March to Athens
Day 90-XVI, from Mondragone to Castelvolturno, 13 km.
Castelvolturno, February 5
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.
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 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.
“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.