But still, people find reasons to complain. Here, people have reasons to complain about everything, but they don’t. They look for the positive side, and they love and share and enjoy what they have. The sun, the gulf, and the greatest stage on earth.

 

 

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8 février 2012 3 08 /02 /février /2012 15:41

Napule

In March to Athens on 7 February 2012 at 21:11


March to Athens
Day 92-XVIII, from Qualiano to Naples, 12 km.

Naples, February 7

Dear people,

This morning police escorted us in small groups to the local bar to take a cappuccino. It’s one of those things that I like about this march. Nothing is normal. For us, every day is extraordinary. Yesterday evening before we went to sleep, the police officer on duty asked us if there was something he could do for us. Jokingly, we requested sweet pastries and cappuccino for breakfast. It turned out he took us seriously.

After breakfast we walk in group and we sing. Today is more special than usual. Today we reach Naples.

All along the route through the colourful outskirts people look us on, they join their hands to make the typical Italian sign that means ‘what the hell?’. We tell them about the march, about Athens, and they smile. It’s a smile of appreciation, and one that says ‘you’re completely out of your mind.’

We arrive at Capodimonte where we enjoy a first view of the city. We see the Vesuvius. Very timidly and very briefly, it snows. Last time that happened here was in 1986. It must be a good sign.

In a world where all countries and all cities tend to resemble each other, Naples is in a league of its own. Nothing compares to this city, nothing compares to her character. She’s the best, and she’s the worst. Like women, you can never fully understand Naples. You can only adore her, e basta.

We descend over the central Via Toledo, we are received by local indignados who accompany us to the landmark Piazza del Gesù, where we had decided to camp.

Immediately upon arrival, the tents are deployed, for the first time since Sperlonga. There is an army jeep with three soldiers guarding the square. They are bewildered, but they like us right from the start.

Accampata Napoli @ Piazza del Gesù

Only when police arrive there is a bit of tension. Obviously they didn’t expect us. They say we can’t camp here, and they do so in an authoritative way. It’s against the rules.

The rules! If we played by the rules, we wouldn’t have started a revolution. We reply in an equally authoritative tone. ‘Do whatever you want to do, but we’re here and we’re staying.’ In the background, the soldiers giggle.

Police march off. There’s heavy telephone traffic going on with headquarters. An hour later they return. We can officially stay.

The first popular assembly we held in the square was a big success. There are lots of locals passing by, and almost all of them stop to see what’s going on. Many of them join the assembly.

We introduced ourselves, we spoke about our dreams, and we received invitations to a popular dinner and to a hold an assembly in the university. But when we invited people to speak about the problems of Naples, no-one dared to dig into it, like we expected.

Still, we launched a challenge. For ourselves and for the Neapolitans. In a few days we intend to organise a thematical assembly on what I called ‘the business of trash’, and the role of the camorra.

I’m curious to see what’ll happen. First thing, we decided to install a night watch…

Popular assembly in Naples

'Saviano is not alone. No to the Camorra'

 

 

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8 février 2012 3 08 /02 /février /2012 15:37

“La Police Avec Nous”

In March to Athens on 6 February 2012 at 21:55


March to Athens

Day 91-XVII, from Castelvolturno to Qualiano, 24 km.

 

Qualiano, February 6

 

Dear people,

 

We’ve returned to the known world. Here there’s just the trash and the general absence of hope. We know now that things could be a lot worse.

This is a northern suburb of Naples, and we shouldn’t be here. We were supposed to go to a tiny place called Zaccaria. But it turned out none of the locals had ever heard of it. So we walked on, arriving after dark in the nearest inhabited place we could find.

Preparing to go, observed by the blacks of the immigrant centre

 

 

Marching through the trash.

We were received by the police. Not with clubs and guns, but with pizza, pastries and wine. It caused a bit of embarassment among some of us, and hilarity among others. We were offered to stay in the aula for official events, and in the end we accepted.

For us as revolutionaries it’s a bit difficult to explain that we are guests of the police without there being bars between them and us. But we don’t worry too much about it. The pizza is good and outside it’s cold, menacing snow, and in such a situation we are easily corruptible as well.

And this.

In any case, it’s true that the police in Italy have a lot to complain about. Budget cuts mostly. When things are going bad economically, it’s natural for governments to cut spending on education and health care. But when spending on police is cut, things are going really bad. Part of the police officers have short term contacts. Part of the vehicles can’t be used because there is no money for fuel.

In the beginning of the march, so I heard, police were pretty invasive. They stopped the group almost every day to control identity papers. Then one day, the walkers decided they wouldn’t show them.

Camping in the police aula

“Take us all away if necessary, or do whatever you need to do, but we won’t comply.” In the face of this collective refusal, the active officer called his superiors. Shortly after, the march could continue.

Police didn’t ask papers after that anymore. They are always helpful, but never before have they received us this way.

After we had installed our shopping carts, our sleeping bags and our field kitchen in the police aula, we also received a visit from the town council. They congratulated us briefly, and after witnessing a piece of our turbulent internal assembly, they left, wishing us good luck.

Internal assembly

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6 février 2012 1 06 /02 /février /2012 13:15

The Business of Trash

In March to Athens on 4 February 2012 at 18:30

March to Athens

Day 89-XV, Mondragone, rest.

 

Mondragone, February 4

 

Dear people,

 

We’re in a kindergarten. There is light, there’s heating, there are toilets and there’s a kitchen. Before we came here, we found shelter in a run-down space out of town without electricity. But then the people from town hall called to the villages where we stayed before. They were told we left everything cleaner than we found it, so they entrusted us with this delecate spaces.

For the evening assembly we received a visit from an association of small farmers. They showed interest in our movement, but one of them had the impression that we are still demanding something from someone else. He says we don’t need nothing from no-one, as long as we have the land.

The association is part of a web, la Ragnatela, which spans all of southern Italy. It connects different rural realities where people work their own land and aim to be as self sufficient as possible. Seven people were present, among whom two couples and a baby. They brought excellent wine and bread.

The association is very much dedicated to the recovery of ancient varieties of grains, vegetables and fruit, to protect them from the modified seeds of agricultural corporations like Monsanto, and to help them survive for the benefit of future generations.

One us asked them the big question. “With seven billion people to feed, isn’t it necessary to resort to agriculture on an industrial scale?”

They dismissed it unanimously, saying that this is precisely the argument that the multinationals use. For an old style farmer it’s perfectly possible to work the land without chemical fertilizers, without pesticides, without genetically modified seeds, and still offer humanity an incredibly wide variety of food.

Another important thing for our visitors is the concept of rifiuti zero. No waste.

Now this is revolutionary, in the south of Italy.

The troubles with trash in Naples and surroundings are sadly known. Walking along the roads here is all but beautiful. You repeatedly encounter dead animals, small memorials with photos and plastic flowers for the people who died in traffic, and trash. Tons and tons and tons of it. Chairs, matrasses, plastic bottles, cans, televion sets, auto parts, refrigerators etc. etc. In these once wonderful places, civilization seems to be drowning in its own excrement.

This is normality. About once every year it’s trash season, and then it gets really bad. Then the flood of garbage rises, and in the towns it can easily reach the balconies of the first floors.

The root of the problem is that trash is a business. The state entrusts the collection and the disposal of trash to private enterprises. These enterprises are controlled by the camorra. They control the dumps, the means, and the workers. Once a year, they organise a strike. Then it’s trash emergency in Naples. The dumpsters flood, the streets are invaded. After days in the rotten stench, people set fire to the piles out of fear for cholera and other diseases, so big chemical clouds rise up from the neighbourhoods with equally disastrous results for public health.

It’s all on the news every day, and finally the government in Rome takes drastic measures. A so-called ‘Trash Czar’ is nominated, and sent down to Naples with special authorities and a bag full of money to solve the emergency. Then the situation calms down a bit. A year later however, to no-one’s surprise, the problem returns, and the money is gone.

I walk around, I see all the garbage, and I wonder if the natives still see it all.

 

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6 février 2012 1 06 /02 /février /2012 13:12

Spanish Revolution

Africa

In March to Athens on 5 February 2012 at 08:34

March to Athens

Day 90-XVI, from Mondragone to Castelvolturno, 13 km.

 

Castelvolturno, February 5

 

Dear people,

 

I knew it was bad, really bad. But still I was shocked when I saw it with my own eyes.

After walking a handful of kilometres along the Domitiana, the national road to Naples, I take a tourist detour through the village of Pescopagano, pagan peach tree. It was a first class culture shock.

This is the heart of clanland. The carabinieri don’t dare to go here, only under protection of the army. It’s a zone that doesn’t bare resemblance with Italy or any other part of Europe. This is Noweto, the North West Township of Naples.

 

There’s a street full of potholes running between ruins, sheds and unfinished buildings. The side streets are closed with gates, they are private property. Wild dogs, wild cats and wild children roam between the trash. Almost all of the people I encounter are black.

Do excuse me, I mean ‘Afro-Americans’. Or no, that isn’t true either. ‘Afro-Europeans’ maybe. Call them whatever you want, it makes me sick how we, ‘progressive’ people of the West, try to wash away the intrinsic racism of our society with words. These people are negroes, and they work like slaves.

Some people from the extreme right accuse the immigrants of taking away the jobs from the Italians. They are right. For centuries, the peasants of Italy were selected by the henchmen of the nobles at five in the morning to work the land until late in the evening for little more than a plate of pasta. Those who didn’t get selected didn’t eat.

 

 

 

 

Then came the economic boom. Italians are generally better off. So now it’s the negroes who get selected every morning at five to pick oranges or tomatoes or whatever for ten euros a day, if they’re lucky. This way the natives, and all of us, can buy our vegetables and fruits at fifty cents a kilo. Truly, at the bottom of society, nothing ever changed here.

In between the ruins and the garbage here at Castelvolturno you can find numerous christian flavoured churches which offer spiritual comfort to the blacks. Lacking hope for a better life here on earth, there’s a big market for hope on a better life in heaven.

 

"Christ Kingdom Outreach" church

 

I can’t help but think how sadistic we are in the end. It isn’t enough for western companies to own the riches of Africa, it wasn’t enough for western countries to reduce the local populations to slavery. No, nowadays, the slaves come to us to work, they risk their life for it, we tacitly accept and encourage it, and in the end we even complain about their presence.

 

This evening we are appropriately housed in a centre for immigrants, run by the church. At the dinner table we mix up with about a hundred blacks. Many of them have been here long enough to speak Italian discretely well. They tell me their stories.

Ali fled from Niger about a year ago. He was with a criminal gang, and he risked being shot if he got caught. He fled leaving wife and child behind. Forty-five days it took to cross the desert into Libya. Four days he was at sea with dozens of others and nothing to eat or drink. Then they were caught by the Italian coast guard. He spent months in a closed internation camp in Sicily before he got his provisional papers. Now he’s here, hoping to find work.

 

The dogs of Castelvolturno

 

Lunch break

The exploitation of extracomunitarians isn’t technically slavery, it’s much better. As an employer you don’t have to worry about feeding, housing and whipping your employees. You just give them a handful euros at the end of the day, and let them handle it themselves.

I hear another story. Louis from Ghana has been here for over two and a half years. I can’t stand to see the sadness in his eyes. “It’s difficult, it’s very difficult.” He has worked for half a year as a construction worker, and a couple of months in a garage. But now there’s no work. He only wants to get out of here. It doesn’t matter where.

And Ghana?

“Ghana is even more difficult. Some days you don’t eat. Here at least you have a plate of pasta every day.”

The state, the church, the camorra, and thousands of negroes living in a limbo. I don’t get the whole picture of course, but I do know that we owe these people more than a plate of pasta and a politically correct term to describe their blackness. We owe them respect. If only because the negroes were the only ones who have had the courage to protest openly against the camorra.

 

 

 

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5 février 2012 7 05 /02 /février /2012 13:47

Against the Wind

In March to Athens on 3 February 2012 at 19:34

March to Athens

Day 87-XIII, from Minturno to Cellole, 13 km.

Day 88-XIV, from Cellole to Mondragone, 15 km.

 

E.U. Emergency Aid Milk - Not to be sold.

Mondragone, February 3

Dear people,

“It’s time for the march to get tough”, comrade Alberto said when the camper left. And so it did.

For three days now we are being challenged by the weather. Yesterday was still okay. The rains only came down near the end. Today it didn’t stop. The storms blew against us from the start. But the march goes on, and as a group we’re doing much better than we did before.

In the god forgotten little town of Cellole we made history yesterday, simply by going there. Within minutes of our arrival we were famous. A parade of people pushing shopping carts full of bags and stuff through the village doesn’t go unnoticed. The authorities offered us an empty community space in the centre, and we didn’t lose much time in deciding to accept, given the humid circumstances.

We had reached the bottom after the camper left in Gaeta, so we could only bounce back. We did so in style.

After dinner we gave life to an amazing jam session. The flute, the guitar, the bongos, and then the pans, the bottles and the rest. We rocked. In synthesis it was an example of what we want to reach with our revolution. Harmony from the bottom up, everyone partecipating in his own way, without a script and without a director.

A handful of locals were present, and they were overjoyed to witness it. We represented a different world. One night only. As from today, life is back to normal in Cellole.

“It’s a miserable place”, they say, and the territory of Caserta is “the ugliest province in Italy”. Over here, nothing ever changes. The state extorts its taxes, the camorra extorts il pizzo, and in between them the local population tries to get by, day by day. Then our march comes by, and all the locals lift their eyebrows in curiosity. People respect our effort, they support us. Almost everyone is an indignado for some reason, and many would come with us, if they could. But in these places they don’t have any faith in the possibility of change. No hope for the future.

This is the gravity sphere of Naples. On the front page of the local newspaper there isn’t a single article which doesn’t talk directly or indirectly about the underworld. Bribes, public funds which have vanished, people arrested for attempted extortion, a restaurant blown up with the owner ‘denying that he was requested to pay for protection’, etc.

There is a very powerful organisation active in this region. So when some of us propose to occupy an abbandoned space in case we need coverage, I feel the need to intervene. “The south of Italy is most particular. We should be extremely careful with entering private spaces.”

Anyway, we probably won’t need to resort to drastic measures for coverage against the rain. The hospitality of people and authorities of every kind has been exceptional so far.

Minturno

 

 

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5 février 2012 7 05 /02 /février /2012 13:45

Losing Pieces

In March to Athens on 1 February 2012 at 17:08

March to Athens

Day 86-XII, from Gaeta to Minturno, 19 km.

Minturno, February 1

Dear people,

Yesterday evening the internal assembly completely spinned out of control. Some people came dangerously close to the treshold of violence. When it happened we were housed in a sportscomplex offered by the local authorities and we were lucky that most of the scene was absorbed by the sound of the waves. We didn’t offer a good example. This morning five comrades were left behind on the battleground of Gaeta. And with them, the camper.

The crisis had been making way underground ever since we left Rome. One among us, the flute player, has a personal conflict with comrade Manuel, who has supported the march in his camper since Siena, aside from doing Audiovisuals.

The flute player founded the working group ‘Vehicle independence’ and started fomenting conflict and spreading rumours. Yesterday evening he picked a fight with whoever. He was drunk, he was swearing and screaming. The majority of us avoided that the situation got out of hand. But this morning Manuel decided to go. He is fed up with it.

Comrade Manuel, from Audiovisuals of Acampada Sol

So we are left without a support vehicle and without audiovisual covering. And what’s more, winter has finally arrived. Thus far the days have been mild and sunny. Now it’s cold and raining. The hills are covered with snow. Morale wasn’t that high already, so when the going gets real tough, the tough take the bus.

The assembly had decided in Sermoneta to do only fifteen to twenty kilometres per day, with a clear preference for fifteen over twenty. But still, even before the weather changed, it wasn’t exceptional for some people to go by bus.

We are maybe a dozen people walking. We face thunder and lightning and hail storms and once in a while we are encouraged by a lonely ray of sun.

We’re soaked when we arrive, and we are lucky enough to have a roof over our head tonight. But I’m not sure to whom we owe this pleasure.

Prepared for the worst

Ambiguity in the South is part of the culture. It seems as though there exist different layers of reality in these places. Only if you are born here, you can understand the signs and the unwritten rules. Otherwise, you can only guess.

This morning a car pulls up alongside me. A man steps out. Usually it’s the authorities in uniform who want to know who we are and where we’re going. Not here. He is in his 40s, dressed neither casual, nor elegant. He asks if we had a good night rest at the sports facility. He informs how many we are and where we’re headed.

We’re going to Minturno.

“You can’t go there. I am the mayor of Minturno.”

He isn’t serious. But he says that the town square is maybe not the perfect place to spend the night. He’ll see what he can do.

Gaeta

Immediately upon our arrival in the pouring rain we had access to a former school building, and within half an hour a representative of the police brought dinner for forty. First dish, second dish, side dish, dessert and hot tea.

It makes me think, also with respect to the fire cracker episode of the night before, and the man with the Kalashnikov. Maybe they have nothing do with each other, and maybe it’s nothing more than wild speculation to think there is some kind of meaning behind it all. Or maybe not, there’s no way to know.

We are no threat to no-one for the moment. In the end, all we do is talk, talk, talk. But here in the South of Italy there exists something called omertà. It means you keep silent, whatever you see or hear. And in such a place, simply talking about certain things becomes a revolutionary act.

So first thing, we were warned. ‘This is our territory. Don’t think you can hold your assemblies and talk about us in public. You are under surveillance. But since you are here, and since we have a long tradition of hospitality towards foreigners, we will make sure that your stay will be as comfortable as possible.’

 

 

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