March to Athens
Day 79-V, Sermoneta. Rest.
Day 80-VI, from Sermoneta to Sezze, 14 km.
Sezze, January 26
We are following the old railroad line from Rome to Naples, on the border of the Lepine hills and the former Pontine swamp. Left of us, one after another, you can see the villages high up on the rocks, like balconies. Norma, Sermoneta, Sezze…
Yesterday we spent all day in a tiny fraction of Sermoneta at the foot of the hill, trying to find out why on earth we are marching, and when we plan to arrive.
It’s still too early for me to give a clear picture of this march, but I have the idea that the concept of marching is either evolving or degenerating, depending on your point of view.
The popular marches to Madrid were clearly political. People went from village to village, organising assemblies, engaging in actions and bringing the problems and complaints of the people to the capital.
The March on Brussels had a similar scope, but the distance and the different situation of the lands we crossed turned it into something which was political on the one hand, and existentialist on the other. For many reasons, and most of the time, it was chaos. And in retrospect there were only two things that kept the march going. The dates. We had to be in Paris on the 17th of September, and we had to be in Brussels on the 8th of October, even though it meant that we had to do over thirty kilometres a day. And we made it.
The March to Athens doesn’t have any dates to respect, and many people want to keep it that way. In yesterday’s assembly, people were asked to talk about their personal motives for marching, and the amount of kilometres they want to walk every day. It turns out that the majority isn’t really interested in marching at all. They want to do only a handful of kilometres, take lots of days off, and stretch the whole thing as far as possible, arriving in May or June, or whenever.
For them the march is mainly an existentialist experience, a way of life, and if there is any political meaning to it, it’s the greater good of love, peace and harmony. They were a bit dissapointed when it turned out we are only 800 kilometres from Athens, a distance that can be covered in a month. Even if we do only ten kilometres a day we will arrive in Athens in April.
Roughly the group consists of one third of Frenchmen, one third of Spaniards, one sixth of Italians, two Finns, two Poles, a Greekwoman, a Dutchman and a Belgian. We also have one handicapped person in a wheelchair who lets himself be pushed. In total about forty persons, enough for the group to split into subgroups with their own internal dynamics and external frictions.
To be perfectly honest, I have my doubts about people’s motivations. Especially about the ‘way of life’ marchers. They intend to show that it’s possible to live together in a different way. But as long as we, marchers, don’t go hunting and gathering in nature, or settle down to work the land, we are as dependent from the system as anybody else.