Internal Dynamics

March to Athens
Day 114-XL, Potenza

Popular assembly in Potenza

Potenza, February 29

 

Dear people,

 

Our group is growing stronger. We have been joined by another Neapolitan, we have almost reached the mountain top, and we are seriously starting to focus on Greece.

Things got a lot more relaxed ever since comrade Marianne left. In the end there was complete incommunicability between her and many of the French.

The French, like I said, are the soul of the march. Two of them have been on the road all the way from Nice, and others have been with the march for most of the time.

Aside from them there are two persons who are true pillars of the march. Comrade Max, and comrade José Miguel.

Max is Sicilian. He is an indefatigable organiser of popular assemblies. He is also a translator with an admireable ammount of patience. He is our main link with the Italian population.

José Miguel is from Barcelona. He speaks perfect Italian and he is a charming communicator. Wherever we arrive, he goes to the bar, and he starts to chat with the locals. It’s the most effective way of doing diffusion. He is also the last to leave the square whenever we move on. He wants to make absolutely sure that we leave the place cleaner than how we found it.

Max is a biologist, José Miguel is an archeologist. Both of them left university to come along with the march.

There are many more people who make a fundamental contribution to the march in different ways. But me, I’m not one of them.

I don’t cook, I don’t do a lot of diffusion, I clean my own things but little more, I don’t push a cart with common stuff, I don’t translate. I walk, I observe, and I write. That’s all. So if the march becomes a success, it won’t be because of me.

 

Today, however, I increased my level of participation a bit. We held an internal assembly about the route to Bari, and about the great controversy… The date of arrival in Athens.

For once, I volunteered to moderate the assembly.

I can’t remember the last time we held an internal assembly that didn’t turn into a farce. So I prepared some things in advance. First of all I talked to the Old Man. He can be reasoned with, and I’m actually starting to appreciate him. The other day, when everyone – me included – loaded his or her stuff onto the van of the protezione civile, the Old Man refused. He pushed all of his stuff up the mountain for fifteen kilometres. I made a deep bow when he arrived.

We talked about the proposed route to Bari, he made a few corrections, and I presented it in the assembly.

We reached a consensus in eight minutes. I don’t know if it’s a record, but it was definitely better than the five hours it took to reach a consensus about the route to Potenza.

 

It was the first time I moderated an assembly. Normally, the moderator has to guide the proces of collective reasoning, without making use of his role to highlight his own opinions or try to impose them. This sounds very horizontal, but if the moderation is too weak, it leads to chaos.

So I did away with it. I started off with an appeal to the assembly to bear in mind our common objective: arrive in Athens as a group, to the greatest possible satisfaction of ourselves, of the people who are expecting us, and of all the people who are following our march or have contributed to it in any way.

I forced the assembly to focus and to be constructive. Maybe I was a bit too strict, but in the end my moderation was appreciated by almost everyone, and within two hours we finally reached a first consensus about an approximate date of arrival.

We aim to be in Athens somewhere between April 26 and May 5. In a future assembly we will try to narrow it down further.

One of the people from Potenza offered us a bottle of rum to celebrate the consensus. But we shouldn’t get carried away. There’s a new controversy looming. The port of arrival.

There are two options. Igoumenitsa in the north of Greece, at over 500 kilometres from Athens, and Patras at just over 200. Many people seem to be in favour of Patras. They fear that Igoumenitsa is not a reasonable option, given our current pace.

Others say that Patras is too close to Athens. After marching through Italy for almost four months, we can’t really take ourselves seriously if we only take a short stroll up to our final destination.

So, our troubles are to be continued. Finding a consensus will be hard, maybe impossible. But for now, we have a reason to rejoice. The popular assembly this evening was a success. Despite the strong wind, people resisted. And yet again, after Salerno and Vietri, the locals decided to start their own assembly.

The appointment is for March 8, at five clock, in the faculty of Letters and Philosophy.

 

The same popular assembly in Potenza


Popular Bureaucracy

March to Athens
Day 113-XXXIX, from Picerno to Potenza, 19 km.

Acampada Potenza

Potenza, February 28

Dear people,

Over a week after we left Eboli we have finally reached a place that looks more or less like a town.

Potenza, capital of Nowhere, situated right in the middle of it.

The walk over here was long, but rewarding. We keep climbing out of Picerno until we reach a kind of highland that leads us straight to this little mountain town.

It’s not inviting, nor beautiful, nor nothing. Going up the hill you reach the old centre, which seems suspiciously new. Later on, someone tells me why.

Salute to the sun this morning in the social centre in Picerno

The vanguard has planted the first tents on the central square in front of the government palace. Soon after that, police arrive, in civilian outfit. It’s the hour of siesta, there is no-one out here but us.

They don’t want us to camp here. But neither do they want to make trouble. They ask for some ID, but when we refuse, they don’t insist. Soon the chief and the town councillors arrive. They try to convince us to move to a less visible square nearby. Officially because it’s better protected against the cold wind, but the real reason is that they don’t want us in front of the seat of government.

They are respectful enough, so we treat them likewise. But there’s is no way of moving us. I say that we chose this square, first because it’s symbolic, and second because our movement has a well-developed esthetical taste. We want to put our tents on the most beautiful squares.

They say we can leave one, or maybe two symbolical tents here during the night, but we can’t sleep there and we definitely can’t light a fire.

I say that we appreciate their proposals, but that we can’t decide by ourselves. We decide as a group. We have to wait for everyone to arrive before taking a decision. I like the irony of it. The state has its own bureaucracy, its own lengthy procedures that can drive you crazy as a citizen, and that finally make you give up, especially here in Italy. We use the same tactics if necessary.

“I’m very sorry, signor sindaco. You will have to wait. We have to respect procedures, I’m sure you understand. We will speak about your proposal in assembly. Only the assembly can decide. It can take some time.” And all the while they are there, with four police cars and a dozen officers, the commander, the mayor, waiting for a handful of vagabonds to arrive with their shopping carts full of stuff.

Then the siesta ends, the people come out. We start to talk them, they begin to bring us food and tea, and everything. And then it’s too late. Once the inhabitants of Potenza have embraced us, there is no way the authorities can force us to move. Not only do they give up, they offer their full collaboration. We can even light our fire without problems. We can sleep inside if we want, and tomorrow we can hold our popular assembly in the town hall.

We stay in the square, and while we’re there, pizza and pasta is brought to us from all sides. I speak to one of the locals. He explains to me the peculiarity of Potenza.

During the earthquake of 1980 the old centre was heavily damaged. The people who lived here, and whose ancestors had lived there for generations, got offered a small sum of money and an apartment in the new outskirts to move. Their homes got bought and beautifully rebuilt to house the rich and to create a fashionable shopping district.

This way Potenza became a ‘laboratory of gentrification’. Its example has been followed all over the peninsula. What remains is a sterile little centre speckled with brand names, an Apple store and luxury bars. Real life has migrated to the suburbs.

Even so, the people open their heart when they see our encampment. Not only because they know we’re marching for a good cause, but also because we’re doing so in winter time. Along some of the streets there are still heaps of snow melting away. The people admire us. And when they see us sitting around the fire at night, singing songs, we awaken some kind of nostalgic, primordial feeling in them. Something that is buried deep inside all of us human beings. The memory of the tribe.


Sowing a Seed

March to Athens

Day 112-XXXVIII, from Vietri to Picerno, 16 km.

Candle light assembly in Vietri

Picerno, February 27

Dear people,

It could have a been a classic revolutionary painting. We were standing on the porch of the old town hall, inciting the citizens of Vietri to rise up. It was raining and windy, but there was a crowd under their umbrellas listening to us. Many people came straight from church. We had waited until the sunday service was over.

Slowly we convince people to gather in a circle. There was no light under the entrance of the empty building. So we lit candles. It was a marvellous sight, a perfect atmosphere, and it became a memorable assembly.

Like custom, we introduced the sign language of our assembly, we introduced ourselves and answered questions. After that we invited people to speak about the local situation.

The main problem, here like anywhere in the south is that there is no work. To address this problem the government in Rome stimulates enterprises to move to the south by subsiding them. But generally, they take the subsidies, and whenever they end, they close their factories and go back north. It doesn’t create lasting employment.

Another more global problem is the advancing individualism, even here in a small village. People talk less and less about the common good. Every one has his or her own troubles and tries to solve them alone. One woman thanked us for being here, for holding this assembly, because it made people realise that everyone’s troubles are connected. She thanked us for encouraging the community spirit.

In the end we achieved the best we could hope for. The locals decided to organise another assembly themselves. In a month’s time, right after church.

The breakfast table

Goodbye to Vietri

Today is fifteen kilometres, but given the steep climb, it’s pretty far. The comrades of the protezione civile lend us a hand by transporting much of our luggage to the next village.

Up until a week ago there was a meter of snow here. Now we see the last remainders melting away on the side of the road. There’s still an icy wind howling around the tops.

We arrive in Picerno. From here it’s only two more legs up to the mountain pass. After that, we will descend into the plain, it will be spring, and all the seeds that our movement has sown will start to germinate.

Hello to Picerno

Comrade José Miguel occupying the bar


“Mi Casa es tu Casa”

March to Athens

Day 110-XXXVI, from Romagnano to Vietri di Potenza, 12 km.

Day 111-XXXVII, Vietri.

Vietri di Potenza

Vietri di Potenza, February 26

Dear people,

We have received some precious reinforcements lately, from Naples, from France, from Belgium and from Barcelona. Our numbers our growing again, from about fifteen up to twenty. Also the weather is changing in our favour. The dark clouds have disappeared, the sun comes out every now and then. We can see the snow melting on the tops.

Leaving Romagnano

 

 

 

 

These days we have been following a quiet road high up the right bank slope of the river valley. Today we descended down to the water. There was no other way to reach our next stop.

While we march, the voice of our arrival is carried up the valleys by the wind. We are famous even before we set foot in the little villages on the route. The natives are expecting us.

This is the wilderness. It’s true that people have been crossing this region in modern times, they take the train or the motorway from Naples to Bari, but they don’t stop here. They have no reason to.

Autostrada

I don’t have a shopping cart. I walk with full gear. When I finish the final ascent up to Vietri di Potenza, I’m alone. In the first bar, I ask for a glass of water, and to my surprise I see a manifest on the window which announces the arrival of us, los marchantes.

 

Immediately the locals gather around me. Then the protezione civile arrive, they have been organising our arrival. Then there’s the local police, and the first of the shopping carts entering town. Within minutes of my arrival in the village, we have turned into a procession, and all the curious accompany us up to the tiny village square.

 

Before I started this march I knew we would be well received by the local population in the south. But almost every day they leave me flabbergasted.

All the village is in the square and on the street. The elderly are sitting on their bench, commenting. The boys and the girls of the protezione civile take us around the village on a tourist trip. They are proud of their history, their religion, their hospitality.

We have to see the monastery, they say. A real thorn from Jesus’ crown is guarded there. And we have to see the cave of Caesar. They say the great man stopped there to drink from a fountain once, on his way to Greece. But most of all, we have to tell the world. Come to Vietri! People will treat you well.

Just like the other towns here, Vietri was almost completely destroyed by the earthquake. It took more than twenty years to rebuild. Not because it was such an enormous effort, but because a lot of the funds for the earthquake disappeared. Many people lived in containers for years, and a handful of people got very very rich. Welcome to the south.

The mayor of Vietri in our camp.

The chimes are sounding in the morning, it’s sunday. When I get out of my tent, I encounter the mayor. “Good morning, Oscar,” he says. “Did you sleep well?”

I slept great.

He has brought pastries for all. He invites people to take a coffee. We have a good chat about sustainability, small scale farming, etc. And I’m convinced that the future starts here in places like this, on a human scale.

In the end, it’s too much, really. Yesterday and today, the protezione civile has cooked for us. This afternoon after lunch we were digesting in the square. All the bars were closed because of the siesta.

“Coffee!” one of us says, “my kingdom for a cup of coffee!”

A window opens, an old lady leans out. “Do you want sugar with that?”

“Yes please!”

Five minutes later her daughter comes down with a can full of coffee…

 


Ghost Town

March to Athens

Day 109-XXXV, from Buccino to Romagnano al Monte, 7 km.

Romagnano al Monte, February 24

Dear people,

In Buccino we had our ups and downs, as usual. The ups were the hospitality of the locals and the assembly we held with a hundred school kids at eight o’ clock in the morning.

The downs were the wine and the social problems.

Yesterday evening a local wine producer brought us ten litres of home made wine. After that, it was party time. Until very early in the morning a small group of people gathered around the fire, making noise and drinking. One of us at a certain point was fed up with it. He took the five litre bottle and threw what was left of the red wine into the fire.

When I heard about it the next morning I got angry like I never had before on the march. I wanted the perpetrator brought to justice. I wanted to see him hang. Because there is no excuse – with the possible exception of a small ritual offering to the gods – to throw wine into the fire, especially when it’s local wine offered by the producer.

On the other hand it’s not right that a few people drink the common stack of wine and keep people awake. But that’s personal responsibility. You can’t blame the wine, ever.

Buccino

senza titolo

We move on, slowly, to the next village on the road. Romagnano al Monte. When I get there, I’m told that there are three Romagnanos. There’s the old village, there’s the new village, and there’s the provisional village in between.

The old village was heavily damaged by the earthquake of 1980. People were evacuated and housed in prefab containers, the old town was abandoned and rebuilt three kilometres up the road. The containers are still there. For decades the locals have been living in them. Now they are rented as holiday homes.

The prefab homes, from the central square of new Romagnano

The new village is nothing special. Large parallel roads, modern houses and lots of space for cars. But when I hear about a ghost town three kilometres away, I get excited. I drop my bags and I walk.

During the March on Brussels we encountered lots of phantom villages in the south of France. But none of those were completely abandoned.

This one is.

They say that there are certain things you have to experience in life, at least once. And as for me, walking through a real ghost town is one of them.

I arrive just before dusk. The quiet provincial road winds around the slope, and suddenly I see it, the remainders of the village, the stone bones of an extinguished society. I’m completely happy when I start the descent.

The moloch

At the entrance to the village there is an anonymous apartment complex like you find them anywhere in Italian outskirts. It must have been brand new when the earthquake struck, symbol of modernity that didn’t survive into adulthood. Now it’s empty, like all the other homes down in the village. A concrete moloch standing guard on the roadside.

The path into the village is almost completely overgrown by bushes. All the houses around are open, all of them are damaged, many roofs have collapsed, many walls as well. Inside the houses it’s a mess. They are full of debris. No-one ever bothered to clean them out.

Romagnano vecchio. Photos from morning after.

I descend to the beginning of the corso, the central road of the village. Adding to the surreal craziness of this place, there is a new town hall here, recently built, ready to be used, but closed and empty.

I walk on through the main street. I take a look inside the old houses. In some of them you can still see pieces of brown/orange 1970s wall paper. But that was just a fashion. What really strikes is the way of life through the centuries, right up until yesterday.

The houses are extremely small. They generally consist of a tiny room with a sink and a wood oven and sometimes a bathroom angle. This is where people lived. Families of up to ten people. Upstairs there was a single sleeping place for all.

Some of the houses have three rooms. It must have been the homes of the rich. Then there’s the school, in the middle of the corso. Three little classrooms and an office. Next to it, there’s the heart of the local economy. Il frantoio. The old olive press with its two giant stone wheels is still standing amidst the rubble.

At the end of the corso there’s the village square with the church and the mayor’s house. The church is only accessible through a hole in the wall. Inside it looks as if it were yesterday that the earthquake struck. Decorations came crumbling down. The stairs to the pulpit are no more. The roof is on the floor. All of it makes for an atmosphere that is out of this world.

When I leave the church, the sun has gone down. But there’s still enough light to venture through the alleys near the side of the ravine. Not all of them are accessible. Sometimes you have to climb over mountains of old stones, sometimes you have to find your way passed thirty year old trees. A number of houses have been split in the middle by the quake, and parts of them have tumbled down into the canyon.

It’s growing dark now. Carefully I walk back to the central artery of the village. I sit down on the doorstep of one of the houses, and I feel great. I’m in a ghost town, and I can’t see a thing. Only when I look up, between the silhouets of the ruins I can see the stars. The first moon is about to set. Everything and everyone who cannot stand the light of day comes out at this hour. I keep quiet, I just sit, and I listen to the sounds…

Old Romagnano

New Romagnano


News from Athens…

Dear people,

Comrade Getafe has arrived in Athens. Yesterday he sent his first comunicado about the situation on the ground. I bring it to you in translation. Spanish original down below…

***

17/2

I arrived with a French girl friend of mine in Syntagma Square. We had made an appointment with two friends of ours, but a row of police officers blocked the way. We wait nearby. We see some kids challenging the police, hurling insults and a lonesome stone. The police provokes them with insults as well, with obscene gestures and a few rapid charges. They look like two neighbourhood gangs fighting over a girl or a football match. In the meantime, people keep walking by, even with small children. It all seems normal.

Our friends take too long to arrive, so we decide to go straight to the house of the mother of a Greek friend. While she stuffs us with food, she says she doesn’t agree with the people who were burning buildings the other day. She feels very sorry for her country. She says many people only survive thanks to the solidarity of others. Her brother is a doctor, but he doesn’t work because people don’t even have the money to get sick. Sometimes they give him fruits or vegetables in exchange for his visit. She herself had a private medical insurance, because she works as a freelance translator, but because of the crisis she can no longer afford it. Once in a while she thinks of what would happen if she got really sick. But she prefers to live by the day.

Later on our two friends appeared, the ones we had been expecting. They had in fact been waiting for us, but two cops simply arrested them for being out on the street. While searching them, they found an anarchist book in one of their backpacks, and they took them to the police station. They weren’t treated very well.

Sunday there will be another demonstration, they tell us. A Greek girl says that
she is tired of demonstrations. She asks us what’s happening in Spain. She says the Greeks think that there are really interesting things going on in Spain. It’s the same thing the Spanish think about Greece, we say. We laugh. But she doesn’t join in. It seems she’s somewhat frustrated. Let’s see what happens tomorrow …

18/2

While some protesters throw oranges at the police, my friend from France walks up to one of them and starts to talk. The officer says that he supports the claims of the demonstrators. Not all of his collegues do, but he does.

“So will you let me pass by to go to parliament?” my friend asks.

“No, not yet. Only when you are many more. Then I might come along with you.”

My friend returns saying that if we are the 99%, then the police are part of that figure. Someone else says it’s better to be the 80%. She excludes the police and calls them fascists. I say that makes her a fascist herself because she is excluding the 1%.

“Very well,” she says, “we are all one. The 100%”

“That’s nonsense,” I say. “Whom are we fighting against then?”

“Against ourselves,” she answers.
I have a feeling the discussion is getting a bit out of hand. And ten minutes later a police officer grabs my friend, takes her camcorder, and with very bad manners he orders her to cancel all the images. Moments later she returns, smiling, but pissed off.

We joke with her. “How was your friend doing? Is he also part of the 100%?”

“No. Now we are 99.99999999%.”
And counting down, I think. But I keep quiet.

20/2

Today we talked with a Greek girl. She told us that there were four types of people presents among the ones who burned banks and looted shops last Sunday:

1) The desperate. Those who saw the perfect opportunity to get food and other products for free (my French friend claims that among them there are many frustrated consumers).

2) The anarchists. They burn banks as a symbolic action, and because it makes them suffer economic losses.

3) Football hooligans. They love the physical confrontation, they don’t care against whom. It gives them something to do if there’s no game this weekend…

4) The infiltrators, professional provocateurs paid by the government.

I wonder if what happened was useful. She responds that people are scared that the military uses the caos as an excuse to impose their order. And that indeed there are many people who only like to destroy, without any strong political motivation at all.
But there’s nothing they can do to them. And on the other hand, she says that she doesn’t want to go to all the demonstrations any more, because it seems that many people just want to return to life before the crisis. They want all the budget cuts to be cancelled, just that. While she herself wants a real change. Later on she shows us the clubs and the fire extinguishers with which to defend us in case the social centre where we’re taking a coffee is attacked. And after making a few phone calls, she confirms that she will help us find a roof. More specifically, the roof of an abandoned house, where we will move to live as from tomorrow.

22/02

I don’t like to write in third person. I think the police knows. So today I’ve been arrested. I was walking calmly through the street when two policemen stepped off their motor bike and halted me by grabbing on to my backpack. They order me to open it, and so I do. They ask me my passport, and I give it to them. They ask me a thousand questions and I answered them all. In my time, that would have sufficed. But no, they handcough me and throw me into a car. I ask why.

“For your own safety,” they tell me, “it’s not an arrest.”

It really bears the likes of it though. From the car they throw me into a van, which is already loaded with ten other people. I ask again: “Why?” And their only answer is: “Later!”

At the entrance of the police station they take my data. I sit down in the chair next to the table.

“Stand up!” they shout.

I ask once again if anyone can explain to me why I am here.

“Upstairs!” they shout. I’m taken up to the 11th floor, where they copy my data again. They give me a paper and ask for my father’s name and my mother’s name, because those are not written in my passport.

“Okay,” I say, “if someone can explain to me what’s happening here, I’ll write them down for you.”

They don’t like it. You can see them hesitating between dealing me a blow and giving me a rapid answer just to make me shut up.

In the end they call another police officer, who explains to me that they are simply ‘checking’ some data.

“Check what?” I ask, “if I have already shown you my passport on the streets?”

“Your political opinions,” they finally admit. Just like that.

“And what about my zodiac sign?” I ask them pointing at the computer screen. “Do you have that written down there as well?”

I don’t know if he understood. Another cop shouts to me to write down my data once and for all. In the end I do. Badly, but I do. Both me and my parents we have combined names. I mix them up in any way, and they take me to a waiting room filled with about twenty people. Some of them look worried. Others bored, angry, resigned.

“Spain!” a police officer yells, “what are you writing there?” I told him before that I’m a journalist. Usually I say I work as a waiter, but this time I really wanted to say it.

“My diary. I’m bored.”

The officer sits down, his mouth wide open. ‘It’s really funny,’ I want to say to him. ‘If you like, I’ll show it to you.’ But it doesn’t seem a good idea.

In the smoking room I see how someone tears a bottle of whisky from his bag pack and starts offering little shots from the tap. The police can’t see him, because he is in a dead angle. I decide to join them. I drink, and I say yes to everything, even though I can’t understand them.

The hours pass, and the police keep bringing in more and more people. In the end we are fifty-six. Fifty-five men and a woman. Finally they call us out one by one, they give us back our passports and they let us go.

Now what? Should I assume that this is normal, and that when I go out to buy bread tomorrow, I will spend another four hours in the police station for having done nothing? Should I start throwing molotov cocktails to feel integrated and at least have a good reason for being arrested? Should I call the embassy and lose I do not know how many hours to be told that there’s nothing they can do for me? If only all of this would have happened in Cuba, then I’m sure that El Pais would have thrown it onto the front page.

By Pepe ‘Getafe’.

Translation yours truly.

***
17/2

Llegamos, una amiga francesa y yo, a la Plaza Syntagma. Hemos quedado
con dos amigos, pero una fila de policía nos impide el paso. Esperamos
cerca de allí. Vemos como unos chavales se enfrentan a ellos, con
muchos insultos y alguna piedra que otra. La policía les provoca, con
gestos, con insultos, con algunas cargas rápidas. Parecen dos
pandillas de barrio enfrentándose por una chica o por un partido de
fútbol. Mientras, la gente sigue paseando por allí, incluso con sus
hijos pequeños. Todo parece de lo más natural. Como nuestros amigos
tardan demasiado, decidimos ir directamente a la casa de la madre de
una amiga griega. Mientras nos abarrota de comida, nos cuenta que no
está de acuerdo con que quemaran edificios el otro día. Pero esta muy
triste por su país. Dice que mucha gente vive gracias a la solidaridad
de los demás. Que su hermano, que es médico, no trabaja casi porque la
gente no tiene dinero ni para ponerse enferma. Que a veces le dan
frutas u hortalizas a cambio de su visita. Y que ella misma tenía un
seguro privado médico, porque es traductora freelance, pero debido a
la crisis, ya no lo puede pagar. Y a veces piensa que pasará si se
pone de verdad enferma. Pero prefiere vivir día a día. Después han
aparecido por la casa nuestros dos amigos, los que nos debían haber
esperado. De hecho, nos esperaron un rato, pero unos policías les
arrestaron sólo por estar allí. En el cacheo, le encontraron a uno de
ellos un libro anarquista en la mochila, y les han llevado esposados a
comisaría. No les han tratado demasiado bien. Nos cuentan que el
domingo hay otra manifestación. Después, una chica griega nos dirá que
están cansados de manifestaciones. Nos pregunta por lo que esta
ocurriendo en España. Nos dice que los griegos piensan que en España
sí que están pasando cosas interesantes. Lo mismo piensan allí de
Grecia, decimos nosotros. Nos reímos. Ella no tanto, la verdad. Parece
un tanto frustrada. A ver qué pasa mañana…

18/2

Mientras algunos manifestantes tiran naranjas a la policía, mi amiga
francesa se acerca a hablar con uno de ellos. Este le dice que está de
acuerdo con las reivindicaciones, que no todos sus compañeros lo
están, pero que él sí ¿Me dejas pasar entonces al parlamento? le
pregunta ella. No, todavía no. Pero cuando seais muchos mas, igual
entro yo tambien con vosotros.

Mi amiga vuelve diciendo que si somos el 99%, los policías también
entran en ese porcentaje. Otro dice que, entonces, mejor somos el 80%;
ella, que porqué los excluye, y le llama fascista. Yo le digo que
entonces ella también es una fascista porque está excluyendo a un 1%.
Vale, dice,  pues todos somos uno: el 100 %. Pero eso es un coñazo,
digo, ¿contra quién luchamos entonces? Contra nosotros mismos, dice. Y
a mí me parece que la discusión se nos ha ido un poco de las manos. El
caso es que diez minutos después le agarra un policía, le quita la
videocámara y le dice, de muy malos modos, que lo borre todo. Y ella
vuelve, sonriente, pero enfadada.
¿Qué tal con tu amigo?, ¿era también del 100%?, le picamos.

-No. Ahora somos el 99,99999999%.

Y bajando, pienso. Pero me callo.

20/2

Hoy hemos hablado con una chica griega. Nos ha dicho que, entre los
que quemaron bancos y saquearon tiendas el domingo pasado, había
cuatro tipos de personas:

1) Los desesperados, los que vieron la oportunidad perfecta para
conseguir comida y otros productos gratis (mi amiga francesa alega
que, entre ellos, hay muchos consumistas frustrados).

2) Los anarquistas, que queman bancos, como algo simbólico, y para que
así tengan pérdidas económicas.

3) Los hooligans de equipos de fútbol, a los que les encanta el
enfrentamiento físico, les da igual contra quien, y si ese fin de
semana, no hay partido…

4) Los infiltrados, los provocadores pagados por el Gobierno.

Le pregunto si lo que sucedió fue útil. Me responde que, por un lado,
tienen miedo a que los militares pongan como excusa el caos para
imponer su orden. Y que, efectivamente, hay muchos a los que solo les
gusta destruir, sin una motivación política sólida que los respalde.
Pero que qué le van a hacer. También me dice que, a muchas
manifestaciones, ella no va porque parece que mucha gente solo quiere
volver a la vida de antes de la crisis, que se paralicen los recortes,
solo eso. Y ella quiere un cambio más profundo. Después, nos enseña
los palos y los extintores con los que defenderse en caso de un ataque
al centro social donde estamos tomando café. Y tras hacer unas
llamadas, nos confirma que nos va a ayudar a encontrar un techo. Más
concretamente, el techo de una casa abandonada, en la que vamos a
entrar a vivir mañana.

22/02

No me gusta escribir en tercera persona. Creo que la policía lo sabe.
Por eso, hoy me han arrestado. Iba caminando tranquilamente por la
calle, cuando dos policías se han bajado de su moto y me han parado
cogiéndome de la mochila. Me han dicho que la abra y la he abierto. Me
han pedido el pasaporte y se lo he dado. Me han hecho mil preguntas y
las he contestado todas. Eso, en mis tiempos, era matrícula de honor.
Pero no. Me han puesto las esposas, y me han arrojado dentro de un
coche. He preguntado ¿porqué? Por tu seguridad, me han dicho, no es
una detención. Pero se le parece tanto… Me han sacado del coche y me
han metido en una furgoneta, donde había unas diez personas más. He
vuelto a preguntar: ¿porqué? Y su única respuesta ha sido: ¡después!

En la puerta de la comisaría, me toman los datos, y yo me siento en la
silla de al lado. ¡Levántate!, me gritan. Pregunto otra vez si alguien
me puede explicar porqué estoy aquí. ¡Arriba!, me dicen. Subo al 11º
piso, y me vuelven a apuntar los datos. Ma dan un papel y me dicen que
apunte cual es mi apellido y cual es mi nombre, cómo se llama mi padre
y cómo se llama mi madre, ya que en mi pasaporte no se entiende bien.
Les digo: Ok,  alguien me explica qué pasa aquí, y entonces yo lo
escribo. No les gusta. Creo que dudan entre pegarme una ostia o
contestarme algo rápido para que me calle. Al final, llaman a otro
policía, y este me cuenta que solo estoy aquí para que puedan
“chequear” mis datos. ¿Chequear qué?, le pregunto, si ya les he
enseñado el pasaporte en la calle. Tu pensamientos político, me
suelta. Con dos cojones. ¿Y mi signo del zodíaco?, ¿también lo tienes
ahí?, le digo señalando el ordenador. No sé si me ha entendido. El
otro me grita que escriba de una vez mis datos.  Lo hago. Mal, pero lo
hago. Tanto mis padres, como yo, tenemos nombres y apellidos
compuestos. Los combino de cualquier forma, y me llevan a una sala de
espera, donde ya hay unas veinte personas. Los hay preocupados,
aburridos, rabiosos, resignados…

¡Spain! me grita un policía ahora, ¿qué estás escribiendo? Antes le
dije que era periodista. Suelo decir que soy camarero, pero esta vez
me apetecía decirlo. Mi diario, le respondo, estoy aburrido. Asiente y
se queda con la boca abierta. Me dan ganas de decirle: es divertido,
si quieres te enseño. Pero igual no es buena idea. En la sala de
fumadores, veo como alguien saca una botella de whisky de su mochila,
y reparte chupitos con la tapa. La policía no puede verlos, ya que
están en una especie de ángulo muerto. Decido unirme a ellos. Bebo, y
me hablan, yo les digo a todo que sí, aunque no entiendo nada. Pasan
las horas y van trayendo cada vez más gente. Llegamos a ser cincuenta
y seis: cincuenta y cinco hombres, y una mujer. Finalmente, nos van
llamando, nos devuelven los pasaportes, y nos dejan salir.

¿Y ahora qué?  ¿Asumo que esto es normal, que mañana igual voy a
comprar el pan y me tiro otras cuatro horas en comisaría por no hacer
nada? ¿Me pongo a tirar cócteles molotov para sentirme integrado, y al
menos que me detengan por algo? ¿Llamo a la embajada y pierdo no sé
cuantas horas más para que me digan que no pueden hacer nada? Si al
menos me hubiera sucedido en Cuba, “El País” me hubiera sacado en
portada.


The Conquest of the South

March to Athens

Day 108-XXXIV, from Bivio Palomonte to Buccino, 12 km.

Putting up camp in Buccino

Buccino, February 23

Dear people,

We doubled our altitude today. And most of it was left for the last few kilometres up to Buccino. People were exhausted when they arrived, but satisfied. The walk was marvellous. The olive groves are gradually making way for the bare forests of winter. In twelve kilometres we encountered only a single car, twice. Carabinieri. They informally interrogate us. As a last word they say ‘occhio’, which means look out. So I wonder if there are still briganti active in this territory…

I’ll get to that another time. But first, the historical context.

A break along the way

 

Relaxing in between the olives

After the execution of Murat, the Bourbon family returned to the throne. All over Europe it was ‘restoration’ time. The reigning families wanted to pretend that the revolution had never happened. They thought that after Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo they could simply return to business as usual.

They couldn’t of course. History flows on, and you can’t row against the current.

Revolutionary fervour returned to Europe more than once in the 19th century, and in Italy the masonic lodges prepared for the country to be united.

I won’t go into it. There was a big component of obscure diplomatic plots, there were wars, there was the help or tacit support of Prussia/Germany and Great Britain, and there was more.

Giuseppe Garibaldi was the great hero of the unification. He was a born condottiero, an icon of his days, like Che Guevara a century later.

Garibaldi had fought for the independence of Uruguay from the empire of Brasil, he had fought all over Italy, and finally in France against the Germans in 1870.

His most famous enterprise was the ‘Expedition of the Thousand’, which sailed from near Genova to Sicily, and which would become the start of the conquest of the South by the North.

This time, the peasants had a real hope that something would change. They supported Garibaldi and the unification because they thought the estates of the nobles would be redistributed, so that they could finally own the land they worked.

It never happened. In fact, things got worse after the unification.

The kingdom of Naples might have been a medieval society, but it was a lot richer than many nationalist Italian historians will give it credit for. The south was literally conquered by the north, and treated as a colony. The new king of Italy, who held his court in Turin, implemented his own laws, but left the local nobles in place. And to stimulate the emerging industry, he levied taxes on agricultural products.

Agriculture was the main source of income for the south. When it was taxed, the exports fell, and misery was a result. The peasants had been betrayed. Many of them emigrated to America. And many others picked up their arms and took to the hills to fight a guerilla war against the new kingdom.

These rebels were known as briganti. And this region was the land where they lived, and died.

The 'Platano Valley

 

Comrade Mami in Buccino

We are sitting of on the steps of the local archeological museum of Volscei, the ancient name of Buccino. Like every evening when we arrive, we start to build camp. The barrels are placed, people go looking for wood, the fire is lit, the pans are filled, and food is cooked. People gather around.

Others among us have been visiting the museum. And they witnessed another familiar story.

We race through the centuries from one showcase to another, and it all makes sense. First there were tools and recipients. Then came art for decoration. Then came jewels, for art’s own sake, a first sign of social distinction. With social distinction came weapons and armours and warfare, and yet more riches…

Then came the Greeks. They did penetrate as far as here after all. Local art started to fade and disappear. Then came the Romans, and once again, culture changed. Etc. etc.

Modern consumerism is just another culture that we have adapted to. It will pass with the current of history. And maybe one day, people will marvel at an archaeological exposition of Coca Cola cans and all the other trash that you find along the roads today.

Above, an ancient clip