So tsar Vladimir spoke..

vladimir-putin-patriarch-kirill-2012-4-6-12-11-3It’s around 8.20 here in Italy and, as every evening , I’m watching the news on tv (once a day a lash of optimism is something everybody would need).

Suddenly, in an ocean of war tragedies, political scandals, economical crises, environmental catastrophes, criminal attitudes and various humanity gossips, a fresh stream of pleasure hits my tired nerves: someone in this world finally praised Italy for something: “great, quite out of normality”, I think, curious to understand what present days Italy could be praised for.

Then, the sudden disillusion: the political leader praising Italy is actually the least  person in the world I’d like to be praised by: tsar Vladimir Putin of Russia. I don’t know why but if I have to think about all I hate about politics I can’t help thinking about this para-dictatorial, cold blooded Russian pseudo-superman managing to mix all the despotism of former USSR with all the slimy hypocrisy and lack of respect for the human dignity of rampant capitalism…

Immediately after this, the disillusion becomes disgust and shame when I get to know the core of his praise to Italy: “Russia won’t allow foreign adoption of Russian orphans by couples from USA or European States, but for the ones from Italy as Italy is one of the few remaining European nations in which homosexual marriages are illegal”. Great: to see my adoptive state praised to be primitive and tyrannized by a vetero-clerical oriented political vision and to be praised by the most narrow-minded male chauvinist dictator in Europe was all  could expect from life…

Ok. I admit there was nothing to be surprised about. In the end we are speaking about a former “spetsnatz”  (any memory of Beslan, when the Russian spetsnatz attacked the terrorists totally unconcerned by the presence of hundreds of young hostages on the fire line?). We are speaking about the person managing to become the puppeteer  of the new oligarchy led, tycoon enslaved, mafia pervaded, glamour shining Russia, whose capital , Moscow, has become the new “never sleeping city” with hundreds of clubs, while millions of Russians in the town suburbs have become the  almost “never eating people”. We are speaking  about the “strong man” hypnotizing the Russian electorate, leading the opinions of a slice of the world in an interested pseudo-pacifism that has forced, in occasion of the Syrian crisis, many pacifists to close their eyes and side him, the “strong man” not suffering any dissent from his line (any memory of  Lebedev, Litvinenko, Politkovskaja?). Finally, we are speaking about the man who, with an incredible poker face, a few days ago, in presenting  an icon to the pope, kissed the image of the Virgin after a large, blatant Orthodox sign of the cross (hey man, did you forget you were the director of FSB, the former KGB? Did you forget you worked for East Germany STASI for five years? Do you need to have a chat with some non-sold out clergymen to be reminded of the meaning to be a true Christian under your former lords?).

Here we come to the point.  What does Vladimir Putin pretend to be now in front of the Russian electorate? He shows to be the man restoring Russia to its previous power, defending Russian honour  and Russian heritage, including a Russian Orthodoxy he, former pioneer of the Soviet Communist Party, couldn’t care less about.

Unluckily, some elements of the Russian cultural heritage are deeply related to the most stubborn machism, unluckily to grow up in the army of a USSR in which homosexuality was seen as a “criminal deviation against the state” means something in the subconscious of a former KGB colonel, unluckily the Russian Orthodox Church, as many other Churches in the world, has never changed its vision about sexuality in last 1000 years.

The result of all these elements is in front of everybody.  Let’s forget about assertions like the one related to Mr. Berlusconi’s impeachment  in a judgment for pimping (“If he had been a gay they wouldn’t have accused him”): the two are close friends and many people understand why. Let’s forget about the clear violations of the rights of gays in Russia and the police abuses in occasion of some gay prides: well, unfortunately many people go on acclaiming such things as “acts of morality” all over the world. What shocks the most is the attempt to give to this total lack of mental openness a sort of legal status, with the new, just passed Russian law banning “dissemination among minors of information promoting the attractiveness of nontraditional sexual relationships and providing a distorted notion of social equivalence of traditional and nontraditional sexual relationships.”

What does this new pillar of Tsar Vladimir’s thought (let’s not forget that the main author of the bill, Alexei Zhuravlev, is a member of Putin’s ruling party in the State Duma), mean? It basically means that you cannot publicly say anything positive about being gay or tell a child that there is nothing wrong with being gay or being raised by gay parents! The aim of the law, according to the Russian government spokesman is “to protect children from psychological trauma” and pertains to “those parents who do not conceal their same-sex sexual relationships” but  the message sent to LGBT people is clearly “If you don’t want your kids taken away from, you you’d better keep your mouth shut”. Particularly ironic (if not tragic) is that just days later, in his much discussed New York Times interview, Putin urged the Americans not to forget that “God created us all equal”…

God… What a strange world on Putin’s lips… But, perhaps, this insisting of the tsar on religious matters gives reason of the further turn of the screw ,in an already homophobic environment, against the LGBT rights in Russia (with Putin closer and closer alliance with the Orthodox Church) and of the linkage between the Russian situation and the Italian one: in both countries the weight of diktats from the “national” Church (Orthodox, as said, in one case, Catholic in the other) is heavy in politics, so heavy to allow, in a favourable social environment, resistances and preclusions to any opening towards a natural recognition of homosexuality as a normal sexual orientation not liable of any moral judgment.

To try to discuss the reasons of the ecclesiastical position (at least of the position of many ecclesiastical realities) about homosexuality would be really too long here. Only by the way and parenthetically I’d just like to mention the confutation of four very common misinterpretations:

1) the idea that the Bible defines homosexuality an “abomination”. Well, for the ones knowing some Latin (like the majority of Church people should), I’d like to  remind them that “AB OMEN” means just “not desirable” (which was perfectly understandable in a nomadic society of 4000 years ago, in which the idea of procreation was so strong to be defined a “will of God”, as obviously necessary in an environment in which, for a tribe, number meant power) and not a sort of “monstrous behaviour” as later intended by Middle Ages commentators;

2) the often quoted destruction of Sodom doesn’t take place, according to the majority of modern exegetes, because of the “sin” which later took its name from the city but for the lack of hospitality and charity of the Sodomites;

3) clear episodes of homosexuality are present also among some of the most notable and loved Biblical characters (think about King David and Jonathan, but it’s not the only case) and this is not, in any case, reason for their condemnation;

4) in the New Testament, only Paul condemns homosexuality (well, a condemnation by Paul about anything related to sexuality is nothing shocking, coming from a clearly sex-phobic writer) but not a single word of condemnation is ever pronounced by Jesus.

Moreover, the most important point, the one many Churches will never agree with, is that the Bible is not a sort of transcription of a dictation  by God himself (sorry for the “literalists”, but, in any case, over 300 major variations in the codes would make what we read today very far from any possible dictated text), but just the report of a religious experience lived by people influenced by their cultural environment, a cultural environment which has changed in time.

Anyway, whatever one could say or write, the idea of a moral repugnance of God towards homosexuality (why should God feel repugnance of a orientation which He gave to so many people?) will persist in many Churches, as well as the idea of un-natural behaviour of the homosexuals (it doesn’t matter if homosexuality can be constantly found in nature… well in this case you can always say it is a beasty behaviour… the roads of stupidity and narrow-mind thinking are so many and so creative… ), as well as the conception of homosexuality  as a vice which can easily be spread to young generations (who cares if almost all scientists agree that one’s sexual orientation is totally independent from the orientation of the parents? Who cares if you make people notice that generally speaking homosexuals are sons of heterosexual couples  and all the sons of homosexual couples result being heterosexuals?)…

So, for people like tsar Vladimir, it will always be easy to politically speculate  on the bases of a well-rooted persuasion (well, just if we don’t want to think that under such an inveterate hatred there could be, as often, unconfessable personal fears and instincts by Putin himself …) , so states like Russia and Italy will be able to go on thinking that an homosexual marriage is unthinkable, that homosexuals should live in total chastity, that God would be offended by people of the same sex simply loving each other and will go on creating an incredibly unfair categorization of their citizens in A citizens and B citizens with less rights than the others…

Honestly, Mr. Putin (I know you’ll never read what I write but… just in case…), it is already horrible enough that you think that for a Russian orphan your lager-style orphanages could be better than a loving and caring adoptive family of any possible orientation, but please, I beg, you, next time you want to praise Italy for something, in particular for its shamefully backward legislation, avoid doing it: any praise by a person like you sounds like an insult for all the Italians dreaming to live in a free, modern country.

Sardinia and the “will of God”

sardiniaWhich are the first images coming to your mind if I mention “Sardinia”? Probably you immediately think about the sandy beaches of the Emerald Coast, the yachts anchored in the harbor of Porto Cervo and the  rich show-offers spending their summer nights (and tons of their money) in Flavio Briatore’s “Billionaire Club”. Well you are right: Sardinia is also all these things and, actually, this is for sure the image the Italian tourist offices want to give about the island.

The problem stands in that word: “also”. What touristic brochures tend to hide is the other aspect of Sardinia, the dark one, so deeply in contrast with the glamorous vision of Emerald Coast luxurious life.

Forget for a moment about the small strip of the North-Eastern Sardinian Coast you already know (perhaps you were so lucky to spend a holiday there or, at least, you saw it through the many V.I.P. people’s photos on the pages of all gossip illustrated magazines of the world). What is, then, Sardinia? Or, better, what are, then, the 7/8 of the island?

Well, let me tell you that Sardinia is not only a sort of ethnical anomaly in Italy, inhabited by a proud, strong, hard working population of autochthonous origin (though the thing is very discussed) you can easily recognize even in the complex picture of Italian ethnical groups, with the only Italian dialect internationally considered as a language on its own, with such a peculiar moral code to result almost incomprehensible even for the “Continentals” (as they call all other Italians).

Again, Sardinia  is also this. But what is most important for the life of the Sardinians is that Sardinia, the real Sardinia, is one of the poorest areas of Italy, according to some statistics the second poorest region of the Republic. According to ISTAT (the Italian government’s statistics agency), in the first quarter of 2013, Sardinia reported 452,000 inactive people, 3,200 companies bankrupted in the past five years, and 928 companies bankrupted just in 2012: quite shocking data if you keep into account that the whole island has some 1.6 million inhabitants (but is getting more and more depopulated for the constant migration of Sardinians looking for a job abroad or in other regions).

In the past, the zinc mines used to be a great source of income and granite was also exported all over the world, cool was extracted in Sulcis area and there were also projects for plants for the extraction of hydrocarbons. In the past: now the mines, all owned by non-Sardinians, are closed, now the flourishing secular handicraft industry is languishing and only last year around 3000 craftsmen lost their job, now even the promising IT industry established by a local entrepreneur near Cagliari is living the effects of the crisis and of the international concurrency. Now 3 Sardinians out of 20 have no job; now 1 young Sardinian out of 4 can’t find a job. The reasons are many: the Island has been exploited by many non-local enterpreneurs later finding more lucrative to move their business in other European areas, there are objective high costs of handling goods (the costs to carry products from and to Sardinia are twice the ones in Italy and three times more than in Europe), the orography of the place makes it difficult to create plants, etc.

And so? So Sardinia is now living mainly on tourism (but, pay attention, just a few touristic structures are owned by Sardinians) on its beautiful coast and on the traditional sources of income, agriculture and sheep-breeding, in less famous areas.

It is in this frame that the cyclone “Cleopatra” hit the island. Probably some missed the piece of news as, in the end, what happened is just a sort of “miniature” of the Philippine tragedy. In brief: an incredible amount of rain devastated the North of Sardinia, many rivers overflew,  the area around the city of Olbia was the worst-hit (in some places the water was up to 3m -10ft- deep), at least 19 people, including four children, have been killed and a number of people are still reported missing after rivers burst their banks, cars were swept away and bridges collapsed, hundreds of people have been moved from their homes and hundreds of farms have been destroyed, while the sheep farmers have lost thousands of animals.

A couple of days ago, watching the images of the devastation in his land on tv, a Sardinian friend of mine was crying and asked me a question which heavily touched me: “Why is God doing this to us? Sardinia is already so poor! Does He hate us?

How many people thought the same thing? How many people thought the same thing in so many other similar occasions?

Well, I have just one answer to my friend and to all the others asking this question: God has nothing to do with all this, human beings have!

Is Sardinia a poor island? No! It is virtually an incredibly rich, beautiful island, part of an incredibly rich, beautiful world, able to give food and life to everybody, to grant work, wellness and wealth to everybody. It is… or, better, it could have been, probably it could still be…

In Genesis 1, at the end of practically every creative act by God, we read “And God saw that it was good”. Could anybody, having the luck to observe a pristine, untouched natural spot and the perfect mechanism ruling it, deny the truth of these words? I don’t think so.  Then, going on reading we find, after the creation of the human genre: “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth”. Here we come to the main point. God gave us this world as a gift, He trusted in us, he allowed us to subdue nature… But he also ordered to us to be fruitful! Shall we refer that adjective only to the idea we must multiply? I would say this would be limiting: He pronounces this command in the moment in which He gives His gift to humanity! Be fruitful! It’s like if He was saying: “Look, this is all yours, I give it to you to administer, do the best you can to get fruit from this enormous treasure I fully commend to you all!

The result? Well, I suppose I don’t need to say anything, but, anyway, I will say something, just three things directly related to what happened in Sardinia.

1)      why is Sardinia becoming so poor and is so hit by the crisis? Because unscrupulous entrepreneurs and corporations from everywhere have decided to take advantage of the island and of its people until the thing was helpful and profitable (thanks to the State helps to the Island entrepreneurship), then to throw Sardinia to the winds when profits have diminished, without thinking about the fact that they were putting  thousands of people out on the street;

2)      why is the number of environmental disaster increasing year after year (actually some sources report an increase by 1000% in last 45 years) all over the world, Mediterranean Sea included? Should I need to say? Do terms like “hole in the ozone belt”, “global warming”, “melting of glaciers” or “air pollution” sound familiar to you? Just to mention, a few days ago the Warsaw Worlds Conference about Environment resulted in a total failure: too many countries were refusing to control emissions, to accept environment-friendly protocols, etc. Probably the politicians of this countries and the members of the lobbies controlling them feel safe enough not to care about the tragedies, the destructions, the dead their behavior is provoking: they are not the ones dying, they are not the ones losing everything… Just poor, common people are…;

3)      how could it happen that an announced typhoon could provoke 19 (an possibly more) dead in Sardinia? Go and ask to the construction companies that have built residential condos on the banks of notoriously dangerous rivers. Go and ask to the subcontractors that pushed up the cost of construction of dams till the point to force the stop work as funds were exhausted. Go and ask to the firms that built roads and bridges with sand and third choice materials to increase their profits. Go and ask to the local and national politicians who approved continuous building amnesties only to save their  luxury villas from demolition and to be able to raise new funds for their campaigns…

Be fruitful” meant something different from “be fruitful for yourself and your lobby filling your safes”: the world was a gift from God to all of us, not just to a selected bunch of crafty bastards!

So, don’t put the blame on God for what is happening: God gave the gift to us, human greed is destroying it and probably a few things are as far as greed from God and His plans if we read; “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon”.

And let me tell you that watching the images of the Sardinian disaster and of many other disasters before it, day after day I understand more the sentence: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God”, but, in the meanwhile, people go on dying…

No more black shoes

2013-10-07T082751Z_1_AMIE9960NIK00_RTROPTP_2_OITTP-LAMPEDUSA-VITTIME (2)And, in the end, here we are again, to speak about people dying at sea while hoping  to reach Europe.

Less than one week ago I wrote about the carnage of Scicli: not even in my worst nightmares I would have thought to have the need to report another massacre just a few days later, a massacre 30 times bigger, with some allegedly 300 people drowned in front of Lampedusa.

In front of such a tragedy my temptation would be to remain in silence: no words can express the grief for such a number of men, women, children dying while they were looking for a better life, far from the poverty and the daily violence of their countries.

But I can’t. There is an image, among the many incredible images we have seen on tv, which is still stuck to my mind: not the bodies, not the desperation of the rescuers, not the shock of the few saved ones, but a pair of shoes. Yes, just a pair of black new shoes near the body of a child. It could seem strange but it has been this image to move me to tears and the reason is that those shoes made me understand how much hope got lost in the shipwreck of Lampedusa: I can imagine a mother in Somaliland, in the poorest country of Africa, going to buy a pair of new shoes for her child just before leaving … I can imagine a mother dreaming of a new life for her child and buying what she could barely afford to prepare him to a “new world” they never reached.

And it’s in front of those shoes and of what they represent that, as a man, as a Christian, as a Minister, I can’t remain in silence, even if I know my voice counts for nothing, even if I am unfortunately sure this is not going to be the last tragedy of this kind we will see.

They won’t stop coming and this is a matter of fact, a sort of physical effect, a terrible living proof of the theory of the communicating vessels: they are many with nothing, we are less and less with much and no law, no advice, no warning or intimidation will ever have an effect on them, simply as they very often have nothing to lose, simply as “hope” is really the last thing you can steal from a human being.

So what can we do?

Our politicians discuss and discuss about new laws to halt immigrants, about other hindrances to prevent other landings and the result is nothing or, better, the result is simply to make all of us (not only Italians, I mean Europeans) in a way accomplices of a crime.

A couple of examples could clarify the concept.

1) in Italy we have a quite clear migration law, created a few years ago, saying that you can obtain a visa to come and live here only if you already have a work contract signed by an Italian firm before coming. I don’t want to discuss the law in itself (though I am still trying to understand how could a worker find from Africa or South America find a job here before coming) but perhaps not everybody know about a small clause of this law saying that if you facilitate illegal migration in any form you are prosecutable as accessory after a crime, which means that you can be put in prison for helping an illegal immigrant in any form. One could think this is a clause against the slave merchants illegally carrying people towards Italian shores, but those two words “any form” mean much more: in example they mean that the fishing boats of the rescuers of Lampedusa are now under requisition and, theoretically, the fishermen could even be put in jail. Almost surely they won’t be arrested but now they can’t work till the dissequester of their boats and there have been many reports of some ships (fortunately a minority as thanking God for many people the human instinct is stronger than the law of profit) not stopping to save the shipwrecked of Lampedusa not to risk problems.

2) The European Community government is a quite intrusive organism when a member state shows economic problems (a 0,1% of inflation more than a certain limit looks like being enough for a hard fine or a direct intervention of the Community) or when it’s time to rule the production of this or that product but when things come to migration and to all the problems related to it, well, everything is different and these are considered “local problems” of the Mediterranean countries facing the African coasts: no help is given in patrolling the sea, no help is given in rescuing adrift ships, no help is given in managing the refugee centres. The only European intervention is to blame when a state like Italy, with almost 7500 km of coasts, doesn’t manage to control all the landings, to help all the broken down boats of the traffickers or to give adequate help to all the people in the refugee structures. It’s all about business, it’s all about money, as usual: human life, human dignity is always a secondary aspect and, sorry, this stinks to me too much of the Levite who doesn’t care about the man helped by the Samaritan in Luke 10 to be acceptable, to appear even at large moral and human.

If I really had to say what I think, I would say that the whole problem stands in the existence of concepts like “state borders” and “national territories”, entities born from greed, selfishness and fear and, in my opinion, sounding incredibly in contrast with a concept of human brotherhood under the same Father as, in example, expressed without any specification and limitation, in Genesis 1: ” And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness “, I would say that if before (or instead of) thinking about ourselves as Italians, Brits, Americans, Indians, Arabs, Kenyans of whatever else we would think about ourselves simply as human beings, sons of the same Father (and, at least in this case, His name doesn’t look like being so meaningful), with the same problems, with the same desires, with the same dreams, with the same Earth to share, we would probably erase 80% of the problems of the Humanity. Yes, I would say this because this is exactly what I think and what I believe in but I know this would look too naive even for a  utopian like me.

So I just want to ask a couple of questions (let’s say to myself).

a) How many people state to be Christian in Europe (I’m saying Christian but I know I could as well mention other religions sharing similar values)? According to statistics (2010) in Europe there are about 520.000.000 of Christians (at least nominally). Well, how can they cope with the thousands of dead due to migration, do nothing and go on considering themselves Christians? Didn’t they read the Gospel? Didn’t they read the “Holy father”? Didn’t they read in the Bible? Couldn’t they understand “Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10:19)? Don’t they understand that, pretending not to see means to be co-guilty of the worst theft possible, the theft of the hope of a human being (if not homicide)? Or are our fear and selfishness so strong to cancel also our faith, to turn us into a big bunch of hypocrites?

b) Ok, let’s forget about Christians: in the end we are living in a secularized society and, in Europe, Christians are less and less. Let’s just turn to rationality. So, we are preparing harder laws as we are afraid of the foreigners, of the immigrants. Why? I am thinking about the common answers: they steal our jobs, they can’t find a work so they become criminals, they take our resources…

Rubbish, just rubbish!

Let’s try to see the thing from a different point or view, having a look to statistics. We can discover that:

1) when are immigrants stealing our jobs? In two cases: if they are more skilled than us or if they ask less money than us. If they are more skilled, they would “steal” our jobs anyway as we are living in a global market but when do they ask less money than us? When they can’t ask the same salaries we ask and this happens much more when we deal with illegal immigrants who are forced to hide;

2) what are the immigrants looking for? They are looking for a better life and, to have it, they are looking for a job: if, after migrating, they can’t find it in a place where there is no job they move to another place where they can find it (it’s not a case that, in last months, the number of immigrants settling in Italy is decreasing and decreasing): only a minority of them is formed by criminals who were already criminals in their countries (and, actually, they are anyway the ones with less problems in coming and, looking for more “profits” they would move in any case and with any kind of law trying to stop them) or by people moved towards criminality by their illegal status with no visa;

3) to cope with illegal immigration and these landings is taking many more resources than a job market open to everybody, with a free movement of workers.

So, in my opinion, finally only the fear for “diversity” justifies repressive laws about migration, a fear which is just a tribal, ignorant heritage, a fear which goes against any sense of humanity, any sense of spirituality.

So, once again I will pray as I can do nothing else: I will pray not to see interest and fear win again and again on humanity and faith, I will pray not to hear about other proposals to put new harder barriers to migration as they will only provoke new tragedies, I will pray that our political leaders, all over Europe, could understand that new inclusive perspectives are probably more productive than the old exclusive ones and surely are more worthy of human beings.

I will pray to see no other black new child shoes aside a body lying on the sand. No more. Never more.

Praising Italy for its position about Syria

A-Sad-view-Syrian-Civil-War-e1351269157746In some occasions in the past I’ve blamed the Italian political system for the many flaws affecting its life but this time I am very happy to praise the Italian position about the Syrian problem: when France, UK and even USA looked like being ready for a direct military intervention in the civil war plaguing that country, Italy tried to cool tempers and to suggest a line of moderation and of possible intervention only under the auspices of the United Nations and this was, in my opinion, absolutely right for at least three main reasons.

First of all, I suppose many of us will agree about the fact that war is never an answer to any international problem and much more in this case. I’d like to try to explain this in very plain terms. It’s obvious that the whole civil world condemns the use of nervine gas by Assad, in general terms and against civilians in particular: it’s a cruel, savage act provoked only by the terror of the president/dictator to loose the power inherited by his father Hafez who, in turn, was for sure not famous for his democratic and peaceful methods of government. This is a point and it is surely undeniable that Bashar Al-Assad deserves the hardest judgment and punishment for his war crimes. Yes, but we are speaking about a judgment and punishment by an international court of justice, not by a bunch of states charged by none to rise to the role of policemen of the world and violently intervening in a country with their supposedly (while the experiences of the past proved the opposite) “intelligent” bombings, only causing other carnages among the population. What would this solve? Would this take peace to the Middle Eastern area? Or, rather, would it increase the spiral of violence shaking those lands? If I had to bet, I would bet on the second result.

And here we come to the second point for which, in my opinion, any military intervention in Syria would be absolutely crazy. I spent quite a long time of my life studying the Arab countries and writing about them and one of the key elements I understood is that the Arab concept of government is really different from ours and this not surprisingly in the light of the different history they had. Democracy, the way we mean it, is a Western concept elaborated by the Western states heir of the French revolution and of a process leading to that elaboration. The Arab mentality, on the contrary, is a product of the Caliphate and of its history: the history of a man invested of a sort of divine power to lead a nation. What is questionable, in this picture, is the investiture of this or that man by the divine power, not the process itself. This is a fundamental concept to absorb if we really want to understand all the movements of the so-called “Arab spring”: the whole history of the Arab world is an history of fighting and wars to affirm the divine investiture of this or that candidate and all the events taking place in the Middle-East in these last years make no exception. Let’s have a look to what happened wherever the “Arab revolutions” took place. On one side you have a dictator, a new caliph almost fanatically beloved by a part of the population, normally promoting a supposed modernization of the state (let’s not forget that, after the end of the Caliphate, the feeling of backwardness in respect to the Western states is one of the most diffused feelings in the Arab world) but never clashing against a deeply religious mentality diffused among the population (think, in example, about what was written in the “Green Book” by Mu’ammar Al Qaddafi). On the other side you have Salafi or Wa’habi groups, which means groups inspired by the most traditional and conservative (and, according to many Islamic scholars, such as the ones of Al-Azhar, wrong) interpretation of Islam, subsidized or inspired by the ultra-dictatorial Saudi Arabian government and life-style, trying to impose a sort of coming back to the foundations of Islam and considering any modernization as the cause of the decadence of the Arab society. The entire game is played on this contraposition in which there is no room (but for some exceptions of minority groups) for Western style democracy: whoever writes and speaks about a “struggle for freedom and democracy” in the Arab fights simply cheats the audience. Can’t our democratic style of government (assuming that we are living in democracies and not in plutocracies) be exported to Arab countries? Of course yes: many of my Arab friends are the living proof that democracy, as any other concept in the world, can be exported everywhere! But, also given the not so sure fact that Arabs really would like to accept a Western concept, a Western life-style, etc. (would you accept to live with a different life-style coming from a different culture? Probably no and why should it be different for other cultures? Only as our mentality is, in our minds, better than theirs?), also given this, well, the exportation of an idea, of a mentality is very different from the imposition of an idea or of a mentality, more so if this imposition is carried on with “intelligent bombings”: Iraq and Afghanistan are a quite clear example in this sense.

And this is even more true, and we come to the third point, in the case of Arab countries. There is a concept, a typically Arab concept we must keep into account: the concept of “Ummah”. What is it? In itself, in Arabic, this word simply means “community” and it refers to all the Muslim people with a common ideology and culture. “Ummah” is also used in this sense by Allah in the Quran referring to Muslims and, finally, it denotes the unity of all people submitted to God all over the world. The obvious corollary of the concept is that, for the majority of the Arabs in the world, to attack a part of the “Ummah” means to attack the whole of the “Ummah”. And believe me: whichever side you decide to support, a military intervention in the “Dar al-Islam” (“Land of Islam”) by a non-Islamic state or groups of states, is, in the Arab vision, an attack to the “Ummah”, to its integrity, to its autonomy and independence, with all the domino consequences this can provoke. Therefore, if any intervention, always allowed by international organizations and Islamic organizations, should forcedly take place in Syria, the only way to carry it on is through other Arab states, not surely by French, British or American troops and bombs. I’m glad that it appears that, under political pressure by other states (Italy included) these countries (France, UK, USA) are, perhaps, backtracking from a resolution whose consequences could be unimaginable and, in any case, negative for the World peace and for the life of the common people of the involved areas but what I really can’t understand is how these governments, with all their political analysts, can’t see such evident things like the ones I mentioned. Honestly I can’t help thinking that some economic interests beyond the “call to principles” stand behind the risk of a new contraposition between Western countries and Arab world (Bush and the Iraqi oil-pipes could teach something to us) but I really pray with all my strength that, at least just for once,  economic interests may give way to common sense and humanity… at least just for once…

 

Cultural integration models

ENG_Immigrant_flees_267234aI’m just back from a short holiday in Provence, in the South of France, and today I’d like to speak about a subject I am very interested in: integration.
I was in a little town called La Ciotat: it is a nice mainly tourist area with an important shipyard but the element that interested me the most was the composition of its population, formed by some 30.000 people or something around that number. What was amazing to me, considering the small dimensions of the place, was the number of Italian surnames (heritage of a mass migration from Southern Italy some fifty years ago) and of Northern and Western Africans I could see: I would say more or less half of the population had no French origin in that town. And what was great was the perfect integration I noticed! People of different origin lived together, worked together, played together, stayed together in pubs and… got married: probably I have never seen so many mixed couples and so many children with clear ethincally mixed characteristics in a single place in my life, perhaps not even in London.
I couldn’t help comparing this situation with the one I saw many times in some other places all around the world, especially here in Italy and, in particular, in some villages of the South of this country.
Migration in Italy, from Africa, South America and Far East is a growing and growing phenomenon and, but for all the problems and political discussions related to the so-called “illegal migration”, here too you can easily find large slices of people of different ethnicity sharing the same areas. The point stands in the meaning we give to the term “sharing”: in La Ciotat sharing meant full co-living, while here, with just few exceptions, it means, in the best case, to divide the places into separate areas were each group lives its own separate life. In the best case, obviously, because in the worst cases it means exploitation, segregation, ghettos, even conflict.
A few years ago I went on holiday in a little village in the South of Italy and I was horrified by what I saw. Exactly like La Ciotat, it was a mainly tourist village with wonderful beaches, a clean sea, nice hotels and pubs. The ones not engaged in tourism worked in agricultural productions, mainly of tomatoes, olives and oranges. The presence of Africans was quite massive but, simply, they were “the others”: they lived in slums built with sheets and row brick at the outskirts of the village, they didn’t mix with the local population (or, actually more correctly, the local population didn’t mix with them), they didn’t go to pubs, they were like ghosts. But this was not the worst part of the story. Every morning these people woke up at 4 o’clock in the morning, went to the main square of the village and waited: in time some local people with old lorries, the so-called “corporals” (some say linked to criminal organizations), arrived, chose the strongest among them and took them to work in the fields of the landlords, where the immigrants had to work for 10-12 hours under the sun being paid something like 3-4 euros per hour. This meant to spend a whole working day to get, in the best option, 40 euros but each of them had to give 5 euros to the corporal who had choosen him (5 euros just for being carried to the fields with the lorries!) and other 5 euros per day to rent the hut in which, in many cases, 10 or more of them lived in a room which would have been small for 3 people. The final result was to live and work in terrible conditions, with impossible time-tables, for something around 700 euros per month (and, I repeat, we are speaking about the best cases). This situation, to me has got only one name: slavery! When asked about this incredible situation (honestly reminding me of some old pictures of the slave market of Zanzibar in the XIX century), the locals answered the it was the only way to manage things as the earnings of agriculture were too low to give better salaries and better accomodations to the foreign workers. As far as I know, anyway, the situation is the same in many areas and in meny working sectors, in example in house construction, with Northern African, Romanian and Albanian unskilled workers hired with the same method.
So I really can’t help comparing this reality with the one I saw in La Ciotat and asking to myself the reasons of the enormously different approach to the phenomenon of migration.
I don’t think I have got a real answer. I couldn’t say Italians are more or less racist than French people: I suppose racists and non-racists are present everywhere and both the heavy engagement of Italy in the rescue of boat-people in The Mediterranean Sea on one side and the situation of some banlieu I visited near Paris on the other side tell me that any distinction of this kind would be really unfair.
In the same way, the distinction between an old tradition of migration to France and a relatively new tradition of migration to Italy, though probably having a certain weight, looks to me like being largely pretentious: given that the phenomenon of mass immigration towards Italy started at the beginning of the 90s, one could guess that in a quarter of a century, with a whole generation of sons of immigrants born in Italy and raised in an Italian cultural environment, the situation could, at least, start to settle down.
Finally, even the political attitude towards the phenomen doesn’t seem to be so radically different in the two countries: in both of them there are very inclusive parties as well as xenophobic movements and groups and a comparison between the migration laws of France and Italy doesn’t seem to show a stronger level of closure of the Italian regulation in respect to the French ones (on the contrary, French laws look like being more restrictive than the Italian ones).
So, where does this difference come from?
I would guess the root of the problem lays in a sort of cultural model with historic reasons: though both areas (the Provence and the South of Italy) had a rather similar history of contacts with foreign cultures and, partly, of invasions, it looks like the Provencals reacted to the situation developing a quite integrational attitude, while the people of the South of Italy, in the majority of cases, developed a wary attitude towards any external contact.
What is, anyway, clear observing the two realities is that the “Provencal model” (not so dissimilar to other models, like, in example, the Portuguese one and some others), based, at least apparently, on the idea of a common ground of all human beings allowing a peaceful integration in the respect of the cultural differences, works much better, at least in terms of social environment, than the Southern Italian model based on the stressing of the importance of differences and on cultural separation if it’s true that in Provence one never gets the impression of social ethnical conflictuality which is often present in many Southern Italian villages (and which, in some occasions, has given rise to violent reactions).
Well, isn’t it the same in any field of life?

To beg for pardon

Minister KyengePerhaps it was the reason for which I decided to open this blog, or perhaps just the last drop…

But let’s start from the very beginning. As many know, in this moment Italy has a coalition government formed by members of the moderate leftist party PD and of the moderate rightist party PDL. The PD party chose to have as minister for the integration of foreigners a medical doctor of Congolese origins (but, obviously, naturalized Italian). Up to here nothing strange in a society which is becoming multi-ethnic. The problem is that we also have a sort of separatist party of the North of Italy, called Lega Nord, which has always been against the migration. Here is were troubles start. Two days ago, during a meeting of his party, the vice-president of the Italian Senate, one of the leaders of Lega, decided to compare the minister to an orango and to say she could have been a good minister, but in Congo. The reactions by all the members of the other parties have been immediate, asking to the vice-president to resign, he has begged for pardon to the minister and the members of his party go on saying that as he did so, he doesn’t need to resign.

This made me think about the meaning of pardon. Is to beg for pardon enough to erase the offence of such a racist statement?

It’s difficult to give an answer. We are said we should pardon 70 times 7 but pardon doesn’t always mean restoration. There is an old theological debate about Job: he is deprived by God of his wife and sons, then he is given a new family back… but what about the old family? Is a new family a total compensation for the loss of the previous one?

I suppose, once the action is done, the only possibility is just to beg for pardon but, even thinking this begging for pardon is sincere (and I think none could ever think it is in this case), the fact remains and, mainly, the mentality that brought to the statement of the vice-president goes on being his own mentality: clearly he thinks that an Afro-origined person is like an animal, that she, being born in another country, can’t be a minister in the country she chose to live in, although she got the nationality.

Once I was said people having nothing become much more territorial, thinking the territory is their only possession. This is understandable. But it’s peculiar that the majority of the members of Lega Nord are middle-class people, that the vice-president, he himself a medical doctor, for sure can’t be consider a representor of the sub-proletarians.

So, which is the element moving to such a Middle Ages mentality? Which is the reason to create such absurd walls like the ones linked to the colour of the skin or to the birth place in the mind of a supposedly acculturated man? What are you lacking mr. vice-president? What are you afraid of? Walls are products of fear: what is making you and your mates so fearful to reach the point to deny humanity to another human being?

The real point is one: as a politician you can represent people like you and with your same ideas. No problem. But, as the vice-president of the Italian senate, you are not representing only them. So, do what you want with your charge, but you should beg for pardon not only to the minister but also to all the Italians (and I’m sure they are the majority) not being so afraid to think that any human being is a human being with a dignity, before any other consideration, if any other consideration could ever apply.

It’s just an opinion.