The Free State
"Man, in a word, has no nature. What he has is - history."

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Turkish Children on "Europe"

WHAT do Turkish children think of when you speak of Europe ?
“It means a holiday resort.”
“It's a place that has one and a half months of holiday.”
“It's the furthest country of the world.”
“The European Union must be a big cloud.” (He can only have got that from seeing the expressions on his parents' faces when they're watching television news about the EU.)
Six-year-old Ceren says he feels that Europe
means “peace”.
Six-year-old Ataberk says that it means "to make up after you've had a fight".

I was doing some research on the end of the Cold War and found this in an article of Le Monde Diplomatique from 2005.

Friday, April 04, 2008


On Monday I talked to some people at a Partito Democratico stand in piazza Vittorio. I barely time to speak to them before this short, middle-aged Black man began yelling about how Italy mistreats foreigners and “e sbagliato”. He became very agitated, yelling and screaming, spit flying with every word. He had a well-trimmed grey beard, a halo of afro hair and sickly yellow teeth, one of them, absolutely rotten, had somehow split vertically with half missing. The ladies at the stand became very embarrassed, saying that the PD wanted to change things. He responded that Romano Prodi had recently had 2 years of government.

It then happened that he was Gambian and spoke English too. I spoke to him on the side and I gave him a sympathetic ear. He became elegiac about how much better things were in France and England, how they don’t advertise jobs at all in Italy, how they don’t let foreigners integrate, how they don’t even have Black cab drivers. I told him France and England weren’t perfect either… I asked him why he didn’t live there, and he then he burst into tears... Then he said “Ho sbagliato… I made a mistake.”

Terrible. I thought it was ironic though, what with the people I’ve met in the UK who felt a similar despair. I think he said he’d been here 17 years. I told him of Frantz Fanon, the words a cheval entre le neant et l’infini escaped me though.

We then did a whistle stop tour of African countries and Black leaders from literature to the UN. He said he was studying for his Ph. D to be an economist and statistician, planning to use the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s archives in Rome, hoping to score a job with a highbrow NGO. He pulled out this big ‘book’ of printed pages held together by a spine (very thick) with endless pages of English and Italian graphs, mathematical formulas and text of (presumably turgid) economics. We spoke for a long time. He spoke with pride of higher education in Africa, how it was much more rigorous about entry than in Europe so only the brains go through, and even of the British crown that still adorns a Gambian passport.

I think he felt better for our discussion. Nothing is more maddening, both in terms of anger and insanity, than to scream in a crowded place and not a soul hear you… they might just feel something like the embarrassment one feels when one’s toddler makes a scene. Pity is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. I asked him for his email before I told him I had to leave. He had the softest handshake without being limp while I was firm as I held his arm. His name was Sylvester.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Posters: La Destra

I must admit I don't find the right-wing posters *quite* as charming as the left, but they still have their quircks.

Anti-immigration is pretty much mandatory for right-wing parties. "Safer, there's the alliance."

Only in Rome: "Capital of Christianity"

"The courage of Rome" with photo of Hercules wearing the Nemean Lion (classmate posing). The political relevance escapes me.

"Once again in the field"... they like sports analogies here too I guess.

This is probably my favorite. I thought it was actually some sort of weird communist poster but this one is actually from one of the Fascist parties! The one with the lady running for PM.

And here's the geezer himself. "Gianluca Iannone" Pretty weird. Pretty weird. I think he's a poet or something.

I don't really know what else to say for these posters. While the leader of the main center-left party, the Partito Democratico, is smothered all over the place I haven't seen a single poster with comeback-kid Berlusconi anywhere. Not sure why..