Five Star Movement

In Italy, March to Athens on 30 January 2012 at 18:36
March to Athens
Day 84-X, from Terracina to Sperlonga, 15 km.

Public assembly in Terracina

Internal assembly in Terracina

Sperlonga, January 30

Dear people,

This morning the mayor offered breakfast to all of us in the bar of the cathedral square. It was the perfect closure of our two day stay in Terracina.

Yesterday we held another popular assembly, something which the marchers hardly ever did before arriving in Rome. In this sense, the march is gaining more political meaning. Two of the locals who attended were activists of the ‘Five Star Movement’, which bears a lot of similarity with the movement of the indignados.

The Five Star Movement was inspired by Italian comedian Beppe Grillo, who has been mocking politics and politicians left and right for years in his live shows and on his daily blog. The way he exposes politicians and their petty corruption is hilareous, but for him it’s only a way to express his indignation, and that of many other people.

The cats of Terracina

He famously predicted the collapse of Parmalat, a couple of years ago. Before becoming a comedian he was an accountant, and as such he already knew that the company was going down. After it happened he received a visit by the Guardia di Finanza. They wanted to know how he knew.

“Simply by looking at the numbers.” Everybody who wanted to know, could see it coming. But obviously no-one wanted to know.

In between one joke and another, Grillo speaks of all the existing alternatives which could turn our society into a sustainable one. He presented a hydrogen-car in one of his shows, and he spoke about the cannabis car which was developed by Henry Ford in the 1930s. ‘Don’t you think it’s amazing? This car is completely sustainable. It’s made from cannabis, and it goes on cannabis oil. And when it’s broke, you don’t throw it away. You just smoke it!’

Results of internal assembly
Grillo and his ‘proto-indignados’ have organised various ‘V-day’s’ (Vaffanculo, or: Fuck off! days), directed against all politicians with a criminal record in public functions, and against Italian political culture in general. Two years ago he gave life to his own five star political movement.

The movement is locally based and horizontal. It connects people through the internet. The political program is created by the citizens, who bring in proposals and vote on it. The five stars represent transport, development, connectability, environment and publically owned water.

A handful of local councillor’s got elected in traditionally leftist cities like Bologna and Reggio Emilia. Their job is to promote the program that was decided on by the citizens. It’s a first attempt to turn popular indignation into e-democracy.

So this morning after breakfast we walk. When you leave the gates of Terracina, you can already see the houses of Sperlonga growing from the hills, fifteen kilometres down the coast. Most people take the road, I take a wonderful walk, all the way over the desolate beach.

The gate of Terracina

One of the ugliest aspects of Italian tourism is the privatisation of the beaches. In summertime, each of the beach resorts puts up colourful batallions of beach chairs which you are supposed to rent at crazy prices. The remaining public beaches are often small, dirty pieces of sand. So maybe this summer it would be a good idea to camp here, to make fire, and reclaim all of the beaches for the people…

The rock of Terracina


Sperlonga is the kind of town you see in the drawings of Maurits Cornelis Escher. White houses one on top of the other, stairs, balconies, gates and angles. And cats. This is the typical town for cats. We camp as always on the central square. The view is fabulous, but not everyone is able to enjoy it. Two of the marchers were shocked today when a car pulled up and someone stepped out wielding a Kalashnikov.

The Italians in our march try to give an explanation to what happened. “It was a warning. We left the territory of the fascists. Now we have entered the territory of the mafia.”

To be exact, this is territory of the camorra, the neapolitan mafia. But I don’t think we have anything to fear, as long as they don’t have anything to fear from us.

My tent in Sperlonga


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