Carnival of the SystemPosted: January 15, 2012
Rome, January 15
The tourists in Rome don’t get to see a swinging fancy dress party very often. But today, for once, they turned away their camera’s from the landmarks and pointed them at us.
We took the streets with joy. We had a drumband, and we had people dancing all the way from San Giovanni in Laterano to Piazza del Popolo.
This was our carnival. We made fun of the banks and the financial system, and we transmitted energy. Positive energy. We held up traffic, but no-one honked to blame us. On the contrary. Some people got out of their car and started dancing with us.
We were not a big crowd, about two hundred people, mainly the indignados from the acampada, but at least we interrupted business as usual for a day. And it changed the city.
I might not be really fond of contemporary Rome, like I said, but Rome without traffic is absolutely fabulous. We brought it about, and even though our demonstration was technically illegal, the authorities let us have our way. Police were very cooperative and discreet. We were escorted by only a handful of civilian officers. There was always back-up nearby, but never visible.
Only at the colosseum we witnessed an almost surreal scene. A couple of our clowns climbed over the fences to create some chaos among the bewildered tourists. They were already on their way out when a platoon of riot police appeared inside the colosseum, behind bars. As if they expected that we were going to storm the place.
It was hilarious. We had a laugh and danced on to Piazza Venezia. The square is named after the Palazzo Venezia, the former embassy of the Republic of Venice. In 1940, Mussolini appeared on the balcony to announce that war had been declared on England and France. The square was packed and people went crazy with enthusiasm. Today, our indignant pope stepped forward in the middle of the square to unite the characters of Merkel and Sarkozy in holy matrimony. The ring was provided by the European Central Bank. Mario Monti acted as a witness.
After the cerimony we took the Via del Corso. The beat of the drums echoed between the houses. And me, I could discern a little historical echo as well. Because once upon a time, the Roman populace celebrated carnival in grand style. Part of the festivities consisted in a horse race through the Via del Corso. It was famously described by Goethe in his Italian Journey, but over time the tradition was lost. Only now, generations later, the indignados have brought a bit of the spirit of carnival back to Rome.
Near Piazza Colonna, we are blocked by police. This is the red zone near parliament. We don’t make any problems of it. Police have been generous all week. They never made trouble, so we don’t have any reason to do so either. We take another street, and end up in Piazza di Spagna, once again to the enjoyment of the tourists who are sitting on the steps.
The carnival ends a little further up at Piazza del Popolo, where the march had entered the city a week before. We hold a symbolic assembly, then it gets dark and cold, and people go back to San Giovanni for the afterparty. Live jamming in the square.