Lorenzo & his humble friends

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool

Category: tributes

Etta mi fa gli auguri


Giacomo Zandonini

There has been a heated debate on the role of the NGOs working to rescue asylum seekers in the Mediterranean this year. I know very little about this issue, even though it is closely related to my work as a researcher. One reason for my ignorance has to do with the fact that we receive very confusing information. Most of what we know is anecdotal, while we ignore the facts, the numbers, the rules, the institutions that are involved. The one person who has been trying to put things into context, provide some history, explain the rules and the sources of tension is Giacomo Zandonini.


Giacomo is a freelance journalist who has done serious and first-hand research on migration. In 2016 he produced the movie Wallah Je Te Jure, which tells the stories of men and women travelling along West African migration routes to Italy. Also in 2016 he spent two weeks on the boat Aquarius of the humanitarian NGO Sos Mediterraneé and then in 2017 he spent two more weeks on the boat Golfo Azzurro working for the humanitarian NGO Proactiva Open Arms.

There are a number of articles that Giacomo wrote. Here I will link those I have read myself. In English:
How the humanitarian NGOs operate at sea;
The long wait of young unaccompanied minors in Italy

In Italian:
Quelle notti a bordo della nave Golfo Azzurro a salvare gente in mare e raccogliere cadaveri;
Migranti, le Ong ne hanno salvati quasi 10 mila ma continuano a subire critiche e pressioni;
In Niger i migranti si preparano alla grande traversata

If you have half an hour spare time, you can also watch Giacomo’s talk at the Festival of Journalism held in Perugia in April this year (in Italian; however, there is a short part of the video that is just images and sounds recorded by Giacomo at the sea and you can watch it below). Giacomo and I write together for Unimondo. You can follow Giacomo on twitter here.

Rebuilding is an exciting time

And in my puttering
I’ve let some relationships die
for I did not water them
But I don’t think i’d have known
relationships need watering at all
had I not been away to see them wilt or die.
The plant lives to give us life,
this is simple.
But we must also do our part.
Some of my best friends are like cactus
others wilted much faster-
I blame no one.
In life I have been torrential
other times a drought
Life, for all its seeming complexity,
is an experiment in precipitation.
Explorations ecosystems
and the flower in a badlands
growing through a buffalo’s skull, whispering:
“I let some relationships die
for I did not water them.
I blame no one.”

Poem by thomoose, who can also be found here.

L’ombrello vagamondo

Fabio, che oltre ad essere un amico d’infanzia fu anche una delle prime persone a comparire su questo blog con una bella tripletta (qui, qui e qui), ha appena pubblicato il suo secondo libro. Si tratta di una raccolta di racconti sulle mirabolanti e picaresche avventure di un ombrello vagamondo. Io gli faccio pubblicità, perché Fabio scrive in maniera schietta, sarcastica ed elegante: guardate che non è facile.


Trovate il libro qui: potete comprarlo online, oltre che in tutte le librerie del Trentino. Io, che ho appena ordinato alcune copie, mi auguro di ritrovare il Fabio che conoscevo in questa sua raccolta di racconti.

Great will be your reward…

… in the Kingdom of Heaven

Jean-Thomas; Giallu, Gianni, and Paola; Pietro; Martina; Marco and Leila; Pedro; Dani and Anna; mum and dad; Alberto and Marcantonio; Marco, Francesca, Isabella, and Camilla; Fabio and parents. These are the people who hosted me at their place over the last twelve months.

Articoli del 2016

Ho chiesto a Piergiorgio quali sono stati gli articoli più letti su Unimondo negli ultimi 24 mesi. I vincitori: un approfondimento sull’aumento rapidissimo delle domande d’asilo di cittadini del Gambia in Italia (anche se la quasi totalità dei gambiani non ottiene lo status di rifugiato); un pezzo  quello sull’aumento dell’esportazione di armi dal nostro Paese (tra cui 5.000 bombe partite dalla Sardegna inviate in Arabia Saudita e utilizzate dalla Royal Saudi Air Force per bombardare lo Yemen e oltre 3.600 fucili della Benelli inviati alle forze di sicurezza del regime di Al Sisi) e un tributo alla donna che nel Rajasthan indiano ferma i matrimoni tra le spose bambine (proibiti in molti ma non tutti gli stati del Paese).


On the front line

One month ago Anna and I went to see an exhibition at Palazzo Madama in Torino. This is a deeply moving collection of photographies that invites all of us to move away from our comfortable reality through the work of women reporters documenting war zones in Egypt, Syria, Congo, Libia, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and more.

The photographers included in the exhibition are Linda Dorigo, Virginie Nguyen Hoang, Jodi Hilton, Andreja Restek, Annabell Van den Berghe, Laurence Geai, Capucine Granier-Deferre, Diana Zeyneb Alhindawi, Matilde Gattoni, Shelly Kittleson, Maysun, Alison Baskerville, Monique Jaques, and Camille Lepage.

The exhibition will be open until the 16 of January.

Make Eid al-Fitr a national holiday

With only three months until the Dutch elections, the Islamophobic and anti-European PVV (the Freedom Party) is leading the polls. My colleague Bouke has written a piece for Metro, a free and widely read newspaper, arguing that Eid al-Fitr should be recognised as a national holiday as a way for the state to treat Dutch Muslims more fairly. He circulated among friends his own translation of the article to English and you can read it below.


Imagine a family that does not celebrate the birthday of the youngest child. Asking his parents why they are not celebrating his birthday, the Benjamin is told that ‘we already celebrate the birthdays of his brother and sister’. This is a family tradition. When the Benjamin complains that celebrating his birthday could also become a tradition, the parents remain adamant: ‘as a newcomer, you have to accept the existing birthday culture’.

If this is unjust, then so is the fact that we do not recognise al Eid as a national holiday in The Netherlands. Just as a family should recognise all of their children by celebrating their birthdays, the state should recognise religions besides Christianity. This is called ‘state neutrality’. In many areas, state neutrality is already accepted. We would find it unacceptable if the royal family only visited places in the Randstad [the region with the most populous Dutch cities] during Kingsday. For aren’t Limburgers, Zeeuwen, and Groningers every bit as Dutch? Nor would we find it acceptable (at least not in certain port cities) if Ajax was the only football team recognised by the state – imagine that an Ajax poster was displayed in the middle of the Tweede Kamer [the Second Chamber]. Yet when it comes to recognising the holidays of other religions (including Islam), we prefer to be partisan.

Now you might think: ‘Muslims have chosen to come to The Netherlands. Therefore, they ought to adapt’. But this would only apply to the first generation of Muslims; later generations did not choose to grow up here. Could the difference be that Islam is a totalitarian religion, as Wilders often refers to it? No. It is not just Aboutaleb [the mayor of Rotterdam] and Ali B [a famous Dutch rapper/comedian] who practice a form of Islam that is hospitable to democracy – most Muslims do. Saying this is not to be political correct, but to state a plain truth. Of course, there are extremists.

But just as it would unjust to permanently ban Feyenoord fans from the Kuip [the Feyenoord stadium] because some fans misbehaved in Rome [last year, Feyenoord hooligans damaged shops and a Bernini fountain at Piazza di Spagna], so it would be unjust not to recognise Eid al-Fitr because some Muslims misbehave.

We should not betray our Christian heritage. However, we wouldn’t do so by replacing second Pentacost day or Easter Monday with Eid al-Fitr. This is not a matter of pampering Dutch Muslims, but treating them as equal citizens.

Spare time

Starting from August this year I have watched some remarkably good documentaries that are freely available online – for now. You can also download them on your laptop/pc using this website, so that you can watch these documentaries without an internet connection. These are three documentaries I selected. Unfortunately, all of them are in English with no possibility of using subtitles.

BBC: The Banker’s Guide to Art

The Banker’s Guide To The Art Market is a revealing, wry and ironic look behind the forces that move the market of fine arts. Propelled by the newly rich of the financial world, London’s art market has soared to historic highs. But is it all good to put a price tag on art? And is this really a recent phenomenon, anyway?


BBC: Niccolò Machiavelli

 A Florentine historian, politician, diplomat, philosopher, humanist, and writer, who is recognized as one of the pioneers of modern political science and much of contemporary political ethics.


National Geographic: Before the flood

This documentary has been shared on their social networks by a very large part of my friends. It conveys the urgency of something that all the sensitive readers of this blog already now. It is followed by an invitation to join a movement on beforetheflood.com/act.


Bonus: movie

This a movie I wanted to watch for a long time. Last week I finally did, courtesy of Niels. And what a better moment could I pick? The movie is an intimate diary of Mitt Romney’s primary campaign (2008) and presidential campaign (2012). Watching the documentary today, shortly after the G.O.P.’s landslide victory in November elections, feels a little bit surreal. 


Unfortunately I can only display the trailer here. Those of you with a Netflix account will be able to watch the full movie there.

Agitatevi, organizzatevi, studiate

Concerning the recent political events in the United States of America, this blog fully endorses wise friend Old Tom in stating the following:

I didn’t see this coming (not to this extent, at least), I don’t pretend I have so I won’t publicly comment on it. If you have the privilege of studying history / politics in a top university and you fail to grasp the magnitude of upcoming changes like these in all probability you are living in a bubble and your opinions are pretty much worthless. I guess it is the right time to step back, buy a few books and shut the fuck up, as the next POTUS would nicely put it.