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Africa

In Italy, 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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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

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