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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Normal, Not [ITA+ENG]

Giarre, Italy

[ENG] This short video contribution from Pasolini’s Comizi d’amore (1965), featuring one of the greatest Italian poets, is one of the most clever arguments against what I call the “cancer of normalcy”. Normalcy is the reason why many issues become socially discriminatory. It’s normal to be white, heterosexual, male, Christian, muscular, to pee standing, and to strive to prevail in the race for survival. Such a white-supremacist construct is the reason why “abnormal” things exist and are singled out on a daily basis in today’s world.

[ITA] Questo breve contributo video, estratto da Comizi d’amore (1965) di Pier Paolo Pasolini, nel quale appare uno dei più grandi poeti italiani, è uno dei più intelligenti ragionamenti contro ciò che io chiamo “il cancro della normalità”. La normalità è la ragione per la quale molte questioni diventano socialmente discriminatorie. È normale essere bianchi, eterosessuali, maschi, cristiani, muscolosi, è normale pisciare all’impiedi e lottare per prevalere nella corsa verso la sopravvivenza. Tale costrutto da “superuomo bianco” è la ragione per cui esistono cose “anormali”, che vengono additate e censurate giornalmente.

Here’s a translation for my non-Italian followers:

Research, chapter 2: Disgust or pity?

Proved that Italians, confronted with general questions, shy away with innocent and sometimes foolish “no comment”, let’s see what happens when the question is precise, sharp, point-blank, as is the case with homosexuality.

Pasolini: Ungaretti, according to you, is there such distinction as “normality” and “abnormality” with regard to sex?

Ungaretti: Listen, each individual is made differently, I mean in their physical structure. The individual is also different from the others in their “spiritual combination”. Therefore, every individual is “abnormal” in their own way. Every individual is, in a certain sense, in contrast with nature. And this [configuration is in place] since the very beginning, since the “act of civilization”, which is an act of human abuse over Nature, an act against Nature.

Pasolini: Can I dare to ask about your personal and intimate experience about normality and its transgression?

Ungaretti: Well, personally… what are you looking for?, I… I am a man and a poet, therefore I infringe all laws writing poetry. Now I’m old and I only respect the laws of senility, which are, alas, the laws of death.


The Challenge of Languages

Giarre, Italy

This post was clearly inspired by the blog series by Calvin, an American friend of mine, whose first goal is to deconstruct, analyze, and confront challenges for twenty-somethings in particular era we are living these days. His series has been going on for quite some time now (it all started on January 9, 2012) and I’m sure it’s becoming a challenge in itself.

There are many challenges life has put before me in the past years of being a “twenty-something”. Love, houses, exams and graduations, travels, money, friendship, family matters, jobs… the internet! … are only the major among many tough issues I’ve had to cope with. The feeling of being an unsettled individual is one of the most pleasant challenges I face every day.

However, as I approach a new academic experience that will bring me to study in the Post-Soviet area, I have to greet, once again, the challenge of languages. The reason I use the “Post-Soviet” term to refer to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan – the countries where I will end up living – is because they share a basic knowledge of the Russian language, which was the Soviet language for nearly sixty years. Stalin’s program of “carpet” Russification in the non-Russian Soviet Republics was felt, of course, as an imposition from abroad. The colonial attitude by Moscow towards its fellow Soviet neighbors during the Cold War helped the development of anti-Russian sentiments in the periphery.  In the last days of 1991, the Soviet Republics all of a sudden realized they were independent. Interestingly, their leadership still remained very “Soviet” inside.

Despite regrets, arguments, clashes with drunken Yeltsin, and confusion over what to do, “former Soviet” leaders transformed themselves into “newly independent” leaders. Most of them were seasoned politicians and they could seize the opportunity given by the political and socio-economic uncertainty to use their chamaleon powers and root their legitimacy in  a nationalistic rhetoric. The countries I will be visiting have been the most stable, US-friendly, and economically growing among the Post-Soviet subjects. The Aliyevs in Azerbaijan have established a quasi-hereditary monarchy (even though they like to be called “President”) and Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan enjoys the same popularity as the Pope among Catholics. In both countries, since the last days of the USSR, the nationalistic trend has gone back to the Turkic tradition. On the one hand, they strive to appear as Western as possible in order to attract foreign investments, but on the other hand, the ancient tradition is recovered by laws and day-to-day social(-ly imposed) changes.

The major reflection of these nationalistic changes is evident in the language. Russian has been downgraded as the “accompanying language” to the official one, which, in many cases is just one variety of the many dialects that the inhabitants spoke before the Tsarist and Soviet invasions. This long historical context serves as a background for my personal challenge with languages for the next few years. Here, you might find handy another set of background information.

I learned to master the Spanish language through my year in Granada as an exchange student. Then I turned my eyes to Russian, which I needed for my studies. However, having lived in Russia for less than a full week, I could never get beyond the elementary-to-intermediate swing. Then came my journey to the United States, where I did take Russian, but I started writing and speaking everything that was processed in my brain through English words. While good on the English-language side, my Russian bent spoiled. What’s to be done now? I will investigate more and more Russian-language documents as my research will still be centered on energy issues in the Caspian, but at the same time I will be living in countries where the usage of Russian is withering away.

My experience in Washington has taught me that Kazakhs are still reliant on Russian, especially for their diplomatic and political speeches and jokes. Yet, again, nationalism is kicking in: one very nice Kazakh diplomat invited me to their embassy on 16th Street, kindly answered to my questions in English, and then showed me the room with the display of traditional garment and weaponry used by Kazakh tribes “back then”, as he uttered walking me to the door. Nevertheless, I think my research experience is going to be smooth if I get back on the books and prepare myself in the Russian language.

The real challenge comes with the language for my daily interactions. I want to be able to live in these countries, even though my experience will surely be restricted to a few months, because of the structure of the program. For this reason, today I browsed a few YouTube videos with introductory courses for the Kazakh language. I will dedicate a few hours per week to a serious study of this language, which draws from many different linguistic roots (Arabic, Mongol, Greek…) and developed from many different dialects, all of which were hybernated during Stalin’s imposition of Russian. I’m sure I won’t be able to deal with the Azeri idiom as well, but my journey to Baku is still uncertain and will surely be shorter than my stay in Almaty.

Yet, as an unsettled being, I maintain a feeling of uncertainty about learning languages I might stop using sooner than expected. The challenge will therefore be to “enjoy it while it lasts”. Like many challenges faced by erratic twenty-somethings.

Repost: “Kazakhstan: Astana at a Turning Point”

Giarre, Italy

As my physical and academic journey towards the Caspian approaches, I want to start taking direct inspiration and insights from who knows first-hand. Here’s Nate Schenkkan from Eurasianet:

You see banners all across Kazakhstan, strung across government buildings, on airport runways, and on billboards lining the streets of provincial capitals. They all say the same thing: “The primary values of the state are stability and the unity of the people of Kazakhstan. – N. Nazarbayev.”

For much of the last decade, that slogan seemed to define Kazakhstan. But in the past year, Kazakhstan’s reputation for stability and unity has faced a formidable challenge. First, there was a series of terrorist attacks, beginning in Aktobe in May. Then, in late 2011, there occurred a bloody clash between police and striking workers in Zhanaozen.

It’s no coincidence the unrest took place in Kazakhstan’s oil-rich west. A vast, barren region blessed with enormous reserves of oil and gas, western provinces are experiencing wrenching demographic and economic changes. Although the government has been aware of social, economic and religious tensions in the west for several years, it has not fundamentally changed its policy approach. Instead, it is funding more and bigger development schemes, appointing new leaders answerable only to Astana to run the regions, and intensifying repression. Such tactics seem unlikely to solve existing problems. Instead, they stand a better chance of making them worse.

The background to Kazakhstan’s recent unrest can be found in the country’s demographic transformation. Since independence in 1991, European nationalities have emigrated en masse. The number of ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan dropped by over one-third between 1989 and 2009, with approximately 2.3 million leaving. The community of ethnic Germans shrunk by approximately 770,000, and roughly 545,000 Ukrainians also departed. By 1999, 17 percent of Kazakhstan’s 1989 population had picked up and left.

As Europeans were emigrating, the Kazakhstani government was encouraging ethnic Kazakhs from surrounding countries to return. About 860,000 “oralmans” — returnees in Kazakh — ended up coming home. That influx, bolstered by the natural increase of the population, enabled Kazakhstan’s population to rebound to its 1989 level by 2011.

Returning oralmans settled largely in the south and the west. Joining them are internal migrants and illegal immigrants from nearby Uzbekistan. Economic opportunity was the chief allure for those settling in the west. As tough as life can be on the steppe, wages are higher in Kazakhstan’s energy belt than in Central Asia’s depressed agricultural regions, whether in southern Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan.

The flood of migration – the population of Mangystau Province grew 67 percent from 1999 to 2009, and Atyrau’s grew 32 percent over the same period – created inflationary pressure. Housing, in particular, is now scarce and expensive because Soviet-era buildings are deteriorating and new construction has been inadequate to meet demand. Meanwhile, the national 5.4 percent unemployment rate does not include almost one-third of the working-age population that is considered “self-employed.”

Whether in Aktau, Atyrau, or Uralsk, these are the complaints one hears every day: high prices, scarce housing, and a lack of work. The 2008 economic crisis exacerbated the situation, freezing development and eliminating hundreds of low-skilled jobs, especially in construction, which, in turn, stalled housing development.

So while social issues in the west garner a lot of attention, the fundamental catalyst for tension is economic—tens of thousands of un- and underemployed people, many of them recent migrants, who see vast resource wealth being extracted, but live in crowded, dilapidated, yet expensive conditions. Government programs so far have failed to adequately address this lack of socio-economic balance. And it looks like public policy is moving in the wrong direction.

The government approach hinges on ambitious, centrally designed development schemes. A national program, Affordable Housing-2020, is supposed to spend $236 million annually from 2014 to 2020 to build up to 4,000 apartments per year. In his January State of the Nation speech, Nazarbayev announced a new national employment program, which aims to create 1.5 million “quality jobs” by 2020. Nazarbayev also emphasized a series of enormous capital investment projects in the west, including a 1,200-kilometer railway connecting Mangystau with the central hub of Zhezkagan, a $1.7-billion oil refinery in Atyrau, and additional investment in the $6.3-billion chemical and gas processing facility in the same city.

Money is not a problem for Kazakhstan. The government is already generating healthy returns from energy development, and at least two new major hydrocarbon projects will go online in the coming years: the enormous Kashagan oil field offshore from Atyrau, and the third phase of development of the Karachaganak gas condensate field, 150 kilometers from Uralsk.

When it comes to finding a new socio-economic balancing point in the west, the problem is in execution. As in Russia, the allocation of resources rests on the so-called “power vertical.” And responsibility for implementing programs lies with officials directly appointed by the center, whose constituents are in Astana, not the communities they govern.

Such conditions provide ample opportunity for corruption. Much of Zhanaozen’s leadership, including the last two mayors, has been arrested, indicating that a culture of graft had developed over the past decade in the city. Meanwhile in Aktau, a newly appointed governor is only now raising questions about the privatization of a central park and huge stretches of the city’s scenic waterfront, which local activists have complained about for years.

The power vertical, of course, needs a coercive component in order to be viable. Accordingly, security services harass and intimidate independent journalists, activists and average citizens who try to oppose, or even question government policy. Whether the subject is workers’ rights, oralmans, Islam, or the environment many people are now afraid to talk publicly.

In a system where many are intimidated into silence, government development schemes remain unaccountable to the people they are supposed to help. Until Astana can develop mechanisms that allow local communities to hold authorities accountable, there is little reason to expect the new wave of development will significantly alter the inequalities driving discontent in the west.

In his January speech, Nazarbayev highlighted the importance of improving local self-government and increasing citizen participation in order to avoid a repeat of the Zhanaozen events. He tasked the government with developing a “Concept on the Development of Local Self-Governance” by July 1. Genuine local self-governance, though, requires that non-state interests and other centers of political power be allowed to develop—in other words, it requires actual democracy.

#Kony2012 – The Attack of the Doves

Giarre, Italy

Nobody realized, I know, but I was on a Twitter strike. I purposely avoided to access my @BNanalysis account for many days since when I found out that #Kony2012 was trending. I will not link the YouTube video here. It has piled up far too many visualizations. In the news it is referred to as a 8-figures phenomenon. Without even watching it myself, I know exactly what’s in it and whose attention it triggers, and what aim it seeks. Here’s a blogpost which takes from the documentary craze and dwells on the character of those who, from the Left, call for actions. In the title, I called them doves. In life, I refer to them as radikalschik, with Ks and all. I’ve explained the concept in Italian and I will define my view in the English language using a famous American example of these days.

Alliteration and consonance, together with recent memory, bring to mind a Kony-Bokonon comparison. Both are strange characters the western explorer struggles to understand. They commit horrible crimes against human beings, although one only does it in Vonnegut’s words. Aside from that, it was only thanks to a well-produced documentary that the world became aware of the existence of a country named Uganda and that terrible things were happening there. “I was sipping a latte (<- no accent, you Americans!) in a coffeshop, reading the news on my iPad, when I came across this Kony2012 thing. I had to repost/retweet/reblog it!” Many Bayareans surely pronounced similar words, a couple of weeks ago. On my facebook newsfeed the documentary appeared several times with a call for action: “we must do something about this!” However, this might be not only wrong, but even counterproductive for the very invisible children it is trying to advocate for.

Invisible Children, the non-profit (?) that produced the short film on Ugandan child soldiers is headed by Berkeley Alumni, which made the whole story very radikalschik. UC Berkeley is the crib of activism the place where “awareness” wakes up in the morning before spreading out to the entire world. Just adding up the “awareness” of each of the 35K students at Cal, each problem the world faces would be highlighted. However, genuine and “internal” activism at UCB has changed through time, turning into a radikalschik practice: many at Occupy’s general assembly, many filming kids beaten by cops, few, very few, standing up against the status quo. The very fact that a KKK-style “Affirmative Action Bake Sale” was organized in Fall 2011 on Sproul is telling of how the times have changed and how “awareness” is only needed when it yields good grades.

As I said in my other posts, I have many radikalschik friends. It’s not a bad thing to be radikalschik. You can bitch about working conditions at Foxconn in China, while watching the news on your made-in-China (at Foxconn) device. Even I can! I have a blog, I write from a Mac, and I’m generally far away from what I write about. However, I kindly ask radikalschiks to shut up when it comes to “calls for actions”. And my begging is political. It’s unacceptable to ask someone else to take action (by which you mean “military intervention” or any other kind of imperialistic measure) while you sit in Starbucks. There are many issues that trouble my mind when it comes to world affairs: the Aral Sea is disappearing, the Arctic is melting, Palestinians are killed every day, Western Sahara is no man’s land, being colored is still an issue in the US, being a young woman is dangerous because males can harm you in thousands of ways (violence, wage, abortion, housework, marriage…), there is the pressing issue of inequality which is now evident just becaus class issues are exacerbated to a point where the exploitation among human beings becomes daily news. Yet, I do not call Obama on an upside-down phone* and ask him to send drones.

US-born Tom Wolfe is credited for the invention of the term “radical chic” in the 70s, mocking a party hosted by Leonard Bernstein and his wife to raise money for the Black Panthers. His sharpness is going to become a subject of my future studies. What both Wolfe and I are trying to say, with different capacity and success, is that Kony2012 and a party for the Black Panthers are smoking room exercises of the educated burgeoise and have nothing to do with the possible solution of the actual questions at stake. American foreign intervention has harmed every place it has targeted, ever. Just like any other foreign, profit- and interest-oriented venture undertaken by imperialistic powers. During a few screenings that were scheduled in Uganda, locals left half-way through the short film enraged because it was all about a white dad talking to his toddler about how horrible Kony can be in his actions by using child soldiers and killing the opponent’s army of the same young age. Not a single Ugandan was part of the shooting or of the screenplay. Just like no Blacks were invited to Bernstein’s party. “Give us time, we’ll charity the shit out of your problem, sell merchandise, and then come bomb your place so your problem will deflagrate at once.” No, I don’t want the US Congress and the EU Parliament and the NATO meeting rooms to talk about Uganda. They are already dying by themselves (and now everybody knows it), let’s not go on a full-scale operation to grab their oil.

YouTube likes are not the future of democracy, or of diplomacy for that matter. Otherwise we would cite “Manatee Squash” and “Dramatic Look” in our academic papers for the International Relations course. We don’t. And I will never think of social media as a democratic tool at all. You can hide #justice4Trayvon with #JustinBieber, how is that political in any way? Be wise, read the news, read independent news, and stay informed. You don’t want to be surprised when the world discovers Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

On a side note, the news also covered the shameful arrest of the co-founder of Invisible Children. This led to the best commentary ever by Erin Gloria Ryan on Jezebel: “Wasn’t the entire Kony 2012 campaign essentially this white guy masturbating in public?”

*Lately, I’ve been referencing my private life too much… that’s an inside joke only one person will understand. It will cause one smile, so it’s worth it!

Ancora un momento. Sto per finire

Giarre, Italy

Ho finito di leggere un bellissimo libro. Non si può dire che io abbia proprio finito. Il libro stesso non comincia e non finisce. Anzi, inizia dieci volte e non finisce altrettante. L’unico filo conduttore è la scrittura. La lettura e il viaggio sono parte fondamentale dell’opera. Uno sforzo quasi perraultiano nel codificare, ma al tempo stesso decodificare, l’arte dello scrivere. Un tentativo di comprendere le cause che ci inducono a sfogliare carta finemente rilegata che riporta fitti caratteri di stampa. Un’avventura salgariana tra mari, monti e stazioni veri, immaginari, o verosimili. Si fa prima a leggerlo che a descriverlo – anche se a dire la verità, un attimo di scoramento e senso di sconfitta mi aveva preso circa a metà delle sue 300 pagine, ma credo che anche questo faccia parte del piano dell’autore. Ecco un estratto del libro, uno che riflette bene le mie sensazioni in volo. Non che Calvino abbia bisogno di pubblicità, ma quando qualcosa mi colpisce così, preferisco scrivere per ricordarlo.

Da Italo Calvino, Se una notte d’inverno un viaggiatore…, Einaudi, 1979

Ti allacci la cintura. L’aereo sta atterrando. Volare è il contrario del viaggio: attraversi una discontinuità dello spazio, sparisci nel vuoto, accetti di non essere in nessun luogo per una durata che è anch’essa una specie di vuoto nel tempo; poi riappari, in un luogo e in un momento senza rapporto col dove e col quando in cui eri sparito. Intanto cosa fai? Come occupi quest’assenza tua dal mondo e del mondo da te? Leggi; non stacchi l’occhio dal libro da un aeroporto all’altro, perché al di là della pagina c’è il vuoto, l’anonimato degli scali aerei, dell’utero metallico che ti contiene e ti nutre, della folla passeggera sempre diversa e sempre uguale. Tanto vale tenerti a quest’altra astrazione di percorso, compiuta attraverso l’anonima uniformità dei caratteri tipografici: anche qui è il potere d’evocazione dei nomi a persuaderti che stai sorvolando qualcosa e non il nulla. Ti rendi conto che ci vuole una buona dose d’incoscienza per affidarsi a congegni insicuri, approssimativamente guidati; o forse questo prova una inarrestabile tendenza alla passività, alla regressione, alla dipendenza infantile. (Ma stai riflettendo sul viaggio aereo o sulla lettura?)

the *most* racist era

The Crunk Feminist Collective

Another Black kid is dead.

This time it’s 17 year old Trayvon Martin.

His life snuffed out at the hands of an overzealous, trigger happy white neighborhood watch commander named George Zimmerman, who thought Trayvon looked “suspicious” as he walked back to his father’s home in a suburban Florida neighborhood with a pack of skittles and an iced tea for his little brother. Trayvon was unarmed; Zimmerman was packing a semiautomatic weapon.

How do we make sense of the senseless?

From the facts alone, it is clear that Zimmerman presented the real threat. But it has now been two and a half weeks since the shooting, and Sanford Police Department has declined to charge Zimmerman with a crime. Law enforcement officials claim they have no evidence to dispute Zimmerman’s claim that he acted in self-defense.

Apparently an unarmed, dead Black teen is not evidence enough.  If this were 1912 and…

View original post 1,806 more words

Buongiorno Inquisizione

Giarre, Italy

Lo scorso martedì, mentre cercavo invano di svegliarmi, ho letto una notizia assurda su Dante. Ho scritto d’un fiato un post in inglese, visto che non c’era notizia di questo in lingua straniera. Dopo varie richieste dai miei fan più sfegatati, ecco la traduzione. Buongiorno, Inquisizione.

L’unico sito web che riportava la notizia in lingua inglese era, ma vi risparmio i commenti. Sul Corriere della Sera si legge:

La Divina Commedia deve essere tolta dai programmi scolastici: troppi contenuti antisemiti, islamofobici, razzisti ed omofobici. La sorprendente richiesta arriva da «Gherush92», organizzazione di ricercatori e professionisti che gode dello status di consulente speciale con il Consiglio Economico e Sociale delle Nazioni Unite e che svolge progetti di educazione allo sviluppo, diritti umani, risoluzione dei conflitti.

Lo dovetti leggere più volte, fare un po’ di ricerca e controllare le fonti prima di poter finalmente dire che non si trattava di un falso. Peggio ancora, scopro che la presidente dell’organizzazione è italiana, Valentina Sereni. Al di fuori dei confini italiani, nel più fortunato dei casi le scuole offrono solo nozioni rudimentali sulla Commedia dantesca, mentre invece nelle scuole superiori italiane si studiano i suoi versi per tre anni. Un capolavoro che definito “divino” solo dopo la sua conclusione, dato che parlava di e si avvicinava a una perfezione lirica e sacra. Quest’opera, insieme a poche altri esempi contemporanei, contribuì alla codificazione della lingua italiana, di contro rispetto al latino ecclesiastico, incomprensibile ai più e usato come arma dalle classi aristocratiche. Dante prese quello che rappresentava il volgare, la lingua dei contadini, degli artigiani, e la trasformò in lirica. Dante era anche un anticlericale e un proto-nazionalista che predicava la supremazia dell’uomo bianco senza neanche pensarci su. Ma eravamo nel tredicesimo secolo, nel Medio Evo!

L’eredità di Dante per me rappresenta soprattutto la ribellione contro lo status quo. Basterebbe guardare chi viene inserito in ciascun circolo infernale. È pieno di papi, nobili, nemici personali e figure mitologiche. Alighieri non salva alcuno dal giudizio di Dio, che in realtà è il suo personale. Le sue taglienti critiche ai costumi e agli usi sono inimitabili, a tal punto che gli italiani ancora lo citano quando vogliono rivolgere un’astuta offesa al proprio avversario. Impudico e irrefrenabile, l’Inferno è il preferito di tutti. Mi piacque anche il Purgatorio, dove la politica e le zuffe medievali la facevano da padrone. Il Paradiso era troppo sdolcinato e paradisiaco per catturare il mio cuore agitato da adolescente, pertanto sospendo il mio giudizio finché non lo leggerò in anni più maturi.

Aspetta! E se non me lo permettessero? Quello che questo “consulente speciale” dell’ECOSOC sta cercando dire all’ONU è che Dante non va letto, esattamente a causa del suo linguaggio inadeguato e offensivo nei confronti di ebrei, mori e omosessuali. Non riuscendo a comprendere cosa sia adeguato e “quando”, Gherush92 bandisce inter Canti. Prima di alzare la mano e ricordare a queste persone chi usava bandire, o bruciare, i libri in passato, dovremmo prima ragionare sulla nozione di adeguatezza e di “politicamente corretto”. Le parole possiedono e mutano di significato e io non capisco perché dovremmo artificialmente imporre costrizioni nel linguaggio.

La grammatica e l’etimologia mi sono molto care. Faccio tesoro di quello che leggo e cerco di replicare i miei pensieri al massimo della precisione, impiegando le parole e le strutture più adatte. Non è un segreto che io parli e scriva lentamente, e questa è proprio la ragione principale. Usa parole inadatte e sarai letto e ascoltato, o peggio classificato ed etichettato, in un modo che è lontano dal tuo vero carattere. Non credo ci sia niente di peggio che finire in questo cul-de-sac. Non è necessario far di sé un marchio, sempre diverso dagli altri, ma è sano definire il proprio carattere con una scelta di parole molto precisa. Questa scelta è “politica” in ogni senso, per questo odio il cieco inseguimento del “politically correct”.

Nel 2000 non puoi dire “negro” e probabilmente si dovrebbero bleepare tutte le citazioni di quella parola negli spettacoli radiofonici, e cassare quella parola da libri e articoli scritti negli ultimi due secoli. Non si può dire “ebreo” (con un tono negativo) in nessuna lingua, e quindi bisogna cancellare, obliterare qualsiasi menzione di quella parola (in quel modo) dalla letteratura. Di modo che le culture dominanti possano garantire una salvezza da dizionario agli “ex” popoli oppressi, rendendo alcune parole “illegali”, o semplicemente inadeguate. Tale pratica priva i nostri vocabolari di parole che ci hanno definito in passato, impoverendo il modo in cui parliamo e ci definiamo nel presente.

Per ore, giorni e settimane ho intrattenuto duri e appassionati dibattiti sulla censura con la persona che amo. È sempre divertente e interessante avere certe discussioni con una persona, le cui opinioni sono così importanti per te. Ella stava dalla parte della non-censura, in alcun modo, mentre io ero più una persona da “politicamente corretto”, o meglio “adatto e corretto”. Oggi, Dante mi ha fatto comprendere che era lei ad avere ragione, fin dall’inizio. Nonostante io continui a pensare che sia molto importante che le parole vengano usate in modo da definire in maniera propria (più che in maniera “adatta”) il significato ricercato, non trovo ragionevole la censura. Tagliare, bleepare e cancellare sono strumenti in mano ai potenti, usati per costringere la libertà di parola di chi nulla ha. Il discorso “consono, opportuno” è generalmente meno libero rispetto al suo fratello “inopportuno”.La censura ex post, come nel caso odierno è capitato a Dante, rappresenta un chiaro disegno per il declassamento della cultura a mero servizio delle “buone maniere”. Solo qualche mese fa, in America, “Shit questo e quello say” era un tema caldo su YouTube. Gli spettatori ridevano con quei video perché spesso si rivedevano cadere negli stereotipi che quegli attori improvvisati portavano all’esagerazione. Credo che sia inopportuno generalizzare gli atteggiamenti personali in maniera così categorica: equivale a sottovalutare le differenze tra individui che condividono genere, cultura e stile di vita. Ciononostante, è necessario capire che le buone maniere con le quali deprechiamo tali atteggiamenti è un segno di censura. Se io inserissi termini omofobici o razzisti in un mio sfogo, mi piacerebbe essere definito omofobico o razzista. Ciò che una società non dovrebbe fare è impedire alle persone di esprimere quello in cui credono. Giordano Bruno, insieme a tanti altri, fu bruciato vivo per aver dato forma di parola ai suoi pensieri “inopportuni”. La stessa Divina Commedia fu bandita per molti anni. Galileo dovette negare se stesso di fronte a una giuria per salvare la propria vita dal patibolo, nonostante quello che abbia detto si sia rivelato non solo adeguato, ma anche scientificamente corretto – a seguire l’esempio di Gherush92, dovremmo bandire Dante per essere antiscientifico, dato che si riferiva al pianeta Terra come a una superficie piatta!.

Voltaire espresse con sapienti parole quella che penso debba essere la massima delle persone illuminate: “Non condivido la tua opinione, ma morirei per difendere il tuo diritto di esprimerla”. Adesso vado a comprare qualche copia della Commedia. Non vi dirò dove le nascondo, così potrò somministrare alcune di queste ai giovani di domani, quando l’Era Oscura della censura e dell’ignoranza arriverà.

p.s.: al Liceo leggevo avidamente Dante. Ma non mi sono trovato quasi mai d’accordo con il Poeta. Mi piacevano il suo modo di scrivere e il suo coraggio nel ribellarsi. Tuttavia, non ho scritto per difendere le sue idee, ma per difendere appunto il suo diritto, anche post mortem di esprimerle, e per definire la censura nella maniera più accurata possibile: “una montagna di merda”.


Dante All’Inferno

Ragusa, Italy

A lazy Tuesday, full of little and carefree tasks, was interrupted a little while ago when I read a newspaper article about Dante. Inquisition, here we go again.

The only English language website with this piece of news was, so I’ll avoid mentioning their one-sided view. A translation of Il Corriere della Sera reads:

The Divine Comedy has to be removed from school curricula: too much of its content is anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, racist and homophobic. The surprising request is from “Gherush92” organization of researchers and practitioners who enjoys the status of Special Advisor to the Economic and Social Council of United Nations.

I had to read it a few times, do some research, and fact-check a few things before I could finally realize this was not fake. Worse, the head of the organization is Italian, Valentina Sereni. Non-Italian schools, in the luckiest case, offer bits and crumbs of Dante’s Commedia, whereas Italian high schools have a three-year curriculum on his verses. A masterpiece that was defined “Divine” after its completion, because it both talked about and neared perfection, of the holiest kind. This piece, along with a few contemporary examples, contributed to the codification of the Italian language vis-a-vis the ecclesiastic Latin, incomprehensible to the many and used as a class weapon by aristocrats. Dante took what was vulgar, the language of the peasants, of the craftsmen, and made it lyric. Dante was also an anti-clerical, a proto-nationalist, and a white-supremacist without even realizing it. But it was the Thirteenth century, for Middle Ages’ sake!

Dante’s legacy is one of rebellion against the status quo. Just look at who’s placed in which circle in hell. It’s full of popes, noble kinds, personal enemies, and mythological characters. He saves nobody from an alleged God’s judgement, which, in fact is his own. His sharp critique of costumes and behaviors remains unmatched, to a point where Italians still cite him whenever they want to serve a witty offense to their opponent. Inappropriate and outspoken, everybody’s favorite is the Inferno. I also enjoyed the Purgatorio, where politics and medieval fights took the lion’s share. The Paradiso was too cheesy and heavenly to capture my unsettled teenager heart, so I’ll suspend my judgement until a more mature read.

Wait! If they allow me! What this ECOSOC “Special Advisor” is trying to tell the UN is that we shouldn’t read Dante, precisely because of his inappropriate language towards Jews, Mores, and gays. Failing to understand “what’s inappropriate, when”, Gherush92 bans entire chapters (Canti, oh how it sounds better!). Before stepping out and remind those people who banned or burned books in the past, we should first reason on the notion of “appropriateness” and “political correctness”. Because words have and gain meanings and I find no reason why we should also artificially impose constrictions on language.

Grammar and etymology are very dear to me. I treasure what I read and try to replicate my thoughts as precisely as possible by employing the most accurate words and structures. It is no secret that I speak and write slowly, and this is the main reason. Be inaccurate with your words and you’ll be read and heard, or, worse, classified and tagged in a way that is far from your true character. I don’t think there’s anything worse that ending up in this cul-de-sac. It’s not necessary to “brand” oneself as different all the time, but it’s healthy to define one’s characteristics with precise word choices. This choice is “political” in every sense, therefore, I loathe the pursuit of what is “politically correct”.

You can’t say “negro” in the year 2000 and you should probably bleep all the mentions of that word in radio shows, books, and articles from the past 200 years. You can’t say Jew with a derogatory tone, in any language, and therefore, you should erase, obliterate any literature that mentions that word, that way. So, dominant cultures choose to grant a dictionary salvation to “formerly” oppressed people by making words “illegal” or just inappropriate. Such practice devoids our vocabularies of words that have defined us in the past, thus impoverishing the way in which we speak and define each other in the present.

For hours, days, weeks, I had passionate and tough arguments with my loved one about censorship. It is always fun and interesting to have such arguments with a person whose opinions you care that much. She argued for no censorship whatsoever and I was more of a “politically correct”, or better “appropriately correct”, type. Today, Dante made me realize that she was right from the start. While I still think that it is very important to use words that properly (rather than appropriately) define the sought meaning, there’s no use for censorship. Cutting, bleeping, and erasing are tools in the hand of the powerful, used to constrict the dispossessed’s free speech. Appropriate talk is generally less free than its inappropriate sister. Ex post censorship, as in today’s case with Dante, represents a clear design to downgrade culture as a servant to the will of the sovereign politeness. Just a few months ago, “Shit so and so say” YouTube videos were trending. People laughed at them because they often found themselves falling in the stereotypes that such videos overemphasized. I find it inappropriate to generalize people so categorically, it underestimates differences among individuals with same gender, background, or lifestyle. However, it is key to understand that the politeness with which popular commentaries are banned is a sign of censorship. If I make a racist or homophobic comment, I would like to be defined racist or homophobic. What society should not do is to prevent people from saying what they believe in. Giordano Bruno, among others, was burned alive for putting into words his inappropriate thoughts. Dante’s Commedia was banned for many years. Galileo had to negate himself in front of a jury to save his life from the gallows pole, although what he said proved to be right (following Gherush92’s stance, we should also ban Dante for being “anti-science”, because he wrote that the world is flat).

Voltaire put into words what I think should be the maxim for illuminated people: “I don’t agree with your opinion, but I would die to defend your right to voice it.” I’m going out to buy a few copies of the Commedia now. I won’t tell you where I will hide them, so that I can sneak a few copies to young kids when darker ages of censorship and ignorance come.

note: My loved one, again, makes me realize that I didn’t mention an important fact: I do not agree with almost anything Dante has ever written. I like how he wrote and the courage he put in his writings, but I do not stand on his side on any issue (be it nationalistic, religious, or anthropological). This is not a defense of Dante for his viewpoints (that’s what does). Rather, this tries to be a way to define censorship for what it is: bullshit.

Happy birthday.

An unbearable weight for Putin himself!

by Paolo Sorbello

Vladimir Vladimirovich was used to obey. During his secret service years, he responded with martial accuracy to commands coming from the Kremlin. However, in the past twelve years, he had to learn to rule the Russian Federation from the driver’s seat. In fact, ever since the very last hours of the Nineteen-hundreds he has been organizing every single election in his country. Putin has become the electoral dictator of Russia very early in this century, but many say it won’t last much longer. The Financial Times argues Putin’s next term will also be his last one. Pessimists laid back in their chairs on Sunday, preparing for another twelve years of Putinism. The tears in Putin’s eyes might well be a sign of his struggle to be in charge of a nation for so long.

After his administrative experience in St. Petersburg, Putin found himself, almost inadvertently, in…

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Giarre, Italy

Allora me le tirate proprio dalla lingua! Continua il dibattito sulla TAV (che ho poco velatamente trasformato in “Monumento alla Velocità” nel post precedente). Ecco le mie riflessioni su chi è contro o appoggia il movimento in maniera acritica.

Un giovedì sera parla Marco Travaglio e tutti i radikalschik zitti ad ascoltare. Poi, subito dopo a “ripetere”, spesso attraverso i social network. Poi, un paio di nerd che sanno usare internet anche al di fuori della cornice blu creata a Mountain View (non sembra, ma fa rima) si prodigano in un breve fact-checking, controllano i numeri che il Santo porta scritti nella sua Bibbiaskine e li confutano, uno per uno. Travaglio ha parlato a milioni di persone, il fact-checking purtroppo arriverà sotto gli occhi di pochi. Questi pochi decideranno di ignorare la lista di nuovi dati (che andrebbero anche questi ricontrollati… uff) oppure si fidano e digrignano un po’ i denti e seguono con il loro dilettoso procrastinare.

Il problema del radikalschik-ismo in Italia è molto diffuso. A differenza degli hippies americani che abbracciano gli alberi e accarezzano pietre miracolose, i radikalschik italiani possiedono un grande amore per la cultura artistica tradizionale (si sorprendono e apprezzano – tutti insieme – le più incomprensibili installazioni solo dopo aver pagato il biglietto per il museo), inoltre sono per tutto ciò che sia all’avanguardia e abbia anche un tono vintage. La “kappa” nel loro nome denota il loro essere al tempo stesso al passo coi tempi e fuori dagli schemi. Non sbagliano congiuntivi, guardano La7 e se capita anche Sanremo o la DeFilippi, ma solo per notare il taglio scelto dal regista nella ripresa del live, o la l’incomprensibile accostamento di colori che tal tronista propone. Mai partigiani, individuano con lungimiranza il carro dei vincitori e vi saltano su, indifferenti.

Ma perché parlo di problema? Cosa c’è di male nel comportarsi secondo una moda? Il problema è politico. Effettuare una scelta, prendere una posizione e anche correggerla se non si ritiene più adeguata sono pratiche faticose. Ma queste sono appunto “pratiche politiche” per definizione. E i radikalschik sono troppo pigri (o codardi) per fare. Essi si limitano a sbuffare, leggere Repubblica anche quando si trasforma in tabloid, ascoltare Travaglio e Di Pietro e definirli leader della sinistra, fumare tabacco e leggere l’ultimo Premio Strega. Quando sono costretti a fare scelte dimostrano tutta la propria pochezza politica con l’illogicità che li contraddistingue.

Mi spiego: il radikalschik va a mangiare “al macrobiotico” (eh?), compra cibo “biologico”, manda messaggini da 2 euro per le campagne di Emergency, raccoglie fondi per l’Ail, condivide link “indignati” su facebook. In sostanza, impiega le risorse di tempo e denaro che ha in “cause giuste”. Fin qui, niente da dire, anzi. Questa caratterizzazione riflette benissimo molti dei miei amici più cari e a volte anche me stesso (ancora non so cos’è il macrobiotico, però).

Sulla TAV, tuttavia, il radikalschik non si schiera con la ferrovia anni Settanta (dell’Ottocento), nonostante la sua carica vintage sia molto forte. Il radikalschik è pro-TAV, perché è assurdo che per una piccola valle italiana si monchi il mastodontico progetto europeo di unire Est e Ovest. Perché spostare il traffico dalla gomma al binario è meno inquinante e più sostenibile.

Marchionne che trasferisce le fabbriche in Slovenia e in Serbia per non pagare il costo del lavoro degli operai italiani è cattivo. Ma portare le automobili Fiat dagli stabilimenti di Bratislava a Torino, ironia della sorte!, è più ecologico se fatto col treno! E intanto ci sono sfruttati sempre più sfruttati, disoccupati sempre più disoccupati e Marchionni sempre più Marchionni (p.s. ai radikalschik piaceva così tanto il suo tenore casual con il maglioncino!). Ci sono le arance siciliane a Valencia e le arance spagnole a Catania, i vestiti del Bangladesh in tutti gli H&M d’Europa e i jeans turchi (dal design tossico italiano) nelle metropoli più importanti del vecchio continente. Il capitalismo più barbaro ha fretta perché l’ultima frontiera del profitto è la competizione contro il tempo. E noi gli diamo l’Alta Velocità. Cose (vagoni) che muovono cose (prodotti) più in fretta, mica servizi per passeggeri o pendolari. C’è una sola ragione per dire NO alla TAV, ed è tutta politica. Bisogna avere il coraggio di dire no a un servizio al capitale pagato con i soldi dei contribuenti (anche quelli della UE sono dei contribuenti). Anche se questo significa traffico su gomma (i noTAV bloccano soprattutto le autostrade, ci abbiamo fatto caso?) e prodotti più cari di qualche centesimo. Senza che sia neanche necessario un discorso sulle possibili infiltrazioni della malavita nelle opere pubbliche in Italia.

“Ma questa è una critica al sistema. Troppo ambiziosa, il capitalismo non verrà mai scardinato dall’esterno. È solo attraverso la riforma delle regole che si possono attutire le sue contraddizioni” mi risponderebbe un radikalschik, se avesse abbastanza energie da dedicare a questo pensiero. Ma no, troppo difficile, non scomodiamoli su questo. Sono talmente pigri che condivideranno il link di questo post sul loro profilo di facebook senza neanche aver letto fin qui.